Tuesday, December 09, 2008

read this, since odds are, someone in your household is a procrastinator

"A penchant for postponement takes its toll. Procrastination carries a financial penalty, endangers health, harms relationships and ends careers."

Procrastinating Again? How to Kick the Habit in Scientific American describes several theories on why people procrastinate, some snippets:
The characteristic most strongly linked to procrastination is conscientiousness—or lack thereof. A highly conscientious person is dutiful, organized and industrious. Therefore, someone who is not conscientious has a high probability of procrastinating. A person who is impulsive also is a procrastinator at risk. “People who are impulsive can’t shield one intention from another,” Pychyl says. So they are easily diverted by temptations—say, the offer of a beer—that crop up in the middle of a project such as writing a term paper

Procrastination can also stem from anxiety, an offshoot of neuroticism. Procrastinators postpone getting started because of a fear of failure (I am so worried that I will bungle this assignment), the fear of ultimately making a mistake (I need to make sure the outcome will be perfect), and the fear of success (If I do well, people will expect more of me all the time. Therefore, I’ll put the assignment off until the last minute, do it poorly, and people won’t expect so much of me).
Then the article offers strategies to kick the habit:
So rather than setting a vague goal such as “I will get healthy,” set one with its implementation, including timing, built in—say, “I will go to the health club at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow.”

Setting such specific prescriptions does appear to inhibit the tendency to procrastinate. In 2008 psychologist Shane Owens and his colleagues at Hofstra University demonstrated that procrastinators who formed implementation intentions were nearly eight times as likely to follow through on a commitment than were those who did not create them. “You have to make a specific commitment to a time and place at which to act beforehand,” Owens says. “That will make you more likely to follow through.”

Smart scheduling can also thwart procrastination...

More simply, Pychyl advises procrastinators to “just get started.” The anticipation of the task often is far worse than the task turns out to be...