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Don't Believe It

Experts dispel the following myths about procrastinators.

Stephanie Dolgoff

Procrastinators are lazy.

Some are, and some aren’t, just as some non-procrastinators are lazy. “If you’re lazy, you don’t work very hard and fill your days with doing nothing,” says Stanford philosophy professor John Perry, Ph.D. “A procrastinator may get a lot done—just not what they should be doing.”

Procrastinators work better under pressure.

Research does not bear that out. “Most people think they work better under pressure because they only work that way,” says Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University. In fact, procrastinators tend to do less well than those who don’t. Neither do procrastinators appear to be thrill-seekers who get off on the thrill of the last-minute push.

Procrastinators are perfectionists.

As with laziness, there are perfectionistic procrastinators and perfectionistic people who don’t procrastinate. What is true is that the type of perfectionists who procrastinate appear to be externally oriented—i.e., they are trying to live up to the standards of others, Pychyl says—which contributes to their problem. Perfectionistic procrastinators often delay because they don’t want to be perceived as less than perfect. By failing to complete projects, they can make it seem as if they simply haven’t tried, says Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at DePaul University. “I haven’t finished it, but I’m really good. Well, we’d never know that, because you never finished.”

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