Jensen-Coon: Emotional Regulation Decreases Procrastination


By Kelcy Jensen-

The plague of procrastination can affect us all. It masks our feelings of inadequacy or dread for a moment, but then swoops in with the agonizing realization that we still have to confront the task we were avoiding, usually creating more stress because we have less time to complete our project. Common belief says that laziness is the cause of procrastination, but more often than not it is a lack of emotional regulation.

The word “emotions” has many negative connotations. People treat emotions as burdensome and believe that emotions are always irrational. Often someone’s gender is slandered according to the way they handle their emotions. However, emotions are not for “sissies” and females. They are normal human functions that help us navigate through life.  Why people continue to view these inherent monitors as ridiculous is beyond my understanding.

Being able to manage and understand your emotions makes you more successful. When we do not manage our emotions, we tend to do things like stress eat or procrastinate. If people spent less time procrastinating and more time being productive, they could be more successful in their goals.

The article (which can be found in the J. Willard Marriott Library archives) “Overcome procrastination: Enhancing emotion regulation skills reduce procrastination” by Marcus Eckert, David D Ebert, Dirk Lehr, Bernhard Sieland and Matthias Berking states, “Procrastination reduces well-being, increases negative feelings such as shame or guilt, increases symptoms of serious mental health problems such as depression…”. This does not sound like a recipe for success.

So what solves the procrastination dilemma? We must develop the skills to keep our emotions in check and recognize which ones are important. I would like to suggest that knowing yourself and being honest with yourself will widen your understanding of why you procrastinate particular projects. These two abilities play a key role in being able to prevent procrastination. If we do not understand ourselves, our ability to self-regulate will decrease.

The authors of this research say that these abilities will help you avoid procrastination and regulate emotions, “(a) to be aware of one’s emotions, (b) to identify and label emotions, (c) to correctly interpret emotions related to bodily sensations, (d) to understand the prompts of emotions, (e) to support one’s own self in emotionally distressing situations, (f) to actively modify negative emotions in order to feel better, (g) to accept emotions, (h) to be resilient (in order to tolerate aversive emotions), (i) to confront emotionally distressing situations in order to attain important goals, (j) to support oneself (self-support), and (k) to modify aversive emotions.” This suggests that being keenly aware and connected to our emotions is healthier than ignoring them.

So what is holding you back? We are all subject to procrastination once in a while, but if we weren’t, we would be more successful and increase our mental health. The old joke of getting in touch with your emotions might not be such a bad thing. We need self-understanding, self-control and honesty to battle the woes and consequences of procrastination. Next time you start to avoid the work you have ahead of you, remember these words from Larry the Cable guy, “Git-R-Done.”