Here is an excerpt from the Don’t Delay Blog:
Three British psychologists …collected data from 179 students, measuring their procrastination (behavioral and decisional), worry, anxiety, depression and metacognition. …
“Metacognition refers to the beliefs, psychological structures, events and processes that are implicated in the control, modification, and interpretation of thinking itself” (p. 320). In short, these processes are proposed to be part of the executive functions of the brain, the control components of information processing.
What they found
1. Beliefs about cognitive confidence (e.g., “my memory can mislead me at times”) was related to behavioral procrastination.
2. Positive beliefs about worry (e.g., “worrying helps me cope”) was related to decisional procrastination.
In the words of the study authors, “In the case of behavioral procrastination, it is plausible to postulate that individuals who hold negative beliefs about their cognitive efficiency (a metacognitive dimension that is closely associated with negative emotions; Wells, 2000) may doubt their task performance capabilities. This is likely to adversely impact motivation as well as task initiation and persistence, leading to behavioral procrastination.” [emphasis added]
“A possible explanation of the link between positive beliefs about worry and decisional procrastination could be that when an individual experiences an emotional trigger, positive beliefs about worry lead to the activation of ‘internal reality testing’ or ‘mental problem solving’ routines. The latter are likely to hinder decision-making processes leading to decisional procrastination” (p. 322).
This research underscores the destructive effects of doubt and worry, particularly the false belief that something like ruminative worry can be productive. These irrational beliefs sustain task delay.
Spada, M.M., Hiou, K., & Nikcevic, A.V. (2006). Metacognitions, emotions and procrastination. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 20, 319-326.
Wells, A. (2000). Emotional disorders and metacognition: Innovative cognitive therapy. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
Wells, A., & Matthews, G. (1994). Attention and emotion: A clinical perspective. Hove, UK: Erlbaum.