Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

Self-control wears out when used, researchers say

In a recent study, subjects were asked to suppress their feelings while viewing an upsetting movie. In a subsequent test that involved self-control, the subjects performed worst than average. According to the researchers, this proves that their self-control ressources were used up during the first test. More details here :

I think this study raises a lot of questions, questions that have to do with procrastination.

Chronic procrastinators often go through these cycles of procrastinating, doing everything at the last minute, thinking that this will never happen again, and then when everything is done procrastinating again. Could it be that when we are working at the last minute, we use up all of our self control ? Then we would HAVE to procrastinate afterwards, because our self control just doesn’t work anymore.

If this is true, then what would be a good way to deal with it ? Maybe our self-control needs a rest. Maybe it restores naturally with time, but maybe it restores better if we let it rest. I’m not saying I advocate it, but I’m just wondering : would getting drunk, gambling all my money and generally acting silly help me be an overarchiever the next morning ? For some reason I doubt it. But there might still be an element of truth in there.

It’s often said that self-control is like a muscle : the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Maybe that’s true on the long term, but on the short term, the more you use a muscle and the less it works. Otherwise I could do an infinite number of pushups, and that wouldn’t even be impressive because you could do it too. What this study suggests is that self-control is just like a muscle : you have to stop using it after a while, or it gets exhausted.

Of course, the idea that you should have fun after you’ve worked too much is common sense. But this study brings a new light to it : what you need precisely is not “fun

Building muscle

Seems to me that when procrastinators time binge, it's the equivalent of the person who doesn't exercise all week and than overdoes it playing football or something on the weekend.  Or the person who tries to run a marathon without training and is exhausted afterward.

I think you're right, Kaa, that we may wear out our self-control with bursts of last-minute activity.  Unfortunately, I don't think goofing off & acting silly helps develop self-control, any more than being a couch potato helps develop energy for physical activity.

As with physical exercise, I think the answer is to work on self-control a little at a time regularly, so that it becomes a habit and our self-control "muscles" develop more stamina. 

I'll bet that in the study, for example, an actor who is trained in controling their facial expressions would wear out their self-control less than the normal test subjects did, because they'd be acting out of habit and not exerting themselves as much.  And I think the more we work on self-control & getting things done on a day-to-day basis, the more we become like someone who works out every day, and so can run a marathon without collapsing in a heap afterward.

My 2 cents.  :)



a good two cents at that.  :)


In a way I agree with this, but in a way I don't.  For me, I don't think the issue is expending self-control at the last minute, it's how I choose to motivate myself.  Sprints and self-whipping are exhausting, you know?

This is all IMHO, of course, and I think the study is relevant, I just can't articulate how at the moment.  Plus, Instant Boss is telling me that my break is over!  Tongue out

self control

so the fiance objects to poker, but she's ok with the hookers??  })  just kidding of course.  This is an interesting thought, it does seem that the more I work without a break, the more resentful and likely to procrastinate I become . . .


that's interesting

Hmmm... That's interesting. I'd like to read the article and think about this some, but I can't do this now because it's past my bedtime and I have work tomorrow!!!! Maybe this weekend I can catch up in the forum.

Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.