Can Social Media Help Fight Procrastination?

Social support has been effective against bad habits like smoking. It can also be an effective way to combat procrastination, according to experts.
August 18, 2017

Business owners who struggle with procrastination may be able to find help by looking to social media. 

Social support has proven effective against maladaptive behaviors from smoking to excessive alcohol consumption. It can also be an effective way to combat procrastination.

Facebook has groups such as Procrastinators Helping Procrastinators where the chronically late can offer advice and commiseration. LinkedIn offers online courses such as Overcoming Procrastination as well as groups of business people who join together for social support.

Online groups such as Procrastinators Anonymous enable check-ins, meetings and chats with like-minded procrastination sufferers. Meetup, an online tool for arranging face-to-face gatherings, has a variety of anti-procrastination resources such as Shut Up, Sit Down & Write!, an Austin, Texas, Meetup for people trying to bring unfinished novels, blogs, business plans and similar projects to completion.

Business Owners and Procrastination

There is an ample need for this kind of support, according to Michelle Tullier, executive director of the Center for Career Discovery and Development at Georgia Tech and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Overcoming Procrastination

"Procrastination is common across everyone, but business owners are particularly susceptible to it," Tullier says.

Realizing you're not alone is one of the first steps in overcoming any psychological and behavioral barriers to success.

—Michelle Tullier, executive director, Center for Career Discovery and Development

"Business owners put off things like changing course in a business model, hiring people as a business grows or even shutting down a business that's failing," she continues. "Then there are also all the little things that get put off—tedious day-to-day tasks that aren't enjoyable but have to get done. And when a business is small, there's often no one else to do it but the business owner."

What Procrastination Is and Isn't

"All procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination. That's important," says Timothy Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carleton University and director of the Procrastination Research Group. "It's procrastination when it's a voluntary delay of an intended act despite knowing you're going to be worse off because of this delay."

Tighter scheduling and better time management are not the solutions, Pychyl says. "Procrastination is not a time management thing," he says, "It's an emotion management thing." 

That's where social media can come into play.

How Social Media Can Help Procrastinators

Social media can help procrastinators form online communities, which can be important for addressing the emotional side, says Tullier. 

"Realizing you're not alone is one of the first steps in overcoming any psychological and behavioral barriers to success," she says. "When you see others posting questions and concerns online or just venting about their day, you realize you're in good company. This also can make it easier to ask for help."

Social media can also accommodate desires for anonymity and privacy so sufferers don't have to announce to everyone they are struggling. 

"Instead, you can simply ask for strategic or tactical advice and examples of how others have overcome a particular challenge," Tullier says. "For example, if you often put off invoicing clients, you can post a question in your online communities asking how others have found success finding time for invoicing or asking who is using a particular invoicing software they recommend."

Online gatherings of procrastinators can also supply accountability when members commit to each other to push back against needless, damaging delay. 

"I may keep my commitments to others when I don't always keep my commitments to myself," Pychyl explains. "That's very powerful when you talk about social media as an anti-procrastination tool."

One appealing feature of social media support for procrastinators is that it's typically always available and easy to access. That can make it easy for procrastinators to take at least a first step toward curing the affliction—or at least breaking the seal on a long-postponed task.

First steps matter a lot, Pychyl says. "One of the things I've put a lot of emphasis on is just getting started," he says. "With a little bit of help from your friends, you can get started. And getting started is huge."

The Double-Edged Social Sword

Of course, while social media can combat procrastination, it can also cause it.

"Most of the time I've looked at social media as the devil," says Pychyl. "It's like saying you're going to go to a casino to help a gambling problem."

Even if managed so they don't worsen the problem, using social networks to combat procrastination probably isn't the entire answer, Tullier says.

"The emotional side of procrastination might need to be explored with an executive coach or even in psychotherapy," she says. "All the tips and tricks in the world won't be effective without dealing with fears, insecurities, inner conflict or doubts."

Ultimately, making social media an ally against procrastination requires exploiting its affinity for connection, while avoiding its tendency to waste time. 

"Social media is a double-edged sword," Pychyl says. "On the one hand it can be the bane of productivity. On the other, it can be a useful tool. It helps us connect with people, and when you connect with others, good things can happen."

Read more articles on personal productivity.

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