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更新时间:2014-1-24 14:01:48 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

To End Procrastination, Look To The Science Of Mood Repair

Procrastinators, take note: If you've tried building self-discipline and you're still putting things off, maybe you need to try something different. One new approach: Check your mood.

Often, procrastinators attempt to avoid the anxiety or worry aroused by a tough task with activities aimed at repairing their mood, such as checking Facebook or taking a nap. But the pattern, which researchers call 'giving in to feel good,' makes procrastinators feel worse later, when they face the consequences of missing a deadline or making a hasty, last-minute effort, says Timothy Pychyl (rhymes with Mitchell), an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and a researcher on the topic.

Increasingly, psychologists and time-management consultants are focusing on a new strategy: helping procrastinators see how attempts at mood repair are sabotaging their efforts and learn to regulate their emotions in more productive ways.

The new approach is based on several studies in the past two years showing that negative emotions can derail attempts at self-control. It fills a gap among established time-management methods, which stress behavioral changes such as adopting a new organizing system or doing exercises to build willpower.

Gisela Chodos had a habit of procrastinating on cleaning the interior of her car until it became so littered with toys, snack wrappers, fast-food bags, pencils and other stuff that she was embarrassed to park it in a public lot or offer anyone a ride, says Ms. Chodos, a Salt Lake City mother of two school-age children and part-time computer-science student.

She came across podcasts by Dr. Pychyl in 2012 and realized she was just trying to make herself feel better when she told herself she would feel more like tackling a task later. She says, 'I am trying to run away from the feelings and avoid the discomfort' -- the anxiety she often feels that her work won't be good enough or that someone will disapprove.

'Emotion is at the core,' Ms. Chodos says. 'Just knowing that gives me a little bit of fight, to say, 'Fine, I'm feeling discomfort, but I'm going to feel more discomfort later' ' if the job is left undone. The insight has helped her get around to cleaning her car more often, she says; 'it's been a long time since my car was so bad that I freaked out at the thought someone might look inside.'

Researchers have come up with a playbook of strategies to help procrastinators turn mood repair to their advantage. Some are tried-and-true classics: Dr. Pychyl advises procrastinators to 'just get started, and make the threshold for getting started quite low.' Procrastinators are more likely to put the technique to use when they understand how mood repair works, says Dr. Pychyl, author of a 2013 book, 'Solving the Procrastination Puzzle.' He adds, 'A real mood boost comes from doing what we intend to do -- the things that are important to us.'

He also advises procrastinators to practice 'time travel' -- projecting themselves into the future to imagine the good feelings they will have after finishing a task, or the bad ones they will have if they don't. This remedies procrastinators' tendency to get so bogged down in present anxieties and worries that they fail to think about the future, says Fuschia Sirois, a psychology professor at Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and author of a forthcoming 4,000-person study on the topic.

Sean Gilbertson read an earlier book by Dr. Pychyl in 2012 after trying other time-management techniques such as keeping a daily log of his attitudes. The Minneapolis software engineer says the techniques didn't go deep enough to help him see how his emotions were blocking action and shift them in a more positive direction. Using the time-travel technique, he asks himself, 'What negative things will happen if I procrastinate? Will it come up in my review? How will it affect my reputation? Will it affect my raise and bonuses?'

He used the technique recently when programming a prototype of a medical device to help doctors prevent pressure sores in wheelchair-bound patients. He imagined the good feelings he would have after completing the project well and pleasing his client and his employer. He envisioned patients 'living happily and feeling better.' The resulting positive feelings gave him the energy to de-bug the device faster and finish the three-month project on time. The client was so pleased that 'just talking to them is a pleasure,' he says.

About 20% of adults claim to be chronic procrastinators, based on research by Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, Chicago, and others. Other studies suggest the rate among college students may be as high as 70%. The habit predicts lower salaries and a higher likelihood of unemployment, according to a recent study of 22,053 people co-authored by Dr. Ferrari.

Procrastination also predicts such long-term problems as failing to save for retirement and neglecting preventive health care. Studies show men are worse procrastinators than women, and researchers suspect the habit plays a role in men's tendency to complete fewer years of education.

Most procrastinators beat up on themselves even as they put things off, repeating negative thoughts such as, 'Why can't I do what I should be doing?' or, 'I should be more responsible,' says Gordon Flett, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto. 'That negative internal dialogue reflects concerns and doubts about themselves,' Dr. Flett says.

One mood-repair strategy, self-forgiveness, is aimed at dispelling the guilt and self-blame. University freshmen who forgave themselves for procrastinating on studying for the first exam in a course procrastinated less on the next exam, according to a 2010 study led by Michael Wohl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton.

