Timothy Pychyl Transcript


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Timothy Pychyl Transcript

  1. 1. LD_73_TimothyPychyl_Interview.mp3 Harry: I am nowspeakingwithTimPitcherwhoisa professoratCarleton University in Ottawa, Canada and he is a specialist in procrastination. So Tim, thank you very much for speaking to me. Tim: I don’t procrastinate, I just studied it. Harry: Right, exactly. So you are not a procrastination expert you are just a procrastination enthusiast maybe? Tim: Of course I have procrastinate inmylife, there were periods in my life when it was the bane of myexistence like manypeople so I get it from the inside but there are some of colleagueswhosayhow canyou say this,you don’t procrastinate. Well that’s because I have studied enough now not to be able to do it Harry: Well, that’s a very good point. You said something before we started recording that I wish I was reporting and you promised to say it again. So we were just talking about time and you said you had a thought about that. Tim: Yes and just this morning. This isn’t the first time I had this thought but it hit me profoundlytodaybecause Iwasgoing to do three to four tasks this morning and one of themhad to be removedand I thought to myself time is a true zero-sum game and the next essential thing is you don’t know how much of it you are going to get but you are only going to get so much and it’s not an available resource that way so it is always a matter of how you chose to use your time which is the bottom line for me. Harry: Absolutelyand that'sa reallygoodlaunchingpointfor thisbecause odifferentiatorsthat I try to make withpeople whenI'm tryingtohelpthembe more efficient isthatthere'sa difference between procrastinating and deferring no answer for me deferring. For me deferringiswhenyou're puttingsomethingoff to a time that you can actually deal with it more effectively, to me and I was hoping that you're going to correct me on this, Tim but procrastination is really about sort of about just putting it under rug because you justdon't wantto deal withnow and youjustsort of disassociate yourself with the task Tim: Well, I don’t have to correct you. You hit the nail right on the head. In fact I’ve got a new graduate student who is going to be doing her research on this concept of active procrastination. There are some researcherswhodon’t agree withyou, they found this active procrastinator who delay purposely and they call it active procrastination which of course is an acting ___(2:30 -unclear). You have defined it correctly that there is deferral,there isintentionupdates,whileIamgoingto put thisoff its just better for me to do thislaterand thennothingandthat’sa good thingyoudo iteveryday,youhave to and thenthere isprocrastinationwhere you have the intention to do it and you should do it now but as you put so well you push it under the rug because you don’t want to really you don’t want to you want to feel good now it’s that instant gratification thing.
  2. 2. Harry: Yes, okay. So before we even get into the details of procrastination, what got you interested in procrastination is in the first place? Which is kind of a funny question, I think. Tim: I didn’t study procrastination as a graduate student although at times I did it but I did studyothergraduate students when I did my doctorate research. I actually spent time studyingdoctor’s across many different departments and I would interview then and I wouldsaythingslike whatyouare doingand they would say I am kind of sitting around the research room here and lack and complain about our work, well, what are you supposed to be doing. I am supposed to be working on my comprehensive exam. So whyare younot workingonyour comprehensiveexam? Idon’tknow whatto do. Well, whydon’tyou talkto youradvisor? I can’t let them know that I am not doing anything. Then I would thought to myself there is a _____( 3:39 - unclear) that’s really thick. These are really intelligent people saying really silly things. And so I was studying people’s goal pursuits and I was intent on having a goal pursuit predictable of what became painfullyobvioustome wasthat we predictedunhappiness with the things we said we were going to do and didn’t do in a timely way. So I realized that I wanted to move away from studying goal pursuit to studying what goal pursuit breaks down, and it’s definitely procrastination. Harry: Right, okay. So how did that research actually began though? What did you start to look at first? Like, how or what - I guess there is the how and the why to procrastination, so what do you start with? Tim: I start withof a paradox. I had a lotof studentsinterested in this and all my research is driven by my students but back in the ‘90s one of the first things we did we said you know what interesting people procrastinate because you are getting rid of something not interesting,Idon’twantto dothat I wouldratherhave funinsteadandyetwhen we look at the little bit of research literature out there procrastination seems to be crowded with negative emotions