16 January 2007

The Science of Procrastination

So, a new year has just started not too long ago. Made your New Year Resolutions? If yes, then here's some scientific excuse for yourself not to follow them.

According to this article from ScienceDaily (which I arrived via Slashdot), it concluded that

  • Most people's New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure

  • Most self-help books have it completely wrong when they say perfectionism is at the root of procrastination, and

  • Procrastination can be explained by a single mathematical equation

Heh heh, this is quite interesting. As the professor explained, "Perfectionism is not the culprit. In fact, perfectionists actually procrastinate less, but they worry about it more." Well, does that mean that we should not aim for a too well-rounded resolution or goal when setting one?

Steel says motivational failures such as difficulty in sticking to diets and exercise regimes -- frequently the focus of New Year's resolutions -- are related to procrastination because impulsiveness is often at the root of the failure.

So a resolution or a goal should be one which is carefully thought out, not one that is made over dinner or during a conversation. I think the typical goal-setting plan should kick in here. To avoid procrastination in a plan, one has to set many mini-goals within a reasonable timeframe to motivate one to continuously achieve.

Interestingly, the article points out that

The good news is that willpower has an unusual capacity. "The old saying is true: 'Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're probably right'," Steel says. "And as you get better at self control, your expectancy about whether you can resist goes up and thus improves your ability to resist."

But what if a person doesn't believe in the existence of free will? Then there is no willpower to talk about, and if one is meant to procrastinate, one has to procrastinate. More motivation to find out if free will exist then? Oh well...

Procrastinate now without worry, for you have the backing of science!

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