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Time Management > Overcoming Procrastination > Procrastination Statistics

Oh the Irony!
Reading About Procrastination Statistics While Procrastinating

It is widely known that procrastination is far more common than people would like. But just how many people do procrastinate? And more importantly what is the answer to "why do we procrastinate?"

I feel that I procrastinate because I do not want to do whatever I am avoiding. I don't feel like focusing on the issue so I keep putting it off.

- Malcolm: Accountant  

Some methodical and scientific people conducted a series of procrastination studies

Procrastination Studies: What Did They Find Out?

procrastination statistics
Doesn't this photo make you feel a little stressed?
Photo by sindesign. (See footer for photo credit links)

Markus K. Brunnermeier, Filippos Papakonstantinou, and Jonathan A. Parker set out to prove that procrastination is caused only by people underestimating the amount of time needed to complete a project/task. This was against the conventional belief that procrastination is caused by people acting rationally. People choose to postpone tasks, as they found it difficult to muster the self-discipline to begin them earlier.

Markus K. Brunnermeier, Filippos Papakonstantinou, and Jonathan A. Parker use advanced mathematics and data from experiments to back up their theory.

Results of their Experiment

If given an unpleasant task, the average person will underestimates how long it will take to complete. I.e. they take much longer than they predicted to complete the unpleasant task.

"The paper's authors call the faulty reasoning behind this behavior "the planning fallacy." Because of the planning fallacy, people often spend a disproportionately large amount of time working on projects close to the deadline. The authors explain that people do this because the utility derived from the felicitous belief that a project will be easy to complete outweighs the cost of not properly "smoothing" work over time. The researchers believe that, subconsciously, people actually do realize about how long most projects take; yet, when faced with a new project, they still consciously believe that the project will take less time."

- US Department of Labor

Other findings:

  • On the other hand when people were asked to complete a pleasant task they usually tended to complete the task quicker than before.
  • If people were paid for how quickly they could complete any task, they tended to underestimate the amount of time necessary to finish it.
  • When offered pay for accuratly predicting the time necessary to finish a task, the "planning fallacy" seemed to disappear.

    Brunnermeier, Papakonstantinou, and Parker argue that this supports their original theory.

    Procrastination Statistics: What Do You Think?

    Me personally - I think this studies findings is hogwash!! Share your views, tips or ideas over at tackling procrastination.

    I had my own go at getting some procrastination statistics of my own. I conducted a survey to find out what were the causes of procrastination. It was not quite as methodical as the above procrastination study - but my results were that stress is the number one reason for procrastination.

    The reasons people procrastination are different for everyone. If you would like help with procrastination, check out overcoming procrastination - there you will find lots and lots of practical help to overcome procrastination.

    Procrastination Statistics to Overcoming Procrastination

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