95% of population admit to procrastination. Admit. So maybe the actual procrastination is higher, say 100%?
Patience, prudence and prioritizing all have elements of delay. Procrastination is not just delay. It is an irrational one.
Eg of delay that is rational. A concept in decision science called Last Responsible Moment
An example of Last Responsible Moment: Steve Jobs just returned to Apple as interim CEO in late 90s. Apple did not have new products, but Jobs had an idea for an advertisement to drum up support for Apple.The ad was supposed to be shown on ABC’s premier of Toy Story trailer.The ad had 2 versions. 1 voiced by Steve Jobs; the other voiced by Richard Dreyfuss.Steve Jobs held out the decision on which version to screen until the night before it was shown.
That ad was the Think Different ad. It was award-winning. It was iconic. It is remembered till today. Last count on youtube, it had over 2 million views.
Of course, having over 2 million views in youtube means nothing. Funny cats easily get you near 40 million. But I digress.
Delay can be good as Jobs has shown. Procrastination is irrational delay. We delayed despite knowing full well, the delay harms us more.
Now we will use 3 different fictitious people to tell us about what scientists have found out to be the 3 components of procrastination. First Eddie. Eddie is a salesperson. He needs to cold call, network and do plenty of tasks that salespeople do.
Aspiring salesmen succumb to a steady stream of rebuffs and find themselves lacking the motivation to perform. Gradually procrastinate in terms of picking up phones or going out to meet people for sales. Slowly a kind of learned helplessness starts to set in.On balance a degree of learned helplessness is common amongst everyone. You are probably thinking about your previous New Year’s resolutions, or relationships that are not working well.
Now we go to Valerie. A student who has to write a paper.
A paper on 13th century european history. And Valerie is stuck. She looks up resources on google for 30 minutes. Writes a couple of sentences. Hates those sentences… and then
Somebody on facebook pings her. Somebody sharing that funny cats youtube video. One thing leads to the next and well, Valerie got nothing done.
As determined by four separate surveys of the Procrastination Assessment Scale—Students.26 possible reasons were assessed for procrastinating on writing essays. The top reason is “because they really hate writing essays”http://www.sjdm.org/dmidi/Procrastination%20Assessment%20Scale%20for%20Students.html
Time-sensitive Tom.Tom is going off for a holiday in Philippines in 3 months time. He has booked the tickets, got his leave approved and planned who to take over his responsibilities when holidaying.All planned, except for his accomodation.“Nah, I will book the hotels 1 month later. I still have 3 months time.”
2 months from his travel date, “Nah, I still have time.”1 month from his travel date, “Nah, I still have time.”On the day itself, “Nah, I will find my hotel when I get there.”True story: my landlord and landlady left for Philippines on 11th April not having found accommodation for the first night.
Here is the matching law. This is what behaviorial scientists have found that accurately describes the motivations of any animal from
Mice to Men… Are you ready?
Motivation = Expectancy X Value / (Impulsiveness) X Delay of a Task
Remember Low Expectancy Eddie??
Optimism obviously cannot be too low for optimal level of motivation.High optimism also will not lead to the greatest motivation levels because boredom may set in.
These are largely the 5 techniques for increasing expectancy (or optimism) of successfully finishing the task. Remember low expectancy Eddie putting off phone calls, and stuff?
Here is my example:Success spirals mean having quick, small wins and using them as a stepping stone for larger wins.Success breeds success.I just finished my first ever Toastmaster project last Monday. It was a simple 5 min talk. But it provided me the platform for me to present this here today.Vicarious victoriesUse inspiring tales (movies, books) about successful people overcoming adversitiies to achieve their success.I watched Boston Legal for the past 3 nights, thinking myself to be like James Spader’s character.Wish FulfillmentIn sports psychology, this is called visualization.I imagined myself being confident in front of a crowd giving this talk.Plan for Worst, Hope for BestI backed up my copy of the presentation slides everywhere. Dropbox, thumbdrive, google docs. Etc. I expect all to leave by now. But I hope I may get a standing ovation after this. Heh.Accept Addiction to DelayAlcoholics Anonymous famous 12 step recovery program1st step is saying “We admit we are powerless over alcohol”This is for those who consistently slip in procrastination and justifies themselves using rationalizations.
