From The Daniel Island News
Procrastination: 6 tips for doing today...what you'd rather put off 'til tomorrow
By Steve Ferber
Aug 28, 2013 - 9:31:48 AM
My favorite tip is #6, called “positive procrastination” which, honestly, sounds a bit oxymoronic. It’s a phrase that I’ve never heard before and is one of six tips I’m about to share on the art-of-putting-things-off.
But before we explore each tip, this brief historical interlude: in the 1970s, roughly 5% of Americans admitted to regularly procrastinating; today it’s an impressive 26% (based on a survey a few years ago). Leading to this wanting question: do we procrastinate more, or are people just more willing to admit it?
On to the six tips:
Tip #1: Give your friend $100
This could get expensive. It’s called a “commitment device” and here’s how it works: give your friend $100 and if you complete the task at hand by, say, 8 pm, you get your $100 back. If you don’t make the 8 o’clock deadline, you’re out the $100 and your friend now must donate the funds to the charity of their choice. Explains author Eric Barker, writing for www.bakadesuyo.com: “The most important thing is the default position. You can’t say: ‘I will give them $100 if I fail.’ No, you give the $100 first.”
Tip #2: Manage your mood
This may sound a bit obvious, but people tend to procrastinate more when they’re in a bad mood. Knowing that, the trick is to find a way to improve your mood, and then contemplate tackling that dreaded task.
Says Barker: “If you’re really going to be motivated, you need to feel something. Having a rational goal in mind or thinking you want something just isn’t enough. What moves you? What inspires you? Try that . . . because glib as it may sound, changing your mood can change your mind.”
Tip #3: Take a minute (yes, just one) to create a plan
With pen and paper in hand, set your stopwatch, or kitchen time, to a single minute. Your challenge is to sketch a quick-and-dirty plan to tackle that daunting task list (e.g., paying the bills, doing your taxes, vacuuming, weeding the yard). Given that you’re only planning for 60 seconds, this step-by-step can’t be comprehensive. Instead, simply jot down a start time (e.g., Tuesday night, from 8pm-9pm), a rough schedule plus the first action step.
Tip #4: Break the project into smaller concrete tasks
Explains Jocelyn Glei, writing for www.99u.com:
“It turns out that the manner in which a task is presented to someone – or the way in which you present it to your brain – has a significant impact on how motivated you will be to take action. A study led by researcher Sean McCrea at the University of Konstanz in Germany recently found that people are much more likely to tackle a concrete task” (e.g., writing about the steps to open a bank account) “than an abstract task” (e.g., writing about why someone might want to open a bank account).
Tip #5: Use deadlines to create opportunities
For most of us, “deadline” is dirty word. But Glei objects, and explains: “The default take on deadlines is typically to consider them to be cumbersome and stressful. Yet, from another perspective, a deadline can be viewed as a huge benefit to any project. Without the urgency of a hard deadline pushing a project to completion, it’s easy for you, your team, or your client to lose focus. We’ve all worked on agonizing projects where the timeline just bleeds on and on, merely because the flexibility is there.” As illustrator Christoph Niemann pointed out in a 99U interview, “deadlines can actually help us by creating a fixed window of opportunity that requires us to be focused, pragmatic, and decisive.”
Tip #6: Create Positive Procrastination
Barker, writing for www.bakadesuyo.com, quotes Dr. John Perry (author of “The Art of Procrastination”) who insists that “the key to productivity” is to make more commitments – not less, but “to be methodical about it,” according to Barker.
Barker explains: “At the top of your to-do list, put a couple of daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t). Then, farther down the list, include some doable tasks that really matter.”
Barker quotes Perry, who says: “Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list.”
A similar tip is described by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation:
“My best trick is to play my projects off against each other, procrastinating on one by working on another.” Dr. Steel says it’s based on sound principles of behavioral psychology: “We are willing to pursue any vile task as long as it allows us to avoid something worse.”
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