Procrastination is an insidious thing. It creeps up and strikes even the best of us from time to time. In fact many of us may not even realize that we are procrastinating. As you read this, for instance, you may be putting off doing something important. Maybe it’s that report to your boss, a new sales call, or that phone call to apologize to a friend.
Whatever it is, procrastination can be overcome. It’s actually quite simple…
Just do it!
I know what you’re saying… Don’t you wish it was that simple. The fact is we procrastinate because we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. In our modern society we have a huge amount of things coming at us from all directions. The cell phone is ringing, e-mail is notifying, your calendar is screaming, and your boss is standing in your doorway.
Something’s got to give!
The definition of procrastination is…
Putting off or delaying or deferring an action to a later time.
Given the amount of stuff we all have to do, it’s just natural that we have to put off some things to a later time or just not do them at all.
So the real question is… what do we do now and what do we put off until later?
- Do we do the urgent?
- Do we do the important?
- Do we do what makes us feel good now?
The answers to these questions can really affect our future.
Dan Ariely, in his new book, Predictably Irrational did some experiments with a group of students to find out how structure effects procrastination. The results of his test are interesting and may give us some insight on overcoming this insidious problem.
Dan gave three of his classes different criteria for submitting their papers during a 12 week semester
- The first class had no deadlines at all. They merely needed to submit their papers by the last class. They could turn the papers in early but there was no grade benefit in doing so.
- The second class could pick their own deadlines for each paper at the beginning of the course. They could set them at intervals throughout the semester or just set them all for the last day of the class. Once the deadlines were set they could not be changed. Students would be penalized 1% of the grade for each day it was late.
- The third class was given dictatorial orders. They would have to submit their three papers on week 4, 8, and 12 respectively. Their was no choice or flexibility.
At the end of the semester, the grades were tallied for each group. The group with the dictatorial structure did the best, followed by the class that set its own deadlines, with the free form group coming in last.
Structure was very important to the overall grades of the class. The class that was allowed to pick it’s own deadlines decided to follow a scheduling form that the teacher provided.
The take away is this… people do better in this order
- Externally imposed deadlines
- Personally imposed deadlines
- No deadlines at all along the way
This has been my experience over the years with many different classes, goals, or other accomplishments. Over the next few days we’ll look at some structured ways to overcome procrastination in different areas of life. From diet to money management we’ll take a look at some successful programs that let you say…
Let’s get started… NOW!