Procrastinators are known for making excuses for their behavior. Missed a deadline? “I was too busy.” Haven’t started a sales report until the night before a presentation? “I work best under pressure.”
Dr. Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done, says procrastinators are experts at making excuses for putting things off. About 20 percent of adults are chronic procrastinators; higher than the rate for depression and phobias. Accepting the excuses procrastinators make will only perpetuate the problem.
According to Ferrari, there are the most common excuses procrastinators make...and easily they can be debunked:
"I work best under pressure."
Procrastinators think that they perform best when pressed against a deadline, but Ferrari says his 30 years of research shows this isn’t the case. In experiments where people were asked to work as quickly as possible to complete a task, Ferrari says those who identified themselves as procrastinators actually made more mistakes than the non-procrastinators, showing that procrastinators actually perform worse when up against a deadline.
"Our lives are just busier now."
Procrastinators often justify putting things off saying that they’re just too busy. But, Ferrari says, this excuse doesn’t pass muster since everyone else is just as busy. In fact, he says, everyone has been just as busy for centuries!
“This is a very insulting excuse to our ancestors,” he says. We may have replaced plowing the fields with answering emails, but Ferrari points out, “there have been 24 hours in a day for centuries.”
"I’m not good at managing my time."
Time management, Ferrari says, is a myth. “Nobody manages time,” he says. “You need to manage how you deal with things.” Chronic procrastinators should ditch the two-hour time-management workshop, Ferrari says, and opt instead for cognitive behavior therapy that can teach how to modify behavior to accomplish more.
"I’m afraid of failure."
Procrastinators often make excuses in order to keep up their public image. Afraid of being judged on their work, procrastinators would rather people think that they lack effort than ability. “At least if they lack effort, it gives the impression that perhaps they do have ability,” says Ferrari.
If a procrastinator never finishes a task, they can’t be judged on it. “Procrastinators are very social-conscious,” says Ferrari. Not only do procrastinators fear failure, they also fear success. “They’re not sure they’ll be able to maintain the same level of success,” he explains. Rather than feel the pressure of expectations upon them, procrastinators would rather others simply assume that they’re lazy than take the risk of failing at something.
"I’m not a procrastinator. I’m a perfectionist."
Although both procrastinators and perfectionists like to take their time, Ferrari says there’s a big difference between procrastinators and perfectionists and it lies in the motivation for delaying. “Procrastinators take their time because they want to get along. They want you to like them,” he says.
A procrastinator will save being judged on their work in order to continue being liked, or perceived as talented even if perhaps they aren’t. Perfectionists, on the other hand, are concerned with getting ahead. They want their work to be error-free so they will advance in their career, or grow their business.