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策划:郭嘉宁 & 泮海伦

Why People Wait 10 Days to Do Something That Takes 10 Minutes


I’m trying to construct an alternative theory of myself in which I’m a tidy person. It’s not going well. Walking my recycling from my apartment to the trash room down the hall takes me anywhere from two minutes to a month. I hate looking at broken-down boxes and empty LaCroix cansin my apartment, but studies say humans are bad at prioritizing long-term goals over instant gratification, and I apparently find doing anything else much more gratifying.


It doesn’t take a scientist to explain why I might put off other things, such as doing my dishes. Those are annoying and kind of gross, and the primary reward is just being able to use them in the future. Still, at a certain point, the anxiety of not having done these tasks surpasses the annoyance of doing them in the first place. That’s an entirely predictable cycle that many otherwise productive people find themselves in when it comes to simple household jobs: A chore that I could feel good about completing in 10 minutes instead stresses me out for days or weeks.


It can be hard to understand why this behavior is so common. The topic is tempting fodder for self-styled gurus wielding empty motivational platitudes, but the underlying cause is complex—an odd cocktail of emotional and psychological dynamics, all conspiring to let my bedding remain dirty for another week.


fodder /’fɒdə/ n. something or someone that is useful only fora particular purpose – used in order to show disapproval〔特定用途的〕素材〔含贬义〕

self-styled a. having given yourself a title orposition without having a right to it – used to show disapproval 自封的,自诩的〔含贬义〕

wield /wiːld/ v [Tn] hold in one’s hand(s) and use (aweapon, tool, etc) 手持着使用(武器﹑ 工具等)

platitude /’plætɪtjuːd/ / n [C] (fml derog 文, 贬)commonplace remark or statement, esp when it is said as if it were new orinteresting 陈词滥调

conspire to if events conspire to do something, they happen at the same time and makesomething bad happen〔事件〕凑在一起,共同导致

According to the DePaul University psychology professor Joseph Ferrari, there are two distinct types of people who have a problem completing household chores in a timely manner: task delayers and chronic procrastinators. The scientific distinction between the two is hazy, butit comes down to pervasiveness. You might feel overwhelmed by your aversion to housework, but on its own, it’s not enough to be indicative of a chronic problem. All people procrastinate sometimes, Ferrari says, but for chronic procrastinators, it happens in all areas of life and has a negative impact on aperson’s health and relationships. It’s a “lifestyle of avoidance,” he says.

根据德保罗大学心理学教授约瑟夫·费拉里(Joseph Ferrari)的说法,有两种人无法及时完成家务:任务拖延者(task delayers)和长期拖延者(chronic procrastinators)。在科学上两者的界限是模糊的,但归根结底是拖延具有普遍性。你可能会因讨厌做家务而不知所措,但单凭这点,还不足以表明这会演变成长期问题。费拉里称,所有人都有拖延的时候,但对于长期拖延者而言,拖延蔓延到了生活的方方面面,损害了个人健康及人际交往。他称此为“回避型生活方式”。


Ferrari’s research finds that description applies to about 20 percent of people. Simple task delayers are more common, but they usually have a much easier time building better habits than their chronic counterparts, which is good news for people whose primary problem is chore procrastination. We’re not that bad!


Part of the reason task delayers are lulled into their bad habits in the first place might be the time of the day or week when chores often occur. “ Doing those tasks takes someself-control, and if you’ve made a lot of choices already that day, it’s harder to exert self-control,” says Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist and Florida State University professor.

为什么任务拖延者在一开始就会染上坏习惯,部分原因可能与在一天或一周里需要做家务的时间有关。罗伊·鲍迈斯特(Roy Baumeister)是社会心理学家兼佛罗里达州立大学的教授,他说“做这些事情需要一定的自制力,如果那天你已经做了很多选择,就很难再有余力自制了。”

lull sb/sth (into sth) calm (sb,sb’s fears, etc), esp by deception 使(某人)镇静, 消除(某人的恐惧感等)(尤指藉哄骗)

Baumeister is referring to a somewhat contested theory called “decision fatigue,” which holds that people’s brains get worn out by the necessity of being decisive and exercising restraint, usually at work. If you could sit at your desk and play Candy Crushall day like you might want to, washing some plates when you get home might not seem as onerous.

鲍迈斯特所指的是一个略有争议的理论,叫做“决策疲劳”(decision fatigue),该理论认为人们的大脑会因为果断和克制的必要而疲惫不堪(通常是在工作中)。如果能如你所愿整天坐在办公桌前玩糖果传奇的话,回家后洗几个盘子看起来也就没那么艰巨了。

onerous /’ɒnərəs/ adj (fml 文) needing effort; burdensome 艰巨的; 繁重的

As any good chore procrastinator knows, the drama doesn’t simply end with deciding to do something later. For Gloria Fraser, a caretaker from Massachusetts, that’s where it just begins. She’s always considered herself a prompt, efficient person in her professional life, but the emotional baggage of housework makes personal chores more difficult. “There’s the negative tape going on in my head that I should have done something, and why did I wait until it got this bad,” she says. “So that’s piling up, and instead of doing it, I’m thinking about all the times I should have been. So I end up kind of catatonic over not doing stuff instead of doing that stuff.”

