Speaker A: Welcome to Marylayo Talks, a
podcast that discusses mental health and
spiritual well being.
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are particularly sensitive for some listeners,
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able to join me whenever you feel ready and
My guest today is Deacon Joe Ferrari, and it's
all about procrastination.
Deacon Joe is also a professor of psychology
at DePaul University in Chicago, and he's
author of Still Procrastinating the no Regret
Guide to Getting It Done.
So we started off discussing the difference
between procrastinating and being a
Let's join in the conversation.
In your research, you mentioned about how
everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a
So tell me about that.
What's procrastination and what isn't?
Speaker B: It sure, that's a quote.
I said that a number of years ago because
everybody might delay or wait or ponder, but
not everyone is a chronic procrastinator.
This is something that people misunderstand.
They think procrastination is laziness or poor
time management or a variety of other things,
and it's not.
And that's 20% of adult men and women,
individuals who make this their maladaptive
Speaker A: 20% is a lot of people.
It is, yeah.
That's a significant statistic.
Speaker B: It's higher than depression,
phobias, panic attack, higher than alcoholism
or substance abuse.
And my interest since the 1980s has been on
the study of these chronic procrastinators.
Speaker A: So tell us more about these chronic
Speaker B: Procrastination is an active
It's something people do that is irrational,
that makes no sense.
Speaker A: So then why do people procrastinate
if it doesn't make sense?
It's almost like a self sabotage kind of
Why do people procrastinate?
Speaker B: Yes, it is a self sabotaging
because if I never finish, I can never fail.
And if I never fail, I can always hold on to a
belief that I'm capable, I'm good, I'm
We'll never know because I never finish.
But I can tell you that I am.
You see, chronic procrastinators, that 20%.
That people who are the procrastinator.
They would rather have other people think they
lacked effort than lacking ability.
If I finish something and the task isn't very
done very well, then you're going to think
less of me.
Yes, if I delay, you'll think less of me.
But my ability is not being challenged.
It's not being publicly shamed if you would
publicly verified or publicly assessed.
So I'd rather you think I didn't try than I
can't do it.
All right, so fear of failure, but even fear
Your question why then people do it?
Boy, that's a broad topic.
And I tried to explain that in my book Still
Procrastinating, because this is not time
To tell the chronic procrastinator, just do it
would be like saying to a clinically depressed
person, cheer up, that's not going to work.
There is far more to this.
It's not a time management issue.
It's not a laziness issue because the chronic
procrastinator is not lazy.
They're working very hard doing other things.
Speaker A: So the fact that these, let's just
say 20% of the is this the global population?
Speaker B: And this is not just people you
would find in the US.
Because when I've done my studies, I've done
this internationally, it almost sounds like
Some people are born this way, and they're not
born this way because it's so global.
It almost sounds like, wasn't that just a
human trait, something people do?
Well, no, because 80% of people don't do it.
Speaker A: Okay, so those 20%, which is
significant, like I mentioned, why is it not
such a topical issue?
And why is it overlooked?
Speaker B: It has become.
When I began starting this in the late eighty
s eighty eight eighty, there was no research
Now I'm seeing more and more so people are
beginning to become more interested in this
Some people still confuse.
Remember your opening statement that everybody
procrastinates, but not everyone will
People still confuse that because they look at
Well, yes, students delay 70% of them.
But I said 20% are chronic.
Does that mean as we get older, we do it less?
No, we're talking about two different things.
Clearly, the 70% includes the 20.
Students may delay studying, reading, writing
a paper, but they won't delay if there's a
They won't delay if there's free beer.
They won't delay if there's a concert for
somebody they want to really, really see.
So they're not procrastinators, they
It goes back to that original statement
So why then is this so common and so treated
I don't know if that's the right word, but why
isn't it taken seriously enough?
Because they're great excuse makers.
Because the chronic procrastinator that 20%
always has a reason.
What we found in my studies is logically,
they're equally as intelligent as the non
procrastinator, and you got to be to keep
coming up with plausible, believable excuses.
The problem is they never take the ownership.
Now, this is really interesting because their
chronic procrastinators are looking to be
verified that it's okay to do it.
Now people are beginning to talk about the
positive parts of procrastination, that it's
good to procrastinate.
I've seen some recent studies on that, and I'm
like, no, you're not talking about
Speaker A: Right.
Yeah, that doesn't make sense.
Speaker B: They call it things like structured
Take your tasks and organize it.
Well, obviously, if I've got a list of things
to do, the ones on the bottom of the list are
going to be delayed.
But that's not procrastinating, because I'm
working on my list.
The real procrastinator never works on that
list, does one or two and stops and then
reshuffles it and makes copies of it.
So there's nothing positive.
This is a maladaptive lifestyle, and it's
something that our cultures, western cultures
at least, seem to be accepting.
Speaker A: There can be a lot of consequences
for someone that is a chronic procrastinator.
So let's just use the workplace as an example.
So if someone has a project and, well, they've
put off doing that project yeah.
They can come up with an excuse why it's late
in terms of delivery, or they can come up with
an excuse why it's maybe not the standard that
it should on delivery because they haven't put
as much effort within a reasonable time.
So the impact on the individual as well as the
impact example in organization, there's quite
a bit of consequences when it comes to someone
who is a chronic procrastinator.
Speaker B: Yes, there was a number of studies.
This is the field of I O psychology and
This is the research of industrial
I'm not an I O psychologist, but I have
dabbled in that I teach doctoral students and
sometimes I have these I O doctoral students
from my department.
Anyway, the point is, yes, there's
A study was done a long time ago, not by me,
that found that this was done actually, I want
to say almost ten years ago, but it costs
$10,000 per employee per year that's lost
because of procrastination.
