Procrastination is one of my biggest challenges in life. I’m a born procrastinator. So today I went to a workshop led by Tim Pychyl, a Psychology Professor at Carleton University.
Procrastination is an exercise in “short-term mood repair”. It feels better to avoid unpleasant or difficult tasks. So we create short-term gain for long-term pain.
Dr. Pychyl noted that studies suggest that 30% of the variance in student well-being can be explained by procrastination. Search the term “procrastination blog” and you will get over 3 million results in about 2 seconds.
There are all kinds of contributing factors to procrastination. If you want to learn more about the causes of procrastination, check Pychyl’s blog.
Professor Pychyl’s completely destroyed all of my excuses for my procrastination. First, the adrenaline junkie excuse. That is that we need a lot of stimulation or pressure in order to complete a task. His research suggests that there is no evidence that additional stimulation improves task performance. Additionally, the excuse that “I work better under pressure” has also been disproven. People make more mistakes and experience lower task performance when working at the last-minute, especially for cognitively complex tasks.
I personally need to create an environment that minimizes distractions which include cell phones, computers, social media, email, refrigerators and televisions. But it turns out that I need to decide that I’m going to get started. To paraphrase Nike, “Just Start It”.
Bottom-line? Willpower and self-regulation are critical skills to managing procrastination. Being aware we are procrastinating is only the first step to managing it. One thing Pychyl said stuck with me. The way to support our willpower is to ask our selves, what do we value. If I put a task off until a later day, what will I give up then in order to complete the task? Will I give up time with friends and family? The satisfaction of creating something excellence? What are my values, and how does procrastinating go counter to those values?
Okay, so now I have a great big to do list to complete.