Don’t put off reading this post

Loved this in the NYT, “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control).”  I was going to pop into into quick hits, but a recent conversation changed my mind.  I found out that one of my favorite readers (SNH) never reads any quick hits.  The horror!  Well, as I was compiling quick hits the other night, I said I’m going to give SNH the chance to put off reading this post.

Anyway, here’s some of the interesting research on the matter:

She [Dr. Fuschia Sirois] added: “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”

Wait. We procrastinate because of bad moods?
In short: yes.

Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

In a 2013 study, Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois found that procrastination can be understood as “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

I found this so interesting because on a personal level it struck me as so true.  As I think about my own procrastination it is invariably worse when I am in a negative mood.  And when I think about the least productive professional year of my life, it is surely when my mom had cancer and died.

The article goes through a whole bunch of strategies to try and get past procrastination.  but I did not find any of them particularly compelling.  Also, sometimes I procrastinate from “real” work by writing a blog post, so you might not like me as much if I procrastinated less :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Don’t put off reading this post

  1. Bryce Nance says:

    I hate procrastinating. I’ve been doing too much of it. I’m stuck in a cycle of putting stuff off, then feeling bad about it and putting more stuff off, then having more to feel bad about and putting more stuff off. I need to break the cycle, but I really can’t muster much motivation.

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