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Why Laziness Is Not Why You Procrastinate (Your Emotions Are)

Overcoming procrastination isn't so much about completing tasks. In reality, it's about something much more personal.


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What project are you putting off right now? Is there an important task you could be doing now, but are unnecessarily saving for later?

Voluntarily delaying anything may lead you to believe that you are an inherently lazy worker. But are you truly lazy if the task, project, or undertaking at hand asks that you be detail-oriented or focused?

Procrastination isn't about laziness. In fact, it’s about your emotions.

According to Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, it logically does not make sense that anyone would partake in something (like procrastination) when he or she knows it is going to have negative consequences. “This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” Sirois comments. And, she reveals, “people engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”

That’s right: Your mood plays a huge part in how much of a procrastinator you are. In one 2013 study, Sirois, along with Tim Pychyl of Ottawa’s Carleton University, found that procrastination is “the primacy of short-term mood repair ... over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.”

Although you might understandably think overcoming procrastination is first concerned with task completion, in reality it’s primarily concerned with “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods.”

Our aversion to steady and efficient task completion can be associated with either a dislike for the task itself or the feelings we have related to the task. From anxiety, insecurity, to guilt, these feelings make it difficult for us to avoid procrastination. You may, for instance, approach making a presentation with self-doubt, failing to see how you could possibly be qualified enough to create something valuable.

Overcoming procrastination will require more than the download of a scheduling app or use of a detailed calendar. You will have to learn to manage your emotions in new, effective ways.

First, you must be self-aware, and identify the moods you experience. Next, consider practicing self-compassion or self-forgiveness. And, remember: Don’t be too quick to label yourself as lazy. If you were truly lazy, you shouldn’t aspire to complete your tasks, much less read about the root of your procrastination itself.

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This post originally appeared on Inc. and was published June 15, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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