“I’ve had it with being unproductive! I will not procrastinate anymore!”
Sounds familiar? Thought so. You wake up one day planning to start on your long-overdue Marie Kondo room overhaul. Next thing you know, you’re on the couch, three bags of chips by your side, and rewatching Game of Thrones because you deserved “a pre-chore treat.”
Six hours later, rationality finally kicks in and you start to blame yourself. “If only I were less lazy and managed my time better,” you think dejectedly. Cue the self-blame spiel.
Stop right there, my friend! Laziness or time management isn’t the real problem. It’s actually emotional management.
“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” says Dr. Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor and member of Carleton University’s Procrastination Research Group. He along with Dr. Fuschia Sirois conducted a 2013 study where they found that individuals tend to favor “short term mood repair” over “the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Basically, when we feel that chores suck, our brains urge us to do other more fun or doable things to ignore the impending suck-fest that doing chores brings.
Dr. Pychyl along with Dr. Fuschia Sirois conducted a 2013 study where they found that individuals tend to favor “short term mood repair” over “the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.”
It could just be that chores are not fun. Of course, it could also be deeper issues like anxiety or self-doubt. Thesis feels, anyone?
If you focus on all the dread you have for the chore, then voilà, procrastination becomes a misplaced coping mechanism. “[People who procrastinate are] using avoidance to cope with emotions, and many of them are unconscious emotions. So we see it as giving in to feel good. And it’s related to a lack of self-regulation skills,” says Dr. Pychyl.
If you focus on all the dread you have for the chore, then voilà, procrastination becomes a misplaced coping mechanism.
What’s dangerous about it too is that it feels good. Is scrolling through social media more fun than writing your RRL? For sure! Is cuddling with your pupper better than sorting out your clothes? Hell yeah! Is procrastination an addiction that’s waiting to happen? Absolutely.
Is procrastination an addiction that’s waiting to happen? Absolutely.
So what’s a good way to combat procrastination? A little self-deception might do the trick. Dr. Pychyl follows the OHIO rule from Robert Pozen’s Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. OHIO means only handle it once. “I’m like that with email. I look at that email and say, ‘I can reply to it now, or I can throw it out,’ but there’s not much of a middle ground. I’m not going to save it for a while,” says Dr. Pychyl. “And so if I can deal with it in two minutes — this is David Allen’s work — I deal with it.”
Photo from memegenerator.net