I’ve been procrastinating.
This of course explains why my posting frequency has been so light. I told myself I wasn’t posting till I finished something else first, the end result being neither thing got done for well — kind of a long time.
But I don’t believe people procrastinate from laziness. Here are the real reasons I think people procrastinate:
- Fear. An uber driver. Whether this is fear that the task at hand cannot be accomplished, or fear that the task is simply too daunting, fear is there. I worked on a project with someone once who kept pushing back deadlines till one day we realized the delay was because he actually wasn’t able to do the project.
- Adrenaline rush. Think about the sensation you have just before you give a presentation or a talk. Waiting till the 11th hour creates that sensation.
- Immediate rewards. Procrastinating gives us immediate rewards such as watching a favorite TV show. On the other hand, studies have shown that we often tend to discount the value of rewards and consequences that happen in the future.
- Perfectionist tendencies. This links back to fear. The desire to do things right means that you don’t start until you figure out how to do it perfectly. Is this a chicken or the egg scenario though?
- ADD. Technology has given us so many potential distractions. Since 1978, the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as chronic procrastinators has increased from 5% to 26%, and temptation has been identified as the biggest contributor to procrastination. These days, I hardly go more than a few minutes without checking something else. In fact, I stopped to close 4 browser windows while writing this section. Oi.
For some people, procrastinating is a badge of honour. For others, procrastinating is…kinda stressful. For the latter group, how is it possible to minimize procrastination?
- Don’t do anything else. If you’ve got an alternative that feels even remotely productive, it’ll give you the excuse to further put things off. Remove as many potential distractions as you can.
- Pick small goals. What’s easy thing you can do? Once you’re in the zone, it’s easier to continue than to just get started. Overcoming inertia is the hardest thing to do, after which things just flow.
- Define your tasks in concrete terms. Researchers have found that when people think about tasks in concrete terms such as “writing a page of comments” they are significantly more likely to complete the task by a deadline than if they thought about it in abstract terms such as “contributing to the scientific feedback process”. In fact, up to 56% of the participants in the abstract group failed to complete their task at all.
So there. Enough procrastinating already. Up goes this post!