Subscribe to Inc. magazine
STARTUP

A Surprising Antidote to Procrastination

If you find yourself putting things off, the culprit may be a weak sense of identity rather than a weak will.

When you put off tasks that are important for the betterment of your business, do you beat yourself up for having a weak will?

It may feel like your inability to push yourself to do the unpleasant but unnecessary is to blame when you procrastinate, but psychology suggests there actually may be another culprit: your identity… or lack thereof.

A Sense of Self

Timothy A. Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Canada's Carleton University, has written on Psychology Today, that identity is "knowledge of who we are. Knowledge that is hard won through a real 'exploration' of possible selves (perhaps those crazy teen years or campus life in your 20's) and finally crystallized with a 'commitment.'"

What does identity have to do with procrastination? According to research done by one of Pychyl's grad students Matthew Shanahan having a less firm sense of the one leads to more of the other.

"Ego identity development was negatively correlated with procrastination. That means, the more achieved the identity, the more the participants knew who they were, the lower their scores on the measures of procrastination," Pychyl explains.

But I'm Not a Teenager Anymore

The moral of the story for Pychyl is that "we all have to 'grow up' a bit to decrease our procrastination." That's good news for frustrated parents of teens and deadline-challenged college students, but what does that have to do with business owners? You are, after all, not some teenager currently experimenting with a new goth look or vegan diet.

But while your fundamental identity as a person in general may long since have been sealed, if you're relatively new to entrepreneurship, your sense of yourself as a genuine business owner could still be tentative. When embarking on a new career path, it's common to feel like you're somehow faking it—that you don't really have the right to the identity you're claiming.

This discomfort with your new identity, at least in mild doses, isn't something to worry about, according to the New York Times, but it just might make you more prone to procrastination. The good news: as you get more comfortable with your identity and commit fully to seeing yourself as a business owner, your tendency to put things off should fade.

Conclusion: it's time to start believing in your identity as a business owner.

Does this connection between identity and procrastination make intuitive sense to you?

More:
Last updated: Feb 14, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: