转:拖延症该怎么治?情绪管理很重要


本 文选自专栏《谋生的工具》(Tools of the Trade)。在这个每周更新一次的专栏中,各领域的专家会提供可行建议,帮助你在工作效率到募资等方面迅速且高效地见到成果。本周,渥太华卡尔顿大学心 理学教授提摩西·皮奇乐为我们解释为什么会有拖延症,并提供了一些解决拖延症的方法。

作为一名研究拖延症长达二十多年的心理学家,我思考了很多关于效率的问题,以及我们效率低下的原因。人们普遍把拖延症归因于糟糕的时间管理。这种观点认为,无法达成目标是因为不善于安排时间。

但多年的研究让我相信,拖延症的根源不在于此:归根结底,拖延与情绪有关。我们会回避消极情绪,努力让自己感觉良好。

想想你上次是怎样毫无必要地去推迟某件你知道自己得去做的事情。当时,你的脑海里可能有“我不喜欢它”,“我不想去做”,“我明天再做”等想法。产生这种抗拒的原因是,你此时此刻不愿去体验消极情绪。

我们的研究发现,我们拖延的往往是那些被定义为枯燥无味、令人沮丧或困难的任务。它们会唤起恐惧、焦虑和烦躁的情绪。减轻这种情绪的办法很简单:拖延。让未来的自己来做吧!然而,就如荷马·辛普森曾对未来的自己说的那样:“嘿,我一点都不羡慕这小子。”

换句话说,拖延症不是时间管理的问题,而是情绪管理的问题,后者往往会再次困扰我们。尽管逃避能带来一时的快感,但研究表明,这种刺激转瞬即逝。拖延不仅会给未来的自己带来时间压力,而且在你意识到自己拖延必要的工作是多么不理性之后,还会导致愧疚,自我价值感降低。

以下是解决方法。

对付拖延症有许多办法,不过最关键的是学会控制我们的情绪。这并不简单。从生物学的角度来看,拜大脑边缘系统(最古老的神经系统结构之一,大脑的情绪控制中心)所赐,感受总是先一步袭来。

相反,我们的前额皮质——大脑进行“执行功能”的关键区域,也就是我们计划、组织、必要时抑制冲动的能力——会晚一步产生作用。

佛教僧侣对神经科学所知甚少,但他们充分理解迅速的情绪反应与缓慢、更加艰辛、往往让人筋疲力尽的冲动抑制和思想控制过程之前的冲突,并把这种冲突比喻为“猿心”。若要成功,就得给猿猴安排它可以应对的任务。

所以,下一次你感到内心的抵触,觉得“我不喜欢它”或仅仅是“我不想做”,想拖延时,要知道这只是你的大脑边缘系统在起作用。你不必推迟整个复杂的项目,而应当把它拆成很多小的、可以控制的步骤,这样不会吓到你的“猿心”。要问自己,这个任务我接下来可以怎么做?

把任务拆成小而具体的步骤。把门槛降低。下一步做什么?知道了吗?现在开始这个步骤,只关注这一步。从情感上看,开始从事任务的门槛要低得多。不要向前看得太远。低下头来,专注于这一小步,而不是完成整个任务。这样一来,你就进入了任务,变得有效率起来。

早在十多年前,社会心理学家就已经证明,在目标上取得进展,即便是微小的进展,也会让人感到幸福。他们将此称为“幸福的螺旋式上升”。这也会带来效 率的螺旋式上升。迈出第一步,感到投入其中,而不是逃避任务、陷入愧疚和焦虑的螺旋,会增加我们的幸福感,帮助我们积极地采取下一步行动。过不了不久,我 们就能充分投入,效率十足了。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

审校:任文科

This article is part of Tools of the Trade, a weekly series in which a variety of experts share actionable tips for achieving fast and effective results on everything from productivity to fundraising.

This week Timothy Pychyl explains why we procrastinate, and what we can do about it. Pychyl is a psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa.

As a psychological scientist who has researched procrastination for over 20 years, I think a lot about productivity and the reasons we fail to achieve it. A common belief is that procrastination stems from poor time management — we fall short of accomplishing our goals, this line of thinking goes, because we’re bad at budgeting our hours.

But my research has led me to believe the root cause is different: At its core, procrastination is about emotions. We use avoidance to deal with negative feelings — we give in to feel good.

Think about the last time you needlessly put off something you knew you needed to get done. Chances are, thoughts like “I don’t feel like it,” “I don’t want to,”or “I’ll feel more like it tomorrow,” ran through your head. This resistance is coming from your present-self’s desire not to experience negative emotions.

Our research shows we typically characterize tasks on which we procrastinate as boring, frustrating, or difficult. They inspire feelings of dread, anxiety, and annoyance. There’s an easy solution to mitigate these feelings, however: Simply put the task off. Future self can do it! And, as Homer Simpson once remarked about his own future self, “Man, I don’t envy that guy!”

In other words, procrastination is not a time-management problem; it’s an emotion-regulation problem, one that comes back to haunt us. While avoidance can feel good in the moment, studies have shown this emotional boost is fleeting. In addition to the time pressure it creates down the line,procrastination causes feelings of guilt and a diminished sense of self as we recognize how irrational we’ve been in delaying a necessary action.

Here’s what to do about it.

There are many strategies for fighting procrastination, but the most essential is learning to regulate our emotions. This isn’t easy. Biologically, thanks to our limbic system, one of the oldest neurological structures and the brain’s emotional center, we’re primed to feel first.

In contrast, the prefrontal cortex — the part of our brain that plays a key role in performing “executive functions,” i.e. our ability to plan, organize and inhibit impulses as necessary — developed later.

Buddhist monks knew little about neuroscience, butthey understood the internal battle between quick, emotional reactions and the slower, more laborious,often exhausting processes of inhibition and thought control. They sum up this tension by saying that we humans have “monkey mind.” To be successful, it helps if you give the monkey a task it can handle.

So, the next time you feel that internal resistance and think, “I don’t feel like it,” or, simply, “I don’t want to” along with the temptation to procrastinate, understand that it’s just your limbic system acting out. Instead of putting off a complex project entirely, start by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps that won’t scare your monkey mind. Ask yourself, what is the next action I could take on this task?

Make it a small action. Make it a concrete action. Keep the threshold low. What’s the next action? Got it? Now just get started on that action, and that action alone.Getting started is a much lower threshold emotionally. Don’t look too far ahead. Keep your head down and focus on the work, not the finish line. Do that, and you’re on task. Do that, and you’re being productive.

For over a decade ago now, social psychologists have demonstrated that achieving progress on our goals, even a little progress, fuels well-being. They called it an upward spiral of happiness. It’s also an upward spiral of productivity. Feeling engaged after taking that first step, as opposed to avoiding the task and descending into a spiral of shame and anxiety, increases our well-being and helps motivate us to take the next step. It doesn’t take long before we’re fully engaged and productive.

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