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Good Question: Why Do We Procrastinate?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Christmas is one week away, but the National Retail Federation says about half of us haven’t finished our shopping and 14 percent haven’t even started.

“I just get lazy,” said Mohammed Abdelfathah of Fridley. “I say I’ll do it in another hour, then another hour, then tomorrow.”

“I don’t even like shopping, honestly” said Deron Murphy of Burnsville. “I’d rather give my money…to my girl and [say] do your thing.”

So why do we procrastinate?

DePaul University psychologist Dr. Joseph Ferrari studies procrastination. In 2010, he wrote a book called “Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done.”

“Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator,” Ferrari said.

In his study of holiday shoppers between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, he found 20-25 percent of people are considered chronic procrastinators. He says these are the people that always show up late, wait until the gas gauge is empty and never buy concert tickets on time.

“They don’t just delay on this task,” he said. “On April 14th, you’ll be contacting me about the same people. This is their lifestyle.”

He says procrastinating is a learned behavior, not a genetic one. He found chronic procrastinators have a few common traits.

First, they don’t judge time well.

“They think the job will take me two hours when it takes really four,” he said.

Research also shows some chronic procrastinators are rebelling against strict fathers.

“This time, mommies are off the hook, it’s the daddies,” Ferrari said.

They are also afraid of failing.

“The chronic procrastinator would rather people think they lack effort than lacking ability,” he said. He added that it’s harder to blame a person for a gift of candy and batteries when a person waits to shop at the gas station on Christmas Eve.

Finally, Ferrari says not all of the blame should be placed on the individuals, because our society rewards procrastination by offering better deals a few days before Christmas rather than in the middle of November.

“It’s a silly system we have, we reward you not to pay your taxes early,” he said.

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