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Procrastination: The Fifteen Letter "Bad" Word

If I’m being completely honest, I need to tell you that I procrastinated writing this. I have my reasons, but we’ll chat about that later.

Let’s begin with a question: Why is procrastination viewed in such a negative light and considered such an unfavorable character trait?

Procrastination has long been held in contempt as an archetypal human failing (Steel, 2007). Some of the earliest recorded writings about procrastination come from the Greek poet, Hesiod, around 800 BC, who wrote, “the man who puts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin” (as cited in Steel, 2007, p. 67). Although Hesiod, and many other philosophers and leaders have purported the evils of procrastination, Ferrari, Johnson, and McCown contend (as cited in Steel, 2007) that it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that procrastination was considered “bad”. Before that time, they suggest it was viewed neutrally and could be interpreted as a wise course of action (Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, as cited in Steel, 2007).

I’ve followed the counsel “When in doubt: do nothing, say nothing” many times with positive results, especially when it comes to relationships. There appears to be value in Bernstein’s assertion (as cited in Steel, 2007), “Once we act, we forfeit the option of waiting until new information comes along. As a result, no-acting has value. The more uncertain the outcome, the greater may be the value of procrastination” (p. 66).

If putting off one’s course of action can be a positive thing, then why is it considered a negative thing? Because of the way it makes us feel!

Feelings of fear and anxiety are common precursors to procrastination, especially if one has low self-esteem or low self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to do well) (Steel, 2007). The belief that one is not good enough, not up to the task, or that one’s efforts will meet with the harsh appraisal of others promotes procrastination (Steel, 2007). I don’t suffer from low self-esteem or low self-efficacy, but I will tell you that putting my writing out there for everyone to see is a vulnerable activity – one that is easy to procrastinate!

Believe it or not, some people purposefully put things off because they enjoy the excitement and tension of completing a task close to a deadline (Steel, 2007). Individuals who enjoy this habit of sensation seeking must exercise caution that it does not become an addiction (Ainslie as cited in Steel, 2007). Eventually, it could catch up to its user and result in regret for diminished performance (Ainslee as cited in Steel, 2007). In contrast, there are people (like me) who avoid procrastination because they greatly dislike the anxiety and pressure of “cutting it too close” (Kim, Fernandez, & Terrier, 2016).

Personality characteristics are common predictors of procrastination.* For example, individuals with the personality traits of disagreeableness, hostility, or rebelliousness don’t like externally imposed schedules or tasks (Knaus as cited in Steel, 2007). Procrastinating provides them an opportunity to exert autonomy by completing tasks on their own schedule (Knaus as cited in Steel, 2007). [Is anyone else thinking this sounds like a typical teenager?!]

Here’s the point, we all procrastinate for a multitude of reasons - too many to discuss here. My purpose is to provoke thought and introspection.

If procrastination causes you stress and decreased satisfaction with your life, it’s time to make a change.

Message me here and let's schedule a time to chat. Thirty (30) minutes on the phone with me is FREE! (Click the link NOW, yes now, not later.)

I receive true joy from helping others “get stuff done”!


Kim, S., Fernandez, S., & Terrier, L. (2016). Procrastination, personality traits, and academic performance: When active and passive procrastination tell a different story. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 154-157.

Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94.

*If you are interested in learning more about your personality type, you can take a short quiz from @truity here


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