Getting Things Done

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” says psychologist……..

People don’t procrastinate because they are lazy, says Dr. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done. “It’s self-harm,” he told The New York Times.

Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, agrees. “This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” she told the Times“It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences… People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”

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.

In fact, there’s an entire body of research dedicated to the ruminative, self-blaming thoughts many of us tend to have in the wake of procrastination, which are known as “procrastinatory cognitions.” The thoughts we have about procrastination typically exacerbate our distress and stress, which contribute to further procrastination, Dr. Sirois said.

But the momentary relief we feel when procrastinating is actually what makes the cycle especially vicious. In the immediate present, putting off a task provides relief — “you’ve been rewarded for procrastinating,” Dr. Sirois said. And we know from basic behaviorism that when we’re rewarded for something, we tend to do it again. This is precisely why procrastination tends not to be a one-off behavior, but a cycle, one that easily becomes a chronic habit.

Mark Frauenfelder

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