I’ve been doing more listening than writing with regards to the fabulous iProcrastinate podcasts, because I’ve been walking with my pod* more than I’ve been procrastinating at my computer. Hey, maybe that means the podcasts are helping me kick the procrastination habit!
(*I use the term “pod” to describe my non-iPod mp3 player that is good enough for me, but is not worthy of an official recommendation so I won’t mention anything more about it.)
While struggling with my procrastination, I’ve been trying to resist actively investigating why I procrastinate because doing so would only take away from the other things I should be doing. Walking and listening, however, is a passive way for me to learn about procrastination. The writing I do to summarize, well, I’m sure that could be considered procrastination, but I am allowing myself to do it because I am convinced that all writing I do will help all other writing I do…(*cough* thesis! *cough*)… and writing is my dream for the future, which makes it important to me.
Personality and Procrastination: Recap
The third iProcrastinate podcast starts off by recapping the Five Factors, or Traits, that can be used to describe personality or potentially to predict behaviour:
- Openness to Experience
The basic question is also reiterated: are there inherent personality factors that may be ‘risk factors’ for procrastination?
Personality Traits that Correlate with Procrastination
The studies to test correlation involved questionnaires that helped researchers profile the test subjects by their personality types, and there were also questionnaires and behaviour tests to gauge procrastination.
The results of the studies did show that there is some correlation between some personality traits and the tendency to procrastinate. In some cases, only a few facets of each trait were correlating. Here are the traits listed again, this time approximately in order from the weakest to strongest correlations found, as well as noting which facets were seen to correlate with procrastination.
- Agreeableness & Extraversion
- neither shows any correlation with procrastination
- Dr. Pychyl called this surprising, and I suppose I’d have to agree, since I had postulated that these would have some link to procrastination. Oh well! :)
- Openness to experience
- non-correlating facets: aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas, values
- the only facet that correlates with procrastination: fantasy
- Fantasy is involved with procrastination when we imagine that the task will be easier later, or that the delay really won’t be a problem.
- non-correlating facets: anxiety, anger, hostility, depression, vulnerability, self-consciousness
- the only facet that correlates with procrastination: impulsivity
- Impulsive people cannot shield one intention from another more relevant/important/pressing intention.
- all facets correlate with procrastination (in a reverse sense: low conscientiousness correlates with high tendency to procrastinate)
- the less-correlating facets include: competence, order, dutifulness
- the two highest-correlating facets are: achievement striving & self-discipline
The interesting point of view that this breakdown provides is that there are so many different combinations of personality traits could be involved in examining one’s own procrastination. Everyone’s different, and that’s why procrastination must be a really fascinating field of study in psychology.
With that thought, I’m moving on to the part of this review that I’ve been looking foward to the most!
Facets of My Procrastination
First, it is not a surprise to me that this podcast confirmed that I have some issues with Conscientiousness. I’ve known for a long time that self-discipline is one of my major issues, and so far I haven’t figured out how to overcome that. I wish it was as simple as a switch in my head that I can flip and say, presto! I’m in self-disciplined, productive mode!!
I think one of the things that’s been getting in the way of that mode is that so often I find myself saying, “but first…” before I get started on the task I intended to do in the time at hand. It scares me to think about how much time has been lost in this way!! I’m actually feeling relieved that I now know a name for this: impulsivity. I certainly do have difficulty in “shielding one intention from another”!! And somehow, just knowing that fact is helping me become more aware of it happening. When I catch myself saying, “but first…” I am learning to ask myself if I am procrastinating the more important task by doing something else that is truly less important.
What surprises me, though, is that this idea of impulsivity is a facet belonging to the trait of Neuroticism, otherwise known as emotional instability. I suppose if I just look at it as a more general instability, I can see how it makes sense… it’s an issue of focus, of staying on task, of not getting distracted (or letting myself get distracted). But emotional? I’ve always kinda prided myself on not being very emotional at all, except I do cry at a good movie… I’m never angry or anxious, I never find myself getting freaked out by situations that are stressing other people out.
Or is my lack of stress just a denial or fantasy, one of the facets of Openness to experience that I didn’t think was one of my problems? Maybe by believing that nothing affects me, I’ve just convinced myself not to get worried when I’m procrastinating, and thus it makes my procrastination even more likely to occur.
But back to Conscientiousness, since there are still several facets there I haven’t discussed. I think I’ve been making significant progress on my achievement striving, and it’s definitely helped me want to get things done.
I’m also pretty sure my obsessive studying of task management is over, because I now (finally!) have a system that I trust, and I will definitely describe it here very soon. For now, I will just say that it helps me be more aware of things that are my duties, while keeping all the rest of my “wanna do” activities in order as well. (Yes, I’ll admit that sentence was a little contrived, to use two of the words that are facets of conscientiousness, but I think my uses were both valid!)
Is Personality the Cause or just a Description?
Some researchers hypothesize that these personality traits are causal, while others treat them as merely descriptive, and this podcast elaborates a bit more on the idea. For something to cause behaviour, it implies that the trait is a property of the individual, and that this property is the source of the behaviour.
I suppose that might mean that the behaviour is difficult to change unless the causal property is addressed, and that could explain some things about why I’ve been struggling so much. I may just be addressing the symptoms, not the cause.
On the other hand, personality traits may just a convenient way to describe behaviour patterns, and that just by practicing different behaviour, and turning the desired behaviour into habit, the traits themselves would be modified because they are only a description of what’s going on.
Heck, it could be that both approaches are true in different degrees for different people and even perhaps the different traits may manifest in different ways, and so keeping both approaches in mind might be the best bet!
One thing I know for certain is that the knowledge itself really seems to help me understand what’s going on in my head. I am really seriously pursuing increased awareness of my actions, and awareness of my continual progress towards my goals. I may have lofty goals, but every little step in the right direction is bringing me closer!
I don’t think I’m going to write about the fourth podcast particularly soon, because there have been several other topics building up in my to-blog-list. Until then, here’s hoping anti-procrastination conquers all! :)