There are so many things you’d rather be doing than what you ought to be doing and what happens is that you delay doing what you ought. All the evidence shows that this procrastination is bad for you, for your productivity, your school grades, for your health. But still we keep putting things off. Until. Tomorrow. Now Michael Wohl and colleagues have proposed a rather surprising cure – self-forgiveness. That’s right, forgive yourself for you have procrastinated, move on, get over it and you’ll be more likely to get going without delay next time around.
Wohl’s team followed 134 first year undergrads through their first mid-term exams to just after their second lot of mid-terms. Before the initial exams, the students reported how much they’d procrastinated with their revision and how much they’d forgiven themselves. Next, midway between these exams and the second lot, the students reported how positive or negative they were feeling. Finally, just before the second round of mid-terms, the students once more reported how much they had procrastinated in their exam preparations.
The key finding was that students who’d forgiven themselves for their initial bout of procrastination subsequently showed less negative affect in the intermediate period between exams and were less likely to procrastinate before the second round of exams. Crucially, self-forgiveness wasn’t related to performance in the first set of exams but it did predict better performance in the second set.
‘Forgiveness allows the individual to move past maladaptive behaviour and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts to hinder studying,’ the researchers said. ‘By realising that procrastination was a transgression against the self and letting go of negative affect associated with the transgression via self-forgiveness, the student is able to constructively approach studying for the next exam.’
Wohl, M., Pychyl, T., & Bennett, S. (2010). I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences, 48 (7), 803-808 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.029