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When someone says he is procrastinating, does that imply that he knows which exact action is better than the action that he is currently doing?

Is it called procrastination when you know that your current course of action is not optimal, but you don't know exactly what course of action would be better than your current course of action?

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No. A person may claim to be procrastinating without putting any real thought into specific alternatives that are known to be better. For example, one might also claim this because one is aware of more socially desirable alternatives, which aren't necessarily better, or because one has been told by someone else (who isn't necessarily right) that one's behavior is procrastinatory.

A more general definition of procrastination may be found in the intro section of the Wikipedia article on procrastination, or on the tag wiki. I don't think the case you describe fits either definition, because not knowing a better approach implies that one's choice of approach (delay, presumably) isn't necessarily needless, but one may still choose this approach for purely rational reasons that have nothing to do with anxiety.

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  • $\begingroup$ So a person can be procrastinating without knowing it? $\endgroup$ – user2108462 Jan 8 '14 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ I would say no. Not knowing that you're procrastinating seems to violate the defining characteristic of "needless," as you can't exactly choose to stop doing something you don't know you're doing (in common cases, at least). If a person claims to be procrastinating without actually thinking about alternatives at all, I'd say that person either knows he/she could think about alternatives and is choosing (probably needlessly) not to, or can't think of any alternatives, and is simply repeating someone else's judgment of his/her behavior, which may not actually be procrastinatory. $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jan 8 '14 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ flagged as no citations and incomplete as it does not consider subcon. passive aggressive behaviour and wrong in general $\endgroup$ – user3832 Feb 1 '14 at 18:22
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I understand procrastination as something where you delay a task, and the fact that you delay the task enhances it.

A basic example could be cleaning the dishes. You know that you could do it another time, but by delaying it there is even more dishes when you finally decide to do so, and therefore you have "procrastinated".

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  • $\begingroup$ More general definitions are available through my answer. Procrastination doesn't necessarily have to increase the amount of work to do; it may decrease the amount by reducing the possibility of doing the work. For instance, if you procrastinate on eating fresh vegetables long enough, they may spoil, and you wouldn't then want to eat them at all! Still fits "needless, delaying, and counterproductive." $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jan 8 '14 at 1:28

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