Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • I am afraid I am a serial procrastinator. I don't mean to be but this caught my attention.

      Experts like Tim Pychyl at Carleton University in Canada and his collaborator Fuschia Sirois at the University of Sheffield in the UK have proposed that procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time. The task we’re putting off is making us feel bad – perhaps it’s boring, too difficult or we’re worried about failing – and to make ourselves feel better in the moment, we start doing something else, like watching videos.

      Is my procrastination a hopeless case?

      This fresh perspective on procrastination is beginning to open up exciting new approaches to reducing the habit; it could even help you improve your own approach to work. “Self-change of any of sort is not a simple thing, and it typically follows the old adage of two steps forward and one step back,” says Pychyl. “All of this said, I am confident that anyone can learn to stop procrastinating.”

      Are we watching those silly cat videos, not because we really want to, but because watching them makes us feel better when we should be doing something else less fun?

      Do you feel guilty for watching so many unnecessary videos? Do they bring short term relief but cause more problems later on when we should be dealing with tasks we are procrastinating?

      It’s perhaps little wonder that research by Fuschia Sirois has shown chronic procrastination – that is, being inclined to procrastinate on a regular, long-term basis – is associated with a host of adverse mental and physical health consequences, including anxiety and depression, poor health such as colds and flu, and even more serious conditions like cardiovascular disease.

      Procrastinating can be worse than I thought?

      Sirois believes procrastination has these adverse consequences through two routes – first, it’s stressful to keep putting off important tasks and failing to fulfil your goals, and second, the procrastination often involves delaying important health behaviours, such as taking up exercise or visiting the doctor. “Over time high stress and poor health behaviours are well known to have a synergistic and cumulative effect on health that can increase risk for a number of serious and chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer,” she says.

      All of this means that overcoming procrastination could have a major positive impact on your life. Sirois says her research suggests that “decreasing a tendency to chronically procrastinate by one point [on a five-point procrastination scale] would also potentially mean that your risk for having poor heart health would reduce by 63%”.

      So what can we do? Psychologist Tim Pychyl suggests:

      The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate, “make your focus as simple as ‘What’s the next action – a simple next step – I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?’”. Doing this, he says, takes your mind off your feelings and onto easily achievable action. “Our research and lived experience show very clearly that once we get started, we’re typically able to keep going. Getting started is everything.”

      So, I am going to try. How about you? What are your thoughts and experiences regarding procrastination?

    • The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate, “make your focus as simple as ‘What’s the next action – a simple next step – I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?’”. Doing this, he says, takes your mind off your feelings and onto easily achievable action. “Our research and lived experience show very clearly that once we get started, we’re typically able to keep going. Getting started is everything.”

      Well yeah, but even asking the question, “What’s the next action I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?” requires one to overcome procrastination to ask it. My approach is summed up by the great philosopher Bill Murray in the comedy film, What About Bob?

      Baby Steps

      In a way it ties in with @mbravo’s conversation on intentionality. For example, if I hate to do laundry then maybe my first step is just to bring the basket of dirty clothes down to the laundry room, then go for a walk, watch television, something enjoyable. Then go back to the laundry room and run the machine with the dirty clothes. Would it be quicker to do it all in one step? Yes, but it’s about overcoming the psychological barrier of overwhelmingness. My procrastinations are typically for tasks of greater importance and complexity, but the idea of only doing the first step and actually stopping for awhile before starting step two works for me: the idea that I’m going to trick myself into keep-on-going after I do step one seems like a short-lived hack—next time I’d be reluctant to do step one because I would feel like I’d have to do the whole task once I started. Typically, on something with a lot of steps, such as putting together new electronics I bought, I might procrastinate with each of the first few steps and then, after I’ve built up my self-confidence, I’ll complete the rest of the steps in one setting. I guess my point is that you have to give yourself the option of only doing one step at a time, but if you feel motivated to keep going after completion of step one then do so.

      My two cents, FWIW.

    • I'm as bad a procrastinator as it gets. I have accepted that quite a long time ago, along with other truisms along the lines of "I'm not perfect and that's okay", "It's ok to sometimes f*ck up", etc and so on. For me, the trick is a) to determine if I'm really procrastinating or I just need a bit of some real downtime (and why, in either case). If it's the latter, then just get that downtime. Go nurse an espresso somewhere, or take a day off, or whatever it takes, depending on the why. If it's the former, work around it. I've gotten pretty good at "structured procrastination", the thing where you don't want to write that document so much that you go clean filters in every appliance in the house, and then you so opposed to the idea of doing dishes, that you take all the recycling out to respective bins, and then you so much against doing a grocery run that you quickly cook this day's dinner a la Jamie Oliver, and then you, again, so much appalled at the idea of doing dishes that you go sit and write that damn document.... you get the picture :)

      The crucial balance, for me, is between not letting it get to you, and not letting it take over too much.

    • I think it is all about motivation. No matter how hard or easy a task would be, what is important is what gets us in the state of mind to be willing to act on it. It may be pleasure or survival dictating action. But what about choices when no pressure exists? For example, gearing up and heading out to ride a motorcycle, out there in the elements, vs. sitting in front of a keyboard 'socializing'.. or reading a book, which do you choose, when and why? What if we're motivated incorrectly? I found this intriguing..