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Scientists Say Procrastinators Are Not bBad -- They Only Lack Motivation

Photo by Yulia Grigoryeva via Shutterstock


The start of a new year is a perfect time to make resolutions. Unfortunately, many people fail to do what they plan because they delay acting on their resolution.

These people are the victims of the tyranny of the urgent. The goals they set are not met because they set it aside temporarily to do other important things that crop up that they end up not doing what they originally intended to do.


Self-Defeating behavior

Psychology Today noted that self-oriented psychodynamic theorists who followed Freud said that procrastinators are showing signs of neurotic self-defeating behavior. Delaying guarantees failure to do what the procrastinator wanted to because of the belief that the person is fundamentally flawed, according to that view.



However, over the decades, there has been a shift from the self-theorists to an inner-oriented dynamic approach to a motivational approach. With this change in approach, procrastinators are now viewed as people who lack self-regulation, time management, and learning strategies that would allow them to close the gap between action and intention.

Axel Grund and Stefan Fries, psychologists from the University of Bieleland in Germany, tried to tie up the competing approaches to understanding procrastination. They said that it reflected the failure to follow through the intentions; moreover, it did not hold the intention to be on time in the first place.

They explained that people who do not get things done on time actually do not value the same goals as people who do. Grund and Fries added that they understand procrastination as reflecting difficulties in pursuit of a goal. However, they do not think that the problem would be solved by the volitional implementation phase of action only.

The two said that to understand procrastinators, their values must first be understood. Such values include not seeing dilatory behavior as a reflection of misconduct and a serious human weakness. Rather, what they could value are well-being and tolerance.


Tension Between Conservative and Liberal Views

The German psychologists acknowledged the tension between conservative and liberal views on procrastination. On one hand, the conservatives consider it a moral failure, while on the other hand, the liberals said it is not because of a personal weakness.

To test their theory, Grund and Fries recruited 223 undergraduates to assess if they would score high on a procrastination scale and if they value their own personal well-being, such as their free time, more than achieving something. The result was according to the expectations of the two human behavior experts. The test confirmed a positive relationship between procrastination and an orientation to pursue personal enjoyment and well-being.

In a second study in the series, Grund and Fries asked the undergrads to write in a diary for seven straight days five tasks they completed daily. They were asked if the tasks were accomplished because they wanted to or because they had to meet an external set of demands. Again, the results matched the expectations of the two psychologists that more of the activities that the participants completed were those within their control.

The participants procrastinate because the tasks do not have that much inherent meaning to them. If they are forced to complete tasks on time, the effort will only backfire. But the psychologists concluded that procrastinators are not morally deficient persons or are not capable of motivating themselves to get things done.


Minimizing Procrastination

The Fix suggested for people who want to recover, to minimize this behavior, they should make a list and prioritize. They could be overwhelmed by the number of things that need to be done and lack a plan in the first place.

After making a list and setting priorities, the next step is to set deadlines for each item on the list. The deadlines should be reasonable. Keep the list on a phone or a piece of paper and hold yourself accountable to complete the items by the given deadline.



Improving Work Life in 2018

New Vision listed procrastination as one of the things to get rid of in 2018. It also suggested getting rid of fear, especially of quitting, disguised as being comfortable. According to James Opio, a human resource consultant, many people are stuck in their jobs they should have quit from a long time ago because they are paralyzed by some form of little comfort, driven by fear of the unknown.

The website also urged people to get rid of giving up when about to reach the finish line. Opio pointed out that the hardest part of any project or activity takes place just before the breakthrough or the finish line. It is during the same period that the brain begins to think that it is too hard and considers letting go.

Finally, he recommended throwing out the victim mentality. Opio observed that for every challenge and problem that people meet, they blame something or someone. Such kind of attitude will only keep you down, he said.


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