Featured Article: The Real Reason You Procrastinate

Whether we struggle with distractions during prayer or while trying to work, the same root cause is often at work: procrastinating. We procrastinate because of the lure of instant gratification and the emotional difficulty of digging into big or intimidating projects.

I found this analysis of the roots of procrastination and the ways to fight back truly helpful. Most importantly, this is a compassionate article that invites us to confront the emotions and impulses that drive many of our decisions and habits related to procrastination.

Thankfully, we can take some helpful steps forward today:

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Most psychologists see procrastination as a kind of avoidance behavior, a coping mechanism gone awry in which people “give in to feel good,” says Timothy Pychyl, a professor who studies procrastination at Carleton University, in Ottawa.

It usually happens when people fear or dread, or have anxiety about, the important task awaiting them. To get rid of this negative feeling, people procrastinate — they open up a video game or Pinterest instead. That makes them feel better temporarily, but unfortunately, reality comes back to bite them in the end

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Pychyl discusses the idea of the “monkey mind” — that our thoughts are constantly darting all over the place, preventing us from concentrating. And psychologists agree that the problem with procrastinators is that they are tempted to give in to instant gratification, which brings people the kind of instant relief psychologists call “hedonic pleasure,” rather than staying focused on the long-term goal.

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Interestingly, research suggests that one of the most effective things that procrastinators can do is to forgive themselves for procrastinating. In a study by Pychyl and others, students who reported forgiving themselves for procrastinating on studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less for a second exam.

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Instead of focusing on feelings, we have to think about what the next action is, Pychyl says. He counsels people to break down their tasks into very small steps that can actually be accomplished. So if it’s something like writing a letter of reference, the first step is just opening the letterhead and writing the date.

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Read the rest…

 

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