任何有经验的琐事拖延者都知道,不是决定晚点再做事情就算结束了。对来自马赛诸塞州的看护人格洛里亚·弗雷泽(Gloria Fraser)来说,事情才刚刚开始。在职场上,她一直把自己看成一个做事利落、行事高效的人,但家务活带来的心理负担让处理个人琐事变得更困难。“我的脑子里一直有消极的声音,说着我早就该做某事了,为什么我要等到现在这么糟了才做”,弗雷泽说道,“这样的事情不断堆积,我没有采取行动,而是想着之前本有许多机会可以完成,于是到头来我紧张的不是这件事本身,而是没有去做。”

catatonic /kætə’tɒnɪk/ not able to move or talk because ofan illness, shock etc 紧张性的

Guilt and shame can be big parts of procrastination if the procrastinator begins to internalize the desire to avoid dirty dishes as indicative of larger moral failings. “ We bring other things to this besides the task itself, and we tell ourselves stories about who we could be if we just buckled down and did that thing,” says Liz Sumner, a life coach who helps older women break bad habits and be more productive. Sumner recommends breaking tasks into small, manageable steps, but those efforts can still be thwarted when people worry they aren’t changing or progressing quickly enough.

一旦拖延者开始把逃避脏盘子的想法内化为更大的道德缺失,内疚和羞愧就会变成拖延的一大组成部分。莉兹·萨姆纳(Liz Sumner)是一位帮助年长女性摆脱坏习惯、提高工作效率的人生导师,她说:“除了任务本身,我们还掺杂了其他东西。我们告诉自己只要倾尽全力去做那件事,我们就能成为更好的人。”萨姆纳推荐把任务拆分成一个个可实现的小步骤,但一旦人们担心自己改变或是进步得还不够快时,这些努力仍可能无济于事

thwart /θwɔːt/  v. toprevent someone from doing what they are trying to do 阻挠,阻碍

buckle down to apply oneself with determination 倾全力


“A big problem people have is they attack themselves and not their behaviors,” Ferrari says. If task delayers can depersonalize their aversion to, say, vacuuming or litter-box changing, he believes, they stand a better chance at being able to evaluate it rationally, avoiding the shame cycle that can calcify negative behaviors into bad habits.


aversion /ə’vɜːʃ(ə)n/n. a strong dislike of something or someone厌恶,讨厌,反感

calcify /ˈkælsɪfaɪ / 1. (cause sth to) harden by a deposit of calcium salts (使某物)钙化. 2. to make inflexible or unchangeable


If a problem can be understood, maybe it can be fixed. Betsy Burroughs, a Silicon Valley branding executive turned neuroscience researcher, used to have a hard time keeping her home tidy. “It was just a disaster all the time,” she says. “But then I noticed that if I was having people over, not only would I clean the place up, but I’d actually enjoy cleaning it.” Her solution was to start a monthly conversation salon ather San Francisco loft, which ran for more than 12 years. Starting your own event series might be a little extreme for most people, but the idea of recognizing what you dislike and recontextualizing it as an element of something positive can be applied to most housework.

如果我们能理解问题所在,就有可能解决它。贝琪·巴勒斯(Betsy Burroughs)曾是硅谷品牌主管,后来转行做神经科学研究员。她曾一度很难保持家里的整洁,“以前我的家一直是个灾难。”贝琪表示,“但后来我注意到,如果我请别人来做客,那么我不仅会收拾房间,甚至还挺享受收拾的过程。”这是她应对拖延的解决方法:每月在位于旧金山的顶楼公寓里开一次谈话沙龙,一开就开了十二年多。对大部分人来说,要自己开办组织系列活动或许有些极端了,但它背后的想法适用于大多数家务:承认你讨厌的东西,把它放到不同的情境下赋予其积极的意义。

Being conscious of your habits does seem to have an impact on procrastination, but in ways more complicated than I had first assumed. In 2011, the Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck published findings that suggest decision fatigue more negatively affects people who already expect their willpower to below. People who expect themselves to fail toward the end of the day, in other words, often do. Maybe task delayers could all be better around the house if we simply stopped granting the premise that “bad” is the default with which we are stricken. Procrastination researchers, it should be mentioned, all seem to answer their emails in a timely manner.

意识到自己的习惯似乎的确能改善拖延,但它的作用方式比我刚开始预想的要复杂许多。2011年,斯坦福大学的研究人员卡罗尔·徳韦克(Carol Dweck)发表了一项研究成果,结论表明对于那些本就认为自己意志力薄弱的人而言,决策疲劳有更大的负面影响。也就是说,那些预期自己最终会失败的人,往往确实失败了。如果不再确信自己生来就是一个拖延的人,可能任务拖延者在家中都能更自在一些。值得注意的是,拖延症的研究人员似乎全都及时回复了邮件。

Still, a certain level of delay might just be an inescapable part of the human brain, especially when the task is tricky. When I asked Ferrari what the inflection point is between being a task delayer and a chronic procrastinator, he told me that was a complicated question. “Every two years, researchers on procrastination have an international meeting. We’ve been doing it for 20 years,” he says. “After each of these meetings, we walk away saying that we’ve got to get people to understand the difference between delaying and procrastination.” They haven’t arrived at an answer yet. Maybe the time for it, like the time for my recycling, will come soon.


inflection point A moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market. 转折点


  • 本文原载于 The Atlantic 

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