and we think that why’s is that if you are procrastination shouldn’t you be feeling food, so we actually did some examples sampling studies, we put pagers on people and try to catch them at the moment they are procrastination, not just as general, traits of their procrastination, do you procrastinate all the time, but if you are procrastinating right now, how do you feel because we wantto understandhow doyou feel about it when you procrastinated and lo and behold the negative emotions were no longer called procrastination when you are actually procrastinating but then again they were not strong positive emotions eitherparticularlybecausethere wasone emotionthatwasdominantandthat wasguilt so that is kind of some of the first studies we did with these experience sampling studies,we were trying to get what people were feeling and thinking when they were procrastinating but since then we have done lots of different studies and people who are listingthatmaybe interestingtheymaygoto procrastination.caandyouwill find all the research that we do. Harry: Okay,that’san interestingtheoryto it, thatguiltissue thatisnot always associatedwith procrastination. This is like with dieting or with you know how you act on your relationship. There is all that guilt but yet it doesn't seem to cause a change it seems like peoplewhoprocrastinate it'salmost clinical that it gets to this point where people
  3. 3. they justcan’t make themselves dothings anymore because they get into this mode of procrastination and also has does that tie in for you with this, it's not really a question but concept you know in an eight-hour day the average worker is really doing like two hours of work so is that active procrastination or is that something else? Tim: That can just be procrastination, a lot of people like to call it laziness, irresponsibility I supposedbutitcost huge amountsof moneyto businesseswhenpeople waste timelike that whentheyare not on task. It’s a lotof agenciesthere. Letme go back to that guilt. Absolutelywe are stewingoutownjuiceswithprocrastinationandthe guiltis really like a phenomenonof whatsocial psychologycalledall cognizance ,that’sclassiccognizance you know you have an intention and your behaviour is not matching that intention so the gap between your intention and action that defines procrastination needs cognizance. Asyousaid we don’tdoanythingabout it doesn’t seem to motivate things and itcouldthat wouldbe a veryideal thingtochange your behaviourwhichmeansthat you get going but instead we have lots of strategies to reduce cognizance like we dismissit,itisnot all that important,I’ll fell more likeittomorrow orI’ll workthat under pressure andall these things are said so that we can feel better about ourselves so we are trying to reduce the guilt. Now we’ll never completely able to escape our self deception that way. We do a pretty good job of it and we might have use substances, we might have had a couple of beers or some other substance of choice. Anything to get away from that guilt but it is paradoxable to me why we become our own worst enemy and that’s what keeps me studying procrastination. Harry: Okay, so you said youkeepstudying it because of that paradox so what can people do about it or what have you found to be most effective ways for people to overcome procrastination? Tim: We can become very strategic and make little baby step even when we haven’t grasp the whole thingbutI am going to start with what I think we ultimately have to do. I am going to start with some techniques you can use right away. Ultimately, you have to come downto what we said earlier, what you thought you wanted me to repeat which is time is zero-sum game and how are you choosing to do it because to me extension routes to procrastination is not getting on with life itself. It is a horrible thing. This is your life whatare yougoingto do withit?To me whenyouwake up and open youreyes to that, toyour ownsense of agency then you start making choices and then you won’t stewinyour ownjuicesanymore,youeither do the thing that is the next thing to do or you bath in it, you said I am taking it right off my list and it has a very zed like quality there, the emotions of the other masters with the students who seek enlightenment and the students who are novice, what am I doing he said and the master said do you finisheatinghisrice?Andhe said okay then wash your bowl. And it relates honestly or when it comes down to that it is profound that I think has to happen in order to deal with procrastination. Now, that’s a tall order in a sense because even by using that storyit has some sense of wisdomorenlightenmentattachedtoitbutI do thinkthere is some truth init. Now,alongthe wayyou can do lots of trick and techniques and I think that’s what mindful meditation and practice of any sort brings to you, you act as if you have this enlightenment and one day you realize it is the practice but for me it always comes down to getting started so once I make the intention I have to recognize that I
