"A man who puts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin."- Hesiod Piers Steel knows a thing or two about the hand-grips of ruin. He took 10 years to complete a study on procrastination, and he's the first to chuckle over the inevitable jokes that crop up every time he talks about it.
He's even got a few one-liners.
A lot of people say research is me-search," puns Steel. "Count me guilty."
Procrastination is nothing new, says Steel, who first studied it at what amounts to the field's ground zero: the American college campus. College students report that they spend an average of a third of their day procrastinating, says this longtime student of one of society's most common dysfunctions. In grad school, it's even given an acronym - ABD, for All But Dissertation, a condition that afflicts PhD candidates who can never quite get around to wrapping up their last big project without a hard-and-fast deadline to motivate them.
"They keep pushing it off," says Steel, a University of Calgary professor, "and there's always something more immediate to do. Nobody can procrastinate like college students. As we grow older, we procrastinate less, which is an element of maturity. In college, all deadlines are distant; everything's due at the end of the semester. You should start on it, but there are temptations - fun stuff to do and lots of young people with the same interests."