Saturday, February 2, 2013

You're a Procrastination Pro!

You're a Procrastination Pro!

You rank in the top 10%-25% of the population in terms of your level of procrastination. That is, when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn't. Likely, you are more free-spirited and spontaneous than other people. Probably, your work doesn't engage you as much as you would like or perhaps you are surrounded by easily available and enticing temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you see many of them as a waste of time. Though you likely often still get your work done, there is probably a lot of last minute panicking and unwanted stress. You likely want to reduce your level of procrastination and could benefit from some help. If so, here are three tips that have been scientifically shown to work. For more detailed strategies for preventing procrastination, see my book, The Procrastination Equation

Routines are often difficult to establish but are worth the effort to foster. Things are much easier to do when we get into the habit of them, whether it is work, exercise, or errands. If you schedule some of those tasks you are presently procrastinating upon so they occur on a regular schedule, they will become easier.

Start your routine slowly, something which you can easily commit to. Eventually, like brushing your teeth, it will likely become something you just do, without taking much effort at all.
At this point, you might add to your routine again always keeping your overall level of effort at a moderate to low level. Most importantly, when you slip out of your routine -- which is inevitable with sickness or the unexpected -- get back on it as soon as possible.

Stimulus control is a well documented strategy that successfully combats procrastination. What you need is a single place where you do your work and nothing else. For example, many students have a favorite desk at a library.

For stimulus control to work best, the office or desk should be free of any signs of easily available temptations or distractions that might pull you away from your task (e.g., no games, no chit-chat, no web-surfing).
If you need a break, that is fine, but make sure you have it somewhere else, preferably outside of the workspace itself.
If you are unwilling to take the time to get there, acknowledge that you likely don't need the break.

Goal setting is one of the most established ways of moving forward on your plans. Take any task you are presently procrastinating and break it down into individual steps.

First, your goals should be somewhat challenging, but achievable for you. It is more satisfying to accomplish a challenge.
Second, your goals should be proximal, that is, you can achieve them fairly soon, preferably today or over the next few days.
Third, your goals should be specific, that is, you know exactly when you have accomplished them. If you can visualize each step involved in reaching your goals, even better.