  4. 4. am not goingto feel likeitwhenthe time comessothat’s a biglift,amI actuallygoingto feel like it. Sofirstof all,okayI am justgoingto get started, I am not thinking about the whole task it’s just the knack of just doing it. It’s just getting started because we certainlyfoundinourresearchthat once we getstartedit changesour perceptionof the task. Evenour early research with the pagers, you know once students got down to the task of at hand they didn’t say things like, “I am glad I waited for the last minute because I work so much better under pressure”. They said things like, “This is not as bad as I thought,I wishIhad started earlier, I could have done a much better job.” So we know that just getting started is essential and that’s an emotional thing and a bit of a behavioural strategybutthe cognizance of strategymake the let’s get away from these vague, bold intentions like I’ll do that task on the weekend and the task is a bit poorly defined and the weekend is really poorly defined and get down to really precise intentionimplementationslike whenIfinishedmycoffee onSaturday morningI’mgoing to do this part of that task and define it precisely, the situation acts and the behaviour whyto achieve subgoalsz soif youcan add that inyour life justmovingfrombroadgoal intentionstospecificintentionsyouare goingtohave a whole heapforwardeven if you haven’tgottentothe pointwhere youhave kind of woken up and smell the coffee and said it is my life what am I going to do with it today? Harry: Yes,okay and I'm veryvery much withwhatyou are saying.So forsomething that is like a large projectbut it’s....and I always make a joke of this, but actually it is very sad but it’sthat I have seen this now seven times on a client's a to do list which was right book okay so ... Tim: Of course. Andyouknow with my students, if I ask one of my graduate students, what are your doing and they said working on my thesis, I know that they are doing nothing because it is just too big and broad, but if they say to me oh I am struggling with that section we were talking about the other day where I was trying to make the transition fromso and so researchto myideas,Ithink okay you are doing something. So writing a book that’s good, it’s a very high meaningful goal but we have to always juggle in our lives,manageabilityand meaning.Meaninglessthings aren’t going to get done because they are meaningless, things that are not manageable aren’t going to get done even if theyare evenmeaningful so you always going to have to keep this balance in mind. So writing a book is very meaningful, it’s connected to one of my core values, what is the next step? What am I actually going to do today or the next hour and that’s where you get into implementation intention. Harry: Okay, right. Then the implementation intention is good in itself of course but on a systematicorI guess on a logistics level what do you tell people. Is it break it down so that you know what the next step is, sort of like a ... Tim: Yes I dobut I try not to, that’s been as a multiple statement around procrastination for yearsand you think they have a time management problem but they really don’t have time managementproblem, veryfew people have time management problems. Some of the research we have done continually show that procrastinators don’t broken somehowtheydon’treally estimate time badly but they don’t manage their emotions
  5. 5. very well so I think that you can break down your tasks but when it comes to that first part of your task where you have that strong emotion reaction is when you have a six yearold beside you.Ihave asix year oldalmostseven run around my house and I know himverywell andI’dsay, “Alex itistime to make your bed,” and he would day, “I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to”, and I’d say, “Alex I didn’t ask you how you felt, I love you but that didn’t answer my question, it’s time to make your bed.” And so we have that six year old alive and well inside of us but we think saying that I don’t feel like it is an explanation for not doing something and if you stand back from that and realize how silly it is, it’s kind of enlightening in itself. Harry: Okay this is great because what I've sort of hit on me a few times or several times actually isI'm a parent. I have three small boys. My wife stays at home, I work at home so we’re bothhere a lot with the kids and we have a two-and-a-half-year-old and twin 14 months old and they're all boys. And what I tell people a lot is, it doesn't matter if I'm tired, it doesn't matter if I'm sick, it doesn't matter if I'm throwing up in the toilet I still have to feedsomeone,somebodystill hastobe changed somebody, somebody has to be stopped from falling off the counter. You know like you just have to do it and that’s okay and that's great actually but it doesn't matter if you don't feel like it that's totally irrelevant. Tim: Yes andif we can bringthat to bearthenmost of our liveswe wouldbe muchbetteroff. In fact we see a lotof procrastinationinstudents,we see itotherplacesinlife of