I’ll Do It Later

“Procrastination is opportunity's assassin.” - Victor Kiam

So you’re starting on Monday, huh? Well, try not to beat yourself up too much. We all procrastinate because, as explained here in the video, The Science of Procrastination, we are all prone to the fast dopamine pay off of immediately satisfying tasks.

When faced with a term paper or on hour on Reddit, many of us choose Reddit because we cannot quite wrap our heads around the future misery wrought by our seemingly temporary delay.

Behavioral economist, Daniel Goldstein is familiar with this pattern as it’s common in money making about decisions as well as life projects. Goldstein, in his TED Talk, explains it as a battle of Present Self vs. Future Self. Present Self. He says Future Self’s voice is distant and often weak compared to Present Self, which is directly in touch with immediate gratification. The reason this, along with procrastination as a whole, is a problem, according to Goldstein, is because, “Present Self tromps on Future Self’s dreams.”

But, for about 20% of people, the draw of delay is chronic. So, if you’ve been “starting next Monday” for over a year, take note. Dr. Joseph Ferrari calls these folks, “chronic procrastinators,” and says, “for those chronic procrastinators, it is not a time management issue – it is a maladaptive lifestyle.”

While society tends to think of procrastinators as lazy or undisciplined, the fact is those who chronically suffer deserve treatment and not judgement. In fact, studies have found procrastination is linked to other psychiatric and personality challenges as well.  

This study from procrastination expert Piers Steel found a link between impulsiveness and procrastination. Dr. Ferrari’s research has also found many links, including one between low self esteem and procrastination and also, he says, “links with... ADHD, passive-aggressive tendencies, revenge and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

For the other 80% of us, who won’t be seeking therapy, perhaps a kick in the lazy ass is in order. Or not.  As it turns out, self forgiveness is the best medicine for moving forward. And after you forgive yourself, try these 3 steps:

  • Create Micro Tasks to Begin: Break the task into miniscule steps to help you begin. For example, step one of writing a paper is simply opening the program, step two, saving the blank file and step three is to write paper ideas down for 5 minutes.  
  • Try the Pomodoro Technique: Put tasks -- micro, mini or regular sized -- on a timer. This technique traditionally recommends 25 minute intervals.  Each task is only done for 25 minutes before a 5-10 minute break.
  • Create a Reward System: While you’re on a break, add in an award for each micro-task you complete. Rewards can be food, social media check ins, or other distractions that you might like to pursue instead of the task at hand.

Will this even work? One study out of Stockholm University, reported on here by The Wall Street Journal article, To Stop Procrastinating, Start by Understanding the Emotions Involved, tested strategies like these on a group of self declared procrastinators. They report that, “The results showed that after intervention with both guided and unguided self-help, people improved their procrastination.”

So there’s hope for all procrastinators. Just stop reading articles about procrastination and start a micro-task at hand.

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited