Tag Archives: procrastination

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Poor sleep might make you more likely to procrastinate

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A new study found a link between low-quality sleep and the tendency to procrastinate the following day. Researchers claim that this is due to a decreased ability to self-regulate one’s behavior.

Poor sleep, poor willpower

Everyone procrastinates to a degree, but some really can’t help it — and this can significantly impede them from reaching their goals. Previously, psychologists found that individuals with a low capacity for self-regulation are more likely to delay action towards meeting their goals and to engage in unwanted behaviors.

Self-regulation involves controlling one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals. Self-regulation, or self-control, reflects a person’s maturity. An emotionally mature individual is better able to face emotional, social, and cognitive threats in the environment with patience and thoughtfulness.

Individuals who have low self-regulation are more prone to procrastination than those with high self-regulation. Now, in a new study published in the journal Frontiers in PsychologyDutch researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that quality sleep mediates our ability to resist browsing social media or engaging in some other mindless activity in favor of more productive endeavors.

The research team recruited 71 healthy adults who worked in a wide range of fields, such as finance, education, and sales. Each participant self-reported their sleep quality and tendency to procrastinate at the workplace over a period of 10 workdays. To gauge their level of procrastination, participants had to rate how much they agreed with statements such as “Today, I promised myself I would something, and then dragged my feet.” 

Low-quality sleep was associated with higher levels of procrastination in the following day. This effect was moderated by an individual’s self-regulation — that is, individuals with low self-control were even more affected by the quality of their sleep than those with high self-control.

The findings make sense because keeping yourself focused to meet goals is mentally taxing, occupying a lot of cognitive resources. Poor sleep simply doesn’t replenish our energy enough, so we become more prone to engage in unproductive activities. Interestingly, even individuals with high self-control would become very vulnerable to procrastination following low-quality sleep.

Obviously, if you’re one of those people who would rather clean the living room than go about that checklist, quality of sleep ought to be the first thing you want to address. But here’s the thing: there’s also something called bedtime procrastination. According to researchers, it’s quite common for people to delay going to sleep by engaging in unhelpful activities such as checking e-mail or browsing social media “for just 5 minutes.” What ends up happening is people go to bed late, sleep poorly, which leads to even more procrastination the following day, in a self-repeating cycle.

If you find yourself procrastinating instead of going to bed, you might want to experiment with various solutions and tools. For instance, if you’re low on self-control, you can relinquish control to an external party like an app that blocks social media on your phone after a given time.

Is the modern life really busier? Not really, Oxford lab finds out

Armed with almost 1 million diary entries, an Oxford-based laboratory is trying to figure out why modern life seems so hectic. Is it really, or is it a matter of perspective?

Ales Krivec.

Ales Krivec.

In the early 1960s, televisions were making their big breakthrough. In the UK and the US everybody and their grandma was buying a TV so the BBC wanted to know what were the best times to air its programmes. They decided to conduct a nation-wide study and asked almost 2,500 people to write in a diary what they’re doing every half an hour, and to indicate whether the TV or radio is on.

The result is a sum of entries like “8 a.m., Eating breakfast,” read one; “8.30 a.m., Taking children to school; 9 a.m., Cleaning away, washing up and listening to Housewives’ Choice” — a popular radio record-request programme of the day. So why is this significant now?

Well, the Centre for Time Use Research at the University of Oxford, UK gathered these results and many others like them in order to see what people really do with their time – and whether or not modern life is as hectic as we generally consider it. They gathered similar diaries from 30 countries, spanning more than 50 years and cover some 850,000 person-days in total.

“It certainly is unique,” says Ignace Glorieux, a sociologist at the Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels. “It started quite modest, and now it’s a huge archive.”

While analyzing the results is still a work in progress, some results are already apparent: first of all, we’re not busier now than we used to be.

“We do not get indicators at all that people are more frantic,” says John Robinson, a sociologist who works with time-use diaries at the University of Maryland, College Park. In fact, when paid and unpaid work are totted up, the average number of hours worked every week has not changed much since the 1980s in most countries of the developed world.

Source: Top: J. Gershuny/Oxford Centre Time-use Res.

So if we aren’t actually busier, then why do we feel like we’re busier? Well, for starts, it could be us that’s to blame. People tend to grossly overestimate how much they work, in the United States, by some 5–10% on average. Those who work very long hours tend to overestimate even more: for example, people who guess that they work 75-hour weeks, for example, can be over by more than 50%. Similar patterns have been reported in Europe.

But some demographics are indeed working longer than they did a few decades ago. Single parents are the ones that stand out the most – they put in extraordinarily long hours, compared to the majority. The other category is well educated professionals. It’s especially the societal and work pressure that makes these people work in more than they used to.

“The combination of those pressures has meant that there is this group for which time pressure is particularly pertinent,” says Oriel Sullivan, a sociologist who now co-directs the centre with sociologist Jonathan Gershuny.

This collection is also a gold mine for physicians. Not only will it allow us to better understand how our time management has changed over the years, but it will provide insight into some health conditions exacerbated by the modern lifestyle. The diaries “were the greatest asset I could possibly have”, says physiologist Edward Archer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who used the data in a 2013 study of obesity. He found that modern, sedentary activities (most notably sitting in front of a computer) were among the main factors contributing to widespread obesity in the developed world. The team estimated that working women today are burning some 130 kilocalories per day less than those in the 1960s.

Now, the team is trying to increase their collection, adding entries from countries such as China, India and South Korea. Then, they can examine cultural differences and see what trends are universal, and estimate how things will develop in the future. There is an abundance of data, and it will definitely take a lot of time to analyze it all.


Scientists identify new type of procrastination: Sleep Procrastination

We’ve probably all experimented it: you don’t have anything useful or even fun to do, but you don’t want to go to bed just yet – so you just browse your computer or tablet for a few minutes… or hours. Now, researchers from the University of Utrech have come up with a scientific explanation for that: it’s sleep procrastination.

Sleep defficiency is a serious health hazard, and according to the CDC 30% of all American adults report sleeping fewer than six hours per night – clearly less than required, and this can be very dangerous. According to the CDC:

“Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are… more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.”

So then, why don’t people sleep more? Why don’t you sleep more? Why don’t I sleep more? The answer is complex and has many facets, but at least partially, the answer is: sleep procrastination. To put it simply, people procrastinate going to sleep.

In a new study published to Frontiers in Psychology, Floor Kroese, an assistant professor in psychology at Utrecht University surveyed 177 individuals via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk on all sorts of lifestyle and demographic factors – sleep and inclination to procrastinate being among them. Bedtime procrastination was estimated through statements such as  “I go to bed later than I had intended” and “I easily get distracted by things when I actually would like to go to bed.” Not exactly the most clear science, but you can draw some useful information from that.

She looked through the data, and found moderate amounts of sleep procrastination among many participants, which were also correlated to insufficient sleep and fatigue. But why do people delay sleeping? It’s not like it’s a chore or something. Well, let’s just say that the mind of the modern man works in mysterious ways.

“We speculate that it is not so much a matter of not wanting to sleep, but rather of not wanting to quit other activities,” Kroese explains. Instead of going to sleep, it’s “one more episode” on Netflix or “one more quest” on that video game. “Bedtime procrastination may be a relatively modern phenomenon,” she adds.

Journal Reference: Bedtime Procrastination: Introducing a New Area of Procrastination. Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00611