I just completed the procrastination survey and according to the outcome I rank in the bottom 10% of the population in terms of my level of procrastination. According to the procrastination equation website, (at least) 95% of each one of us sometimes procrastinate and for 15-20% of us it is consistent and problematic. These figures have significantly gone up since the 70’s, where there were only 5% of self-proclaimed procrastinators.
Despite the low survey score (explains how anyone can cheat with personality tests) of course I also do procrastinate and sometimes finish a movie, play that game on my phone, check my emails, go for lunch with my wife; postponing all my work to the latest possible moment. The excuse that I always use is that I work better under pressure and an even better excuse I tell myself is that I am subconsciously preparing myself the whole time. So far it has worked and I have (almost) never missed a client deadline!
According to Dr. Ferrari in Psychology Today “Procrastination: 10 Things To Know”, procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time…”Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.”
So how are the people who have been studying the topic of motivation and procrastination and are self-proclaimed sufferers dealing with it? Professor John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy from Stanford University, has written a wonderful essay on how he deals with procrastination. He calls it Structured Procrastination and it “requires a certain amount of self-deception, because one is (in effect) constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself,” he writes. “One needs to be able to recognize and commit oneself to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines while making oneself feel that these tasks are important and urgent.”
While reading 59 Seconds: Think A Little, Change A Lot, I came across the topic of procrastination once again and found the “just a few minutes” rule to be helpful. According to psychology graduate Bluma Zeigarnik, who first experimented with this idea in the 1920’s, this rule is a highly effective way of overcoming procrastination. The idea here is to work on an activity for “just a few minutes” which leaves the procrastinator with the urge to see it through to completion. This creates an “anxious brain” which makes you want to see the job finished!
I am trying to deal with my procrastination bouts by trying to create new habits, habits in which I force myself to do things and hope that over time they become automatic. Luckily for me my guilt kicks in if I am not able to do stuff as planned (must be the Dutch work ethic that my parents have pumped into me) and this pushes me to get things done.
How do you deal with procrastination?
– Paul Keijzer