So if you've got 40 people in your company, 20
people in your company, you've lost $200,000.
Or $400,000 just because people
That's implications for a company.
What procrastinators don't understand in the
workplace or in life is that life is not about
me, it's about other people.
And so if you asked me to do something and you
gave me two or three weeks to do it, and
that's a reasonable time to do it, what if you
ask me at the last minute?
But if you gave me a sufficient time to work
on something and I still don't do it, well,
then I'm delaying the next person in the
business, which delays the next person you
And that's not fair because the world isn't
about me, it's about we.
There was an old expression if you want
something done, give it to a busy person.
Well, what does that mean?
How can that be?
Because the busy person values time, your
time, their time.
So somebody who's very active and busy will
get things done because they recognize, I've
got to be able to juggle what I need and their
need and what has to get done.
That's why that works.
Suppose you're on a team and one of the
members is a procrastinator.
How do the other members view that person?
And what if the other members are also one of
them, a procrastinator?
What we found was procrastinators in the
workplace, in life, don't like other
Speaker A: Right?
Speaker B: That's very fascinating.
So if you're looking for comfort because you
know the oral expression, misery loves
That's not true.
They don't like it.
They don't like each other.
Speaker A: Let me take a guess.
Let me take a stab.
Is that because earlier we were talking about
self sabotaging strategies.
So it's okay ish inverted commas for someone
themselves to choose to sabotage what they're
doing, but if it's linked to someone else
doing it, then they won't like it, because
Speaker B: Then you're sabotaging me as well.
I see what you're pointing.
That's a good point, perhaps.
That's certainly a variable.
There's a concept in social psychology we call
It's when you have a group, a task in the
workplace, classroom assignment, and sometimes
the boss or the teacher might say, I'm going
to give one grade for the whole group.
I don't care how much people work, I just need
I want one thing done.
Get it to me.
Well, you will have loafing in that.
People will loaf because if I'm not going to
be individually assessed, then I'm going to
take my time and let other people carry the
weight for me.
Yeah, procrastinators are very good at doing
So, yeah, we don't like them because you're
making me carry the weight.
But what's fascinating is they're more
disliked by their own kind.
That's what's interesting.
Speaker A: So someone who's a procrastinator,
they're obviously not going to be happy.
There'll be that anxiety, that regret, in
terms of their approach, they would want to
How could someone change?
As in, what would the steps be?
Is that covered in your book?
Speaker B: Yes, but I also want to say I'm not
sure that they want to change.
If you're in a culture that says it's okay,
we'll give you slack, we don't want you to
feel bad about who you are.
We don't want you to feel bad about other
things, then why should I bother?
And I'm a good excuse maker.
Remember, human beings are good excuse makers.
All right, so if I've got that angle down and
you're willing to give me slack, I'm not sure
I want to change because it's never my fault.
It's always something else.
Do they have regrets?
I found this not only in the US.
We found this with the Israeli sample as well,
that there are life regrets among chronic
procrastinators, things that they missed out.
Now, there's a great measure on life regrets.
It covers a whole bunch of different domains.
And honestly, this was done a number of years
ago, I can't remember, but they have regrets
in some areas more than others.
I believe in relationships, in careers, but in
other areas they don't.
So what can I do?
Is what you're asking if I want to change, if
I want to change, and I'm one of the 20%, I'm
Listener you need professional help.
You need a good cognitive behavior therapist
CBT, because you need to change the way you
look at things cognitive and the way you act.
It's not time management.
Let's talk about that.
There have been what are called metaanalyses.
This is a research tool scientists sometimes
It's not a literature review.
It's really more than just a review of the
But the scientist takes all the literature and
puts parts of it into a statistical formula
and it looks to see what works, what doesn't,
not just reviewing the literature.
All right, so it does an analysis, meta
Of all the other studies, bottom line was the
least effective technique to deal with
procrastination is time management.
That was found in two different metaanalyses
papers that were done a few years apart.
So I can't tell you how many times in the news
the suggestions are time management.
For the procrastination, it's the least
What was most effective?
Cognitive behavior therapy.
Changing the way people think and the way
Because you can't control time.
The only thing you manage in your life is
You can't manage time.
It's like a stream.
Time keeps moving on.
There's an expression you can't control the
wind, but you can adjust your sales.
You can adjust the way you act.
That's why the book is called Still
Procrastinating, because all these time
management techniques have not worked.
And I go through what they have done and why
it doesn't work.
And what does the literature show?
The true procrastinators who take it to heart
begin to realize, you know, you're right, I've
got to get on with life.
Life is too short.
I only have 70, 80 years.
Let me enjoy it more.
Speaker A: So, Reverend Joe, what would you
like to leave the listeners with?
Speaker B: That while it sounded like most of
what I've said to you is shaming you, making
you feel bad about yourself, absolutely not.
So I want listeners to know you're not alone.
I want listeners to know you learned to be a
procrastinator and therefore you can unlearn.
It's not genetic.
You can change, and you should.
What do you do when you fail?
Do you get up and do you rise again?
Speaker A: I love that.
So it's about giving yourself grace and not
being afraid of failing.
Because if you do, you can always pick
yourself up and keep on moving.
What you've learnt can be unlearned.
All right on that.
Thank you so much, Reverend Joe, for sharing
your knowledge and your advice on
Here's a spiritual wellness tip that you can
It's Hebrews, chapter twelve, verse eleven,
and it reads now all discipline seems to be
painful at the time, yet later it will produce
a transformation of character, bringing a
harvest of righteousness and peace to those
who yield to it.
Thank you for listening.
And join me again next time on Marylayo Talks
Beyond the Smile.