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Overcoming Procrastination with Optimism

Negative Outlook Can Bury Motivation

Overcoming Procrastination with Optimism

By John Salak –

There may be a good reason why certain people procrastinate. They are not terribly optimistic about the future so why rush towards it? Optimistic individuals, however, are less likely to be severe procrastinators, new research at the University of Tokyo reports.

Other than wasting time, procrastinators also often blame themselves for their “bad habit,” when they should instead understand that their bleak outlook on the future is more to blame for their inability to drive through projects and work assignments, according to Japanese researchers.

Their insights are significant because so many people procrastinate worldwide. Better still, the team reports that improving people’s outlook and readiness for the future could help them overcome procrastination and achieve a less stressful lifestyle.

Various studies show just how pervasive procrastination is among adults. Approximately 20 percent procrastinate chronically, while perhaps 80 to 95 percent of college students put off things on a regular basis. Triggers vary, but about half of adults cite using the internet to procrastinate.

The Tokyo team explored reasons for procrastinating by surveying about 300 young people. This included asking about their experiences from 10 years in the past through to the present, as well as their expectations for 10 years in the future. The group found that those who had a positive view about their stress levels decreasing in the future, compared to the past or present, were less likely to experience severe procrastination. Views on personal well-being didn’t appear to have an effect.

“Our research showed that optimistic people— those who believe that stress does not increase as we move into the future— are less likely to have severe procrastination habits,” explained graduate student Saya Kashiwakura, who co-authored the study. “This finding helped me adopt a more light-hearted perspective on the future, leading to a more direct view and reduced procrastination.”

The research also discovered that it was not only the level of stress people experienced but how their perception of it changed over the 20-year time period discussed, which influenced their procrastination habits. Surprisingly, negative views on well-being or not yet finding purpose and goals in life did not have any impact on putting things off.

Kashiwakura’s team now wants to develop programs to help people overcome habitually putting things off.

“We hope our findings will be particularly useful in the education sector. We believe that students will achieve better outcomes and experience greater well-being when they can comprehend their procrastination tendencies scientifically, and actively work on improving them, rather than blaming themselves,” she said.

“Thoughts can change with just a few minutes of watching a video or be shaped by years of accumulation. Our next step is to investigate which approach is appropriate this time, and how we can develop the ‘right’ mindset to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.”

 

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