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Procrastination, deadlines and performance

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Procrastination is all too familiar to many people. Yet, people also sometimes try to control their procrastination by setting deadlines for themselves. The authors empirically examine how sophisticated people are in dealing with their own procrastination behaviour in effortful tasks, in which the cost of procrastination is likely performance deterioration. Do people intuit that they need to exercise self-control in these tasks? Do they self-impose meaningful (i.e., costly) deadlines? Would they procrastinate without these deadlines? Are these deadlines as effective in improving task performance as externally imposed deadlines? Two field studies and one laboratory study show that people recognize their self-control problems because they self-impose deadlines on their behaviour that are costly to miss. But these self-imposed deadlines are not as effective as some externally imposed deadlines in improving task performance. People are sophisticated enough to recognize their own tendencies to procrastinate, but if left to their own devices they solve this self-control problem only partially.

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