course but those people thereisnotall that damage give the jobto busy persons because they are alreadyin motion, and a lot of that too is that they recognize that I don’t have a lot of time. Anotherview onthisissomethingthatsome peoplecall the unscheduledandit is a really interesting way to think about your life it is that when we think about next week, if I said to you, Harry could you do this with me today if you are not a little too busyand yousaidalrightnextmothwe will do this. Most likely we are going to say yes and in fact there is a lot of interesting research about our present self and future self where our future self is like a stranger. You know I don’t care that’s future self, future self problem. Harry: Future homework. Tim: That’s it. You got it. Man I don’t envy that guy. Homework just labelled it so beautiful there because our brains act differently when you think about present self and future self. If I think about a stranger, I will treat future self more like a stranger. But on the otherside the unscheduledisItake a blankcalendarfor next week and I fill in all of the things that I really have to do, I write down the nitty gritty like brushing my teeth and showeringbecause thattakestime. Like eventoday,Ihave to run to a vet appointment for a cat today and I thought to myself gee I am not going to make it for my shower before this because I have to leave as soon as we are done. So all that have to go in there and then you get a more realistic attitude of what you really have available for these other tasks and it kind of put you on edge space much like the busy kern who it doesn’t matter if I am throwing up or I am feeling sick I still have people to care for. If youactuallylookat all of the thingsthatare goingon inyour life andthen you got other tasksthrownin and yousaidI had betterdothat right now, right then because that’s it, that’sall the time Ihave,I can’t getintothiswishful thinking so I think what happens as
  6. 6. a parent,it happenstomanyof us andwe realize we have to step up here. Now what I want to see people do is to step up to is to ordering their lives even before they are taking care of somebody else. Harry: Right,exactlyandof course we can’tapplythat to everythingwe do butin a way we can because if you are doingwork that's meaningfultoyou,thatyou care about,thenhowis that not the most important thing, how is that not the essence of your being. I mean somebodycouldsaylike oh I'm just recording a podcast with you right now and it's just a podcast but to me this is what I do. The conversation that we're having right now is value is the value that I get and sharing with the .... you know it is integral to my life. Tim: Yes,but probablysomebody else will say, Harry he has found something meaningful, I don’t do meaningful work but that doesn’t matter either we could look at finding meaning and think that’s really important because I think a job and doing well kind of thing. But you can also look at it as that, okay, this is my task in front of me, I have finishedeatingmyrice,Iam goingto washmy bowl andI am goingto do it now so that I can get on to other things. Even Viktor Frankl he spent time in a nutty concentration camp and when he wrote his autobiography he wrote about procrastination and that blew me away because I thought he got other things to say here but what he gets like everymajorreligiongetswiththe notionof smartisthatwastingtime isa sinagainstlife itself because itissopreciousbecause there isnothingmore precious you are going get more than time and so if you are doing something then get it done and this is what ViktorFrankl wrote andI will goback to whathe said,“I have learned to do the difficult jobfirstbecause that’swhenIhave the energy. Ilearn to get things done so that I have time forthe importantthingsinlife.”Let’sgoback to the example of beingaparent,not only you realize you have to care for your kids whether you head is in the toilet or not but you don’t want to put off your stuff in the day and then look at your children later and say I don’t have time to play I have to work, because that’s the important thing in life, right. So even if the task at hand isn’t intrinsically meaningful, like washing your bowl aftereatingyour rice, getting it done so that you can get on with the other things that do reflectyourvaluesandyouragency,that’swhyyoudo it quickly, that’s why you do it right and that’s why you don’t stew in your own juices Harry: So that's rightand that's the thing. If somethingisanobstacle inyourway like washing the bowl (we are going to keep that as an example) is an obstacle for five seconds of your life orit'sjustsomethingthatitwill pile upin the dishes and you have to deal with it later, that laterisgoingto pissyouoff and you're not goingto sleep well and actually it's a butterfly effect some ways Tim: It is,yesit is,butit seemslike asillyexamplebecause we have takenthe same story but quite franklyIam sure there are listenerswhose dishes are sitting on their counter and theyare sayingIdon’tfeel like it,justwhatyoudescribedandwhathappenthe nextday they are going to pile up and then they are going to be very hard to wash because everythingisreallystuckon,itsdriedonand what was a 2-second job becomes a much longerjob. Andsoif I go back tomy story withmyson whenhe toldme I don’tfeel lime making my bed, I’d said to him, “Hey Alex you know what I will give you a dollar if you can count to 10 before I got your bed made but you have to count one thousand one one thousandtwo.” He said,“All right.” He is motivated externally by the thought of a
