Understanding Procrastination: A Birthday Blog

I hate doing this. I missed a birthday. March 24th marked the beginning of the fourth year for this Don't Delay blog. Birthdays are often a time for reflection, so here are a few of mine about my understanding of procrastination, then and now, with some criticisms, some kudos and a look to the year ahead.

Opening Pandora's Box: The Procrastination Risk for "Optimistic Improvisers"

We make different types of intentions. Some of us plan in great detail. Others leave their options open, but at the risk of opening something else as well . . . the Pandora's Box of deliberation and the potential for procrastination.

Hierarchy of Excuses: The Pathetic Path of Least Resistance

Recent research indicates that the degree of our cognitive dissonance relates to what kind of tactic we choose to reduce the dissonance discomfort. The rank ordering of our strategies and excuses is interesting, but it's only another example of how we live in bad faith.

Procrastination & The Science of Sin

I did an interview recently for an upcoming documentary entitled "The Science of Sin." Not surprisingly, I talked about sloth. Why it's considered sinful is worth some reflection.

Time Is All We Have: Carpe Diem!

Carpe diem. Seize the day. This expression has guided my life for many years. I seize every moment for what it's worth. Good thing. Last month, I was diagnosed with cancer.

Procrastination: Two Philosophers and a Psychologist Discuss Delay

The most often-read essay about procrastination on the Internet is entitled "Structured Procrastination" written by John Perry, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University. John is also the co-host of the popular Philosophy Talk radio show. On January 30th, I joined John and co-host Ken Taylor (Stanford) to talk about procrastination. Here are some highlights.

External Supports for Your Willpower

Typically, we think of the self-controlled person as one with tremendous willpower, incredible internal resources of self-discipline. The thing is, this individual's success may be more a matter of strategy than the traditional notion of strength. We can and do offload the burden of willpower to the environment to scaffold our success.

Last Minute Holiday Shopping, Procrastination and Planning: Tell Me More

I just finished an interview with Michel Martin of NPR's "Tell Me More" program. Our discussion was focused on last-minute holiday shopping, pre-recorded for airing on Christmas Eve, as last-minute as possible, of course. With that in mind, I thought I'd summarize a couple of studies that focus on procrastination, planning and holiday shopping.

Procrastination: Is Your Future Self Getting a Bad Deal?

Here's a common scene—a sink full of dirty dishes that I decide can wait until tomorrow, even though the hardened mess will be much more difficult to clean. If I were leaving this for someone else tomorrow, I might understand my procrastination on the task, but it's my future self for whom this task waits.

Get Out of the Procrastination Trap: The Role of Will, Choice and Virtue

If I lock the refrigerator to block my late-night snacking, I might have made a useful predecision to protect myself against my seemingly uncontrollable urges, but there's another route. I could try harder and exert my will. The "will" is an old notion that has resurfaced in an important way in recent writing about how we can resist procrastination.

Leveraging as a Strategy to Defeat Needless Delay

A lever is a powerful tool. The simple machine involves the strategic use of force at a distance from a fixed point (fulcrum) to gain mechanical advantage for lift. As depicted in the image, it would seem we can lift the world. Well, there's truth in this notion. We can leverage self-control to lift the weight of the world off our shoulders.

More Effective Goal Intentions: Think Width and Consistency

How can we more effectively avoid short-term temptations to achieve long-term goals? Two leading researchers argue that framing our goals with "width" and "consistency" makes a big difference.

Words of Healing for Perfectionists: Forget Your Perfect Offering

Far too many of us feel the unbearable weight of our perfectionism. These unrealistic expectations, often internalized as the expectations of others, are a sickness within us. In this brief post today, I offer up a poet's voice with words of healing.

Worried about Our Children

I love this cartoon. The imagery is simple. The implications are profound. There are the literal deep, and small, holes into which we might trip or fall while attending to something else. And, then there are our children, those "emerging adults," who populate our campuses. They are falling into their own deep holes. I'm very worried about them.

Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting Things Done

My colleague and friend, Dr. Joseph Ferrari (De Paul University, Chicago), has just published a new book: Still Procrastinating? the no-regrets guide to getting it done. As Joe has published more research about procrastination than anyone else in the world, I thought that Don't Delay readers might like to hear Joe talk about his book.

Every Day, but Not Today

My son will celebrate his third birthday on Sunday. Today, he taught me something about development and learning. He revealed how early in life temporal reasoning takes shape. The upshot was that I then realized how many of us are stuck at a very early level of maturation.

Today I Will Take Life Easy

I just finished reading stories to my children, ages 3 and 5 years. Among other things, we read the first chapter of Arnold Lobel's Days With Frog and Toad entitled, "Tomorrow." It is a wonderful story with an important lesson for us all, particularly when we're facing a day like Toad with "so much work to do."

Personal Barriers to Good Health

I had my annual physical examination this morning. I've got a new doctor, so we had an interesting "get to know you conversation" that included a chat about what I study as a psychologist - self-regulation failure. It's a common interest to physicians, of course, because they know patients often fail to implement necessary health behaviors. One thing he said in particular surprised me.

Am I Too Busy to Live My Own Life?

Do you remember Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22? Even if you don't, I think you might recognize how many of us play out the paradoxical "catch" in our lives daily. Desperately in need of more time with family or friends, or time for exercise or a therapeutic relationship, the situations that create our need seem to prevent us from getting what we need.

Relapse

I will never do this again. I can't believe I've done this to myself again. Not true. Relapse is more the rule than the exception. Planning on it, accepting it, moving on, are key elements to a successful strategy for change.

If You Haven't Done the Time (Don't Count on the Happiness)

In a consumer-oriented society, we think that money can buy everything. Here's an example that shows this just isn't true. In fact, Julian Boulle, famed South African skydiver and birdman put it simply as, "If you haven't done the time, you just can't get there."

The Procrastinator's Digest: My New Book Is Now Available

My sabbatical ended June 30th. It was a wonderful year for reading and writing. Among my writing projects was a short book—The Procrastinator's Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. This blog post includes the introductory chapter of the book. It provides an overview of my approach and what you can expect.

2 More Tips for Beating Writer's Block

When I see something about writer's block, I immediately think of Robert Boice's work on procrastination and blocking. He has also written an excellent book about new faculty. Here are two more strategies to add to Bill Knaus' list of tips based on Boice's research.

Procrastination Can Make You Happy?

Does procrastination make us happy? Does it improve performance? The short answer from the accumulated research literature is "no" on both accounts. So, why does this myth persist?

Why Understanding Batting Averages Is Important

I often meet people struggling with change in their lives, particularly around procrastinating less, and they are discouraged. They feel that they fail more often than they succeed. The thing is, this might still define success, even excellence. It does in baseball.

How Can I Learn to Eat Healthier Snacks?

In the most recent issue of the journal Health Psychology, there are two studies that explored how we can develop and maintain more healthy snacking habits. Not surprisingly, knowing that it's good for us is not enough for long-term success.

Doing a Full Pomodoro: Give Me a Break, Please!

Do a pomodoro. The tomato that's a verb. Sure, the technique has merits, but be careful not to miss the point. Technique is never enough.

The Procrastination Field or Why I Finally Cleaned Out My Fridge

Oh, the strange things that we do when we know we don't have time to take a break (but we do). While not working, we find ourselves maintaining a readiness to work, dramatizing our commitment to work, trying to convince the world and ourselves that we are not really off task. 

The Dark Side of Conscientiousness: Life Satisfaction in the Face of Unemployment

A soon-to-be-published longitudinal study of 9,570 individuals revealed that conscientiousness has a dark side following unemployment. This is one of the first instances of research documenting that conscientiousness is not always good for well-being.

How Does Personality Influence Blog Writing and Reading?

A study in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies indicates that blog text presents consistent, readable cues about the blog author's personality. In addition, readers are more attracted to authors they think are similar in personality to themselves. So, which blogs are you reading here on Psychology Today?

Pages