YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is procrastinating a good
( marylamia.com) is
a clinical psychologist and the author
of What Motivates
& Little;eld Publishers, 2017).
Psychology professor Tim Pychyl
and his students at
have been studying
DOES PROCRASTINATION interfere with success? Definitely not. When we
look at behaviour, without exploring the emotions that motivate it, we may overlook influences that account for individual differences. Everything we do is
motivated by our desire to turn on positive emotions or turn off negative ones.
For example, we may be motivated to get something done because doing so is
enjoyable or because it will relieve the anxiety we feel about an unfinished task.
The different task-completion timing of procrastinators and non-procrastinators has to do with when their emotions are activated and what activates
them. Looming deadlines trigger emotions that motivate procrastinators to
efficiently and accurately complete their work. They are deadline driven.
When not tangibly working on a task, deadline-driven procrastinators cognitively organize information and plan their approach. Eventually, an imminent deadline will activate a burst of emotional energy that focuses their
attention on the task at hand. Deadline-driven procrastinators can complete
written work in one draft. They also have ways to create deadlines when cut-off
points don’t exist. For example, they may challenge themselves by constructing
a list of tasks to complete within a given time frame. Missing a deadline constitutes lateness, and deadline-driven procrastinators are never late.
In contrast, task-driven non-procrastinators are emotionally activated by
uncompleted tasks, which compel them to take immediate action. Although
proud of being efficient and productive, they are often driven by a fear of forgetting or by anxiety that an unforeseen obstacle might interfere with completing a task. Their urgency can be at the expense of spending time with loved
ones, relaxing or producing quality work.
Some people claim they fail because they procrastinate. However, it’s more
likely that an entirely separate emotional issue has interfered with getting
things done. Rather than explore what’s really going on, the emotion of shame
motivates them to save face by blaming their failure on procrastinating. C
MORE THAN ;; years of empirical evidence clearly shows that procrastination
is related to a host of negative psychological states and outcomes, such as poorer
performance, lower self-esteem, poor self-control, less conscientiousness and
greater perfectionistic concerns, as well as negative emotions such as anxiety, stress and guilt. The Procrastination Research Group’s most recent edited
collection of work, Procrastination, Health, and Well-Being (Elsevier, ;;;;),
shows how procrastination—through the direct effects of stress and the indirect effects of fewer wellness behaviours (e.g., poorer sleep habits, less exercise
and poorer diet)—contributes to poorer health and well-being. We published
a paper in volume ;;; of Personality and Individual Differences that demonstrates how terms such as “active procrastination” defy logic or common sense.
Why would anyone believe that procrastination is a valid strategy for getting things done? The answer seems to be that these proponents are confusing
procrastination with other forms of delay.
Although all procrastination is delay, not all delay is procrastination. There
are many forms of delay in our lives. We purposely delay things for practical
reasons and for everyday planning. Some things have to wait while other, more
important and pressing, things get done.
Of course, there are times when we do procrastinate and it pays off, such as
when circumstances change and the task is no longer necessary or relevant. We
hang on to these rare but special memories to justify needless delay in the
future. If procrastinators are exceptional at anything, it’s self-deception.
Is procrastination a valid strategy for getting things done? Although
last-minute efforts may get a task done, let’s not make a virtue of it. There is
a certain pathos to needing a fire lit under us to get moving. Research shows
that these last-minute efforts are marred by errors. We don’t work better under
pressure, and even the creative arts depend on showing up and the discipline
of engagement. C
Do the bene;ts of no-frills
;ying outweigh the
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