There are so many things that need to be done and yet I don’t do them. Why do I keep putting things off?
Psychologist Timothy Pychyl writes in a piece titled, Teeenagers, Identity and Procrastination that if we can’t answer the questions ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I?’, we are more likely to procrastinate.
In a study conducted amongst undergraduates, Dr. Pychyl and graduate student Matthew Shanahan learned that a lack of identity (knowing who we are) was positively correlated with procrastination. Said another way, when the undergraduates 'knew who they were', they were less likely to procrastinate.
Most of us have observed the skill with which young adults procrastinate, but isn't it also true that we have had periods in our lives when we ourselves were notorious procrastinators? And not just when we were in college?
According to Dr. Pychyl, procrastination can be explained by the interconnectedness between identity and agency. “Identity is that knowledge of who we are. Agency is the belief that we are in control of our decisions, we make things happen. Being an active agent, depends on identity, or knowing who we are.”
If we are going to make things happen, we need to know who we are.
Perhaps then, the antidote to procrastination, is not to browbeat ourselves about putting things off, but rather to put them off some more, and focus on figuring out who we are. We just might discover that when we return to our to-do list, we're getting things done.
Had you ever considered that you (or your children) might procrastinate when you aren't sure of who you are?
What about the times in your life when you are really productive, how is your 'knowing who you are' during those times?
If you are feeling like you want to get more done, what if you were to focus on your identity for a few months, or for even a few moments a day?