Remember Low Value Valerie, the student?
Here are the various techniques.
Making games out of tasks and making goals.Most important thing to note about making goal. Make Approach GoalsApproach Goals are: Exploring the WorldAvoidance Goals: Not staying at homeApproach Goals are: Having energyAvoidance Goals: Not feeling tiredApproach Goals are: Finding your callingAvoidance Goals: Not staying in a dead-end jobApproach Goals are: Making more moneyAvoidance Goals: Not struggling with bills
I noticed personally, my best thinking can be done at the early morning. So I reserve my writing and programming for the first things in the morning.I also noticed that there is a lot of productivity porn in terms of showing off how little you sleep when you are doing work. Please don’t do that.
Productive Procrastination is put off the most important tasks with the somewhat tangentially important tasks.You have an essay due this week. You also have laundry. The resistance is the strongest for the essay of course. You could watch tv to blow off everything right now. So you procrastinate on writing essay with getting laundry done. Hey, at least you got something done.
One of my favorite techniques.
Adam Sandler has a movie called Billy Madison.He plays Billy Madison who needs to complete 12 grades in 24 weeks in order to inherit his father’s company.So he engaged a tutor who will take off an article of clothing everytime he gets a question right. I wish I had a tutor like that too!
I will come back to this later.
Remember time-sensitive Tom? Now obviously, time delay are outside of one’s control. But different people with different impulsiveness will react differently towards the same task with the same time delay.
If we have two students who both need to hand in an essay that is due in 1 month time, student A (Amy) procrastinates till the last week to start writing.The second student (Impulsive Ivan) may procrastinate till the night before because of the impulsiveness he exhibits.In fact, of the 3 major personality attributes, impulsiveness affects motivations the most.
To mitigate impulsiveness from affecting motivations, you can use 3 techniques.
Under precommitment, we have bondage. Satiation and poison
The story of Odysseus and the sirens.Summary here http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/odyssey/section7.rhtmlI know a friend who is addicted to facebook and knows it. She will ask another friend to login as her and change the password and not tell her during the exam period.
Satiation. Take care of your immediate needs first.If you really must watch that latest episodes of Game of Thrones, otherwise you cannot write your essay. Watch it right now, and then get back in.If you really must go on facebook, otherwise you cannot write your essay, schedule it in first thing in the morning for 30 minutes and no more.
There is this website called stickk.comStickk.com allows you to make commitments and have bets with friends. If you complete your commitments, you win your bets. If you fail, you get penalties. Penaties include donating to your favorite charity causes. My favorite is the part where you donate to anti-charities.
Say, you are vegan. So if you procrastinate and fail to complete an essay, you donate to MacDonald’s Children fund.Or if you are anti-establishment, I recommend donating to government parties.Or if you really hate a particular singer, you go buy his CD as penalty.
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/31/2/254/ Mischel, W., & Baker, N. (1975) Cognitive appraisals and transformations in delaybehavior. Journal of Personality and Social Pscyhology, 31, 254-261
Up in the Air starring George Clooney. Here he is a retrenchment expert helping cowardly bosses fire their employees on their behalf.
Here is the scene where he fires this guy played by JK Simmons.http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=TkX-TPaodoM#t=44sHere is the transcripthttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1v1g4Ob1Qi43gCFw6ouliuCHSeU7LLOOqsT8GBoHjQj0/edit
Ok I have told you about the 3 components of Procrastination that scientists have found to be relevant. And the various techniques involved to minimize the effects these components have on motivational levels.Feel free to use them on anything from losing weight or starting a blog.However, I prefer you use them in the worst thing to procrastinate on. Don’t procrastinate on living the life you want.Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse in palliative care, takes care of dying patients. She notes down their regrets and puts them up on a blog. Her blog got so wildly popular, now she is publishing her own book about the regrets of the dying patients.No. 1 regret amongst dying patients?I wish I had the courage to live the life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Here are the links to my resources.
Procrastination Presentation at blinkbl-nk#20 25April2012
Procrastination Understanding the Equation
•What Procrastination is and isn’t•3 components of Procrastination•3 pronged cure•The worst thing to procrastinate on