Thomas Flint learned about the technique by reading research on self-regulation, including studies by Dr. Sirois and Dr. Pychyl. He put it to use after his family moved recently to a new house in Sewell, N.J. Instead of beating himself up for failing to unpack all the boxes stacked in his garage right away, Mr. Flint decided to forgive himself and start with a single step. 'I'd say, 'OK, I'm going to take an hour, with a goal of getting the TV set up, and that's it,'' he says; then he watched a TV show as a reward. Allowing himself to do the task in stages, he says, is 'a victory.'


拖延症患者通常试图回避较难的任务带来的焦虑或不安,他们会通过上Facebook页面浏览或者小睡一会儿等活动以修复自身情绪。但据正在研究这一课题的加拿大渥太华卡尔顿大学(Carleton University)心理学副教授蒂莫西·皮切尔(Timothy Pychyl)称,当这些人需要直面错过截止日期或者最后一分钟做出仓促努力的后果时,这一被研究人员称作“向好心情投降”的方法会让他们感觉更糟。皮切尔博士是2013年出版的《解决拖延症难题》(Solving the Procrastination Puzzle)一书的作者。



家住盐湖城(Salt Lake City)的吉塞拉·乔多斯(Gisela Chodos) 是两个学龄儿童的母亲,还是一名非全日制的计算机专业学生,她说,她有一个对打扫车内卫生拖拉的习惯,要等到她的车内扔满了玩具、零食外包装、快餐打包袋、铅笔和其他东西,让她在把车停在公共停车场或送别人一程时都会尴尬万分时才会去打扫卫生。




此外,他还建议拖延症患者练习“时光穿梭法”,也就是想象自己穿梭到了未来某个时点,想象一下停止拖拉完成一项任务时的好心情,或者无法完成该任务时的糟糕心情。魁北克省舍布鲁克(Sherbrooke)毕索大学(Bishop's University)的心理学教授富斯奇亚·西罗伊斯(Fuschia Sirois)称,这能够修正拖延症患者陷入当前的焦虑和惶恐以至于无法想到未来的心理。西罗伊斯还主笔了有关这一课题的涉及4000人的一项研究的论文,即将于近期出版。

明尼阿波利斯(Minneapolis)的软件工程师肖恩·吉尔伯森(Sean Gilbertson)2012年读到了皮切尔博士的一本书。此前他曾尝试过其他时间管理方法,例如记录自己每天的态度等。他说,以前的方法不够深入,未能帮助他看清自己的情绪是如何阻碍了行动、阻碍了将之转化为更为积极的态度。使用时光穿梭法的时候,他问自己:“如果拖拉会有什么不太好的事情发生?这会不会反映在对我的评价之中?这会对我的声誉造成何种影响?这会影响我的升迁和奖金吗?”


芝加哥德保罗大学(DePaul University)心理学教授约瑟夫·费拉里(Joseph Ferrari)和其他研究人员做的一项研究显示,约20%的成年人声称患有慢性拖延症。其他研究显示,大学生患有拖延症的比例可能高达70%。费拉里博士近期参与了论文合着的一项针对22,053人进行的研究发现,这一习惯预示着更低的薪水和更高的失业可能性。


多伦多约克大学(York University)的心理学教授戈登·弗莱特(Gordon Flett)称,多数拖延症患者即使在推迟事情的时候也会打击自己,不断重复诸如“为什么我不能做应该做的事情?”或者“我应该更有责任感”等负面想法。弗莱特博士说:“这些消极的内心对话反映了他们对自己的担心和怀疑。”

另一种自我宽恕的情绪修补策略旨在消除内疚和自责。卡尔顿大学心理学副教授迈克尔·沃尔(Michael Wohl)于2010年主持的一项研究显示,那些在准备某课程第一次考试时拖拉但原谅自己的大学新生在下一次考试时就不会那么拖拉了。

托马斯·弗林特(Thomas Flint)通过阅读包括西罗伊斯博士和皮切尔博士的研究等自我调节方面的文献学习了这种方法。他在近期搬家到新泽西州苏埃尔(Sewell)的新居时就采用了这一方法。他没有因为没能及时把堆在车库的箱子拆开而责备自己,而是决定原谅自己,然后从一件简单的事情开始起步。他说:“我告诉自己,好吧,现在拿出一小时,就把电视机装好就行。”之后他会看一个电视节目作为奖励。他表示,允许自己一步一步完成任务就是胜利。