Procrastination is the tendency to postpone activities, often against better judgement.
In a recent investigation, Hensley & Munn studied whether writing about procrastination could help reduce it. To do this, they structured an online journaling tool that sought to bring the participants greater awareness of their procrastination behaviors by helping them understand them, monitor them and reflect about them.
The initial journal entry given to the participants invited them to answer the following questions: "What is the experience of procrastination like for you? What do you typically do, think, or feel when you procrastinate?"
The bi-weekly journals the participants were asked to fill included questions about their procrastination habits during that period of time, such as "What assignments did you procrastinate on? What were your reasons for procrastinating? What were the results of procrastinating?", "What do you remember thinking or feeling as you procrastinated?" and "Were there any times when you wanted to procrastinate but didn't?"
Participants for this study were college students of different majors who self-identified as procrastinators and gave informed consent to participate in this study, using a pseudonym in their journal entries for privacy. After three weeks of completing the journals, some participants agreed to share their experiences and insights with the researchers in an interview. Both the interviews and the journal entries were analyzed through a qualitative research method called inductive thematic analysis, that is, identifying, categorizing and coding recurring topics and ideas.
Most participants shared that the journaling tool significantly helped them reduce procrastination, and one of the main reasons that were given for this is that the journal helped them become aware of their procrastination in a way that drove them to change. This idea was also prominent in the thematic analysis.
Furthermore, "Tracking their results provided students concrete evidence of difference in their outcomes when working ahead as opposed to procrastinating; seeing this evidence so clearly increased the resolve to work ahead" (Hensley & Munn, 2020).
Some of the main topics that emerged from the analysis and were proven helpful to reducing procrastination through journaling were: understanding procrastination and gaining objective insight into the realities of delay, learning to see procrastination as it happens, understanding the thoughts and feelings associated with procrastination, and self-awareness as a foundation for personal development.
In the words of the authors: "Findings indicated that journaling spurred four pivotal processes: understanding procrastination, making changes in the moment, motivating action, and finding direction for change" (Hensley & Munn, 2020).
An interesting aspect of this study is that participants weren't asked to procrastinate less, or given advice on how to reduce procrastination, but rather they were just asked to notice their procrastination. By noticing it, they reduced it. In this way, participants "generated their own reasons and techniques for changing their behaviours" (Hensley & Munn, 2020).
The researchers reflect:
"By regularly journaling about their procrastination, students focus attention on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours; engage in self- evaluation; plan new approaches; and, re-entering the cycle of self-regulation, monitor and reflect upon these new approaches" (Hensley & Munn, 2020).
If you struggle with procrastination, consider incorporating some of these techniques that guide to awareness and action. Journalling with evidence-based techniques such as the ones described in this article can be highly beneficial for various personal goals.
Hensley, L. C. & Munn, K. J. (2020). The power of writing about procrastination: journaling as a tool for change, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44:10, 1450-1465
Article written by Maggie Stilman.
The Considerable Journal.
The Considerable Journal's mission is to bring relevant scientific findings closer to people who seek evidence-based paths to integral well-being, by providing briefed, straightforward expositions of scientific research regarding mental and physical health, relationships, habits, and more.