If you always put things off, are late for every meeting or appointment, and find yourself unable to get yourself organized, you’re probably already aware that you’re a procrastinator. Or perhaps someone you know is prey to this bad habit. For example, you’ve asked a colleague to send you a report by 3:30 and at 3:29 you still haven't received it. Now you’ll have to find it yourself. Maybe it's your partner or roommate who always holds things up: The vacuuming was supposed to be done an hour before your party, but there's still cat hair all over the place 10 minutes before your guests are supposed to show up, so you have no choice but to do it yourself (again).
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., is currently a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The author of over 160 refereed articles and book chapters and 16 books. Her research covers a wide range of topics related to adult development and aging, including personality development through midlife, contributors to successful aging, predictors of memory performance, and the relationship between physical health and sense of personal identity.
Editor: Arman Ahmed
Procrastination can lead to stress, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quick and easy way to beat it? The Procrastination at Work Scale (PAWS), devised by Utrecht University’s U. Baran Metin and colleagues (2016), can help you tackle procrastination, one bad habit at a time.
PAWS was intended to identify the ways in which people kill time at work, making themselves late or having to rush to complete their duties, but it applies to other realms of your life as well, including the work you do at home to manage your family, household chores, and obligations such as bill-paying. The Utrecht team wanted to validate their new scale, and in the process of doing so, they showed the one, key factor that seems to lie behind most of the reasons people procrastinate in the first place. (You'll learn about that shortly.)
First, let’s be clear on how to define procrastination. In Metin et al.’s words, it’s best thought of as a “self-regulatory failure in volitional action and self-discipline, resulting in needlessly and irrationally delaying intended tasks in different walks of life” (p. 255).
Now let's identify which of the 12 types of procrastination you (or someone you know) engages in. Here are the items from the PAWS. How do you rate on each? Give yourself a score of 1 to 7, with higher numbers reflecting the habits you're most likely to fall prey to:
- When I work, even after I make a decision, I delay acting upon it.
- I delay before starting on work I have to do.
- At work, I crave a pleasurable diversion so sharply that I find it incredibly hard to stay on track.
- When a work task is tedious, again and again I find myself pleasantly daydreaming rather than focusing.
- I give priority to lesser tasks, even if there is something important I should do at work.
- When I have an excessive amount of work to do, I avoid planning my tasks, and find myself doing something totally irrelevant.
- I take long coffee breaks.
- I delay some of my tasks just because I just do not enjoy doing them.
- I text (or use Facebook messenger, etc.) at work.
- I spend more than a half hour on social network sites at work per day.
- I read news online at work.
- I do online shopping during working hours.