By: Tina Walczak & Cam Schreiner
Today we are going to talk about procrastination… If we know why we do it, but why others don’t do it, then we will have a better understanding of how to stop.
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
“What mood is that?”
― Bill Watterson
I love this quote because it’s so unbelievably true for me, and I’ve heard other creatives talk about and relate to this. We took a poll and only 10% of people admitted to never procrastinating. These people are special unicorns and you should be proud.
This is another concept that I often hear creatives talk about. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
What is procrastination?
Based on the journal, Self-Regulation and Academic Procrastination, Solomon and Rothblum defined procrastination as “the act of needless delaying tasks to the point of experiencing subjective discomfort.”
I remember being a kid and spending hours shopping with my mom – I hated it so much. I would hide in the clothing racks and wait for my mom to leave the store, I would test to see how long I could wait/push myself until I would run out of the store after my mom. Until I wrote this down, I didn’t realize that my mom knew I was there, I just thought she had left me and forgotten me. Lol.
For me, when I was younger and in grade school, I was never the type of person to study for a test or do much homework unless commanded to. During the week I would call up friends to hang out. If one friend was busy I would try another. For them they were hanging out with me one night and then spending the next working on school work, while I was filling each night with hangouts or other activities and fully avoiding school work until the night before or morning when the assignment was due.
Have you ever been filling in homework AS the teacher came around to collect it? That panicked feeling and writing as fast as you can? I did this so OFTEN. I wasn’t very interested in school, but I was interested in spending time with my friends and drawing/doodling, which is how I would spend my time during a lot of those classes. Now that I’m out of school I find there is this intrinsic motivation to read, learn and grow instead of everything coming from the external. I fully enjoy the education and see the importance of this growth in myself.
Let’s give some background information about types of personalities and what kind of person procrastinates the most.
I’m currently enrolled in business school, so we get access to a large database of research, and there was one journal that caught our eye. There was a study done by French-Canadian from a junior college where the psychologist linked procrastination to fear of failure.
In this study, researchers found that individuals with low self-esteem who have a great sense of failure tend to procrastinate the most. People who are able to monitor their behaviour have a better chance at self-regulating and are able to work through the feelings of procrastination.
Procrastination and regulation
Five types of regulation that can be arranged along a continuum of autonomy (from least to most):
- Amotivation- No sense of purpose, no expectation of reward and no perceived opportunity
- External regulation- controlled through rewards or constraint imposed by others
- Introjected regulation- behavior that has been internalized but not fully accepted (feeling of guilt)
- Identified regulation- realization the importance of the behavior and how it ties to goals or values
- Intrinsic regulation- Pleasure or satisfaction derived from performing the behavior itself
Autonomous vs non-autonomous self-regulation can be compared in three ways
- Autonomous has greater initiative and persistence
- Autonomous feels generally positive emotions when performing the activity
- Autonomous = more integrated and consistent forms of behavior
Are you the biggest procrastinator?
For uninteresting activities, like math, there are external regulations applied to motivate. The hope is that eventually, the external regulations give way for internal regulations. Ex. Being told to do something when you a child, but then seeing value in that activity yourself when you grow a bit older.
“I believe these tasks are important so I should do them.” Basically what this study says is that if we are able to turn our motivation into something internal (intrinsic) I think this is important. If we believe completely a task has intrinsic value, then we should be able to convince ourselves to stop procrastinating.
I procrastinate too much…
I’ll be honest, I’ve had 2 weeks to do this paper for school, it’s on environmental and corporate social responsibility. I haven’t been motivated to do it because I’m, not a strong writer. I’ve been focusing on my insecurity about writing rather than the actual subject matter.
I shouldn’t worry about the external grades or motivators, but rather, I should be focusing on the internal motivator of doing great things for the environment and society. This is how we change our mind!
Providing external rewards for an activity the person already finds interesting decreases their intrinsic motivation for that activity.
Correlation results indicated that students with intrinsic reasons for pursuing academic tasks procrastinated less than those with less autonomous reasons (external regulation and amotivation). Regression results indicated that the measures of depression, self-esteem, and anxiety accounted for 14% of the variance in academic procrastination, whereas the self-regulation variables accounted for 25%.
These results support the notion that procrastination is a motivational problem, and has little to do with poor time management skills or laziness.