The good and bad of procrastination, and how to beat it (sometimes!)
Far from being the thief of Time, procrastination is the king of it – Ogden Nash
The good thing about reaching middle age is that you stop pretending that you can change yourself. Take me, for instance. Till a few years ago, I would go through an entire weekend thinking about the project report I had to complete, refusing to step out while staring deeply into the computer, making my way from “Which City Should You Live In” to “Who Is Your Ideal Celebrity Match” (not Roger Federer, sadly) – in short, doing everything other than starting the darned report.
Like a true blooded procrastinator, this also means that I have devoured gallons of articles on the science of “I’ll Do It Later”, just like author Derek Thompson in today’s Your Daily Read. Thompson gives us a brief summary of the research behind Why We Procrastinate and how we get into the inevitable Procrastination Doom Loop:
1. People are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time, which explains why we choose finishing off a big slice of cheesecake (it makes me happy right now, if only for the next 5 minutes!) over opting for a diet or fitness regime (it will keep me happy in the future, though possibly for months and years).
2. We don’t feel like doing the task right now (not in the mood), and we believe our mood will change favourably in the future.
So what is the way out for chronic procrastinators such as yours truly? As one of the professors interviewed by the author remarks:
To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it (stop procrastinating) would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, “cheer up”.
Thompson’s suggestions range from scheduling To-Do reminders as late as possible, so that you are left with no excuse to hit Snooze when the alarm starts screaming. He also argues that self-imposed deadlines rarely work with chronic procrastinators, which nicely explains why we are much more likely to exercise (or diet) when we have to report our progress to an external party. Finally, he also suggests that persuading yourself that the impending project is a fun game, instead of work, can help trick the brain into immediate action.
All good suggestions. Now how about you go and share this article right now, instead of waiting for tomorrow?
If you are fascinated by the subject of procrastination, we highly recommend Paul Graham’s excellent commentary on Good & Bad Procrastination.
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