  7. 7. dollar,andhe starts to count and I made the bed, he doesn’t get to 6, the bed is made, he learned something deeply important. You spend more time moaning and groaning and thinking about a task than what a lot of them take to get done and if you can get them done in that timely way, they don’t go that chaos, that butterfly effect that we have when that happened when we let these little things piled up in our heads. Harry: Oh, yes. Are you familiar with motivational interviewing at all? Tim: No. Harry: This is like another concept. I have recently learnt about this. They are making a bad example as a good example for and I have heard this and loved it. So with the child example whowouldn’tmake their bed, what motivational interviewing would have to do isask twoquestionsand the firstquestionis:(Well my son’s name is Ben, my oldest son isBen) Ben,ona scale of 1 to 10, 1 beingtotallynotready, doesn’t want to do it at all and 10 being you are really excited into doing it right now, how would you rate yourself as far as your willingness to make your bed? And you know a flipping child or you know would say well I am a two then. And so then the second question is: Okay, so whydidn't you say that you were a one? Which basically forces them to justify and put it into their own thoughts on their own terms like well you know basically sort of give themsome differentperspective on that andapparentlyit'svery rare for someone to say they're one in that situation because that's just being ridiculous. So I really like that and I think that that in a way brings you back to your present self, it's like well it's not a matterof thenor now,it’sreallylike whyamI not ready or am I actually really am read, I mightas well just do it. But I have another example for you, which the washing the dishes isa greatone butthisis a personal one thatI findhappens a lot is every time I go into the bathroom, you know one of the guest bathroom or the main bathroom at our house and maybe I'm going to wash my hands, maybe I'm going to use the bathroom but if there islittle orno toiletpaperleft it'sveryveryeasy to just walk away and say man I don't want to go get another roll of toilet paper from downstairs and change that, but of course then your future self has to do with that time that you go to the bathroom and you're sitting there and then there's no toilet paper so ... Tim: I neverdothat. I can getimpatientwithmyownpartnerwhomakessure she islike that, the dish soap is almost done, not completely done but not to refill it then when you actually have a minute,youdon’tknow whatfuture sense is going to be facing, present self reallydoes have a moment to do that but present self said I want to do something else,Idon’twanto do that and that visitareaction that I don’t want to do that is worth exploringbecause what does it mean, what are you going to do instead, are you really havingso much fun doing whatever else it is, if you can just get into the habit of doing things right away, what happens is that you are allowed to be spontaneous later because you are without guilt because you’ve got everything, all your docks are in a row,but mostto the time people come backtoand sayI wouldn’t wantto be as uptight as that like theyare alwaysdoingthings on time, you know what my procrastination is, my spontaneityandIsaidheyit’sactually just the opposite. Procrastination weighs on like it’s the world and it’s like a monkey on your back and when real freedom offers itself toyoucan’t because youputyourself behinddeeper. SoI love yourexample,it’sa mundane one but I think it worth explanation of why is it when you look at a simple
  8. 8. task like I can go get another roll of toilet paper we have that vista I don’t feel like it. I think it is hard wired into us somehow Harry: And then again so as to not over trivialize this because it is not to me but in that situationwhere Idon'twantto.... because we keepourtoiletpaperin the basement so it's not really no big deal ....but I don't I don't want to go get that roll, but when I do I actually feel, as little as that is, I feel like I accomplished something in a way. Tim: The progress,withall thisfromresearch,that a little progressonourgoal fuelsour well beingandactual thisisone of the few places we see upward spiral well being because that little tinysuccessastrivial asitmay seemsspansthe nextthing,there isnopanacea here but it is the opposite of the downward spiral of procrastination and guilt. It’s jut making the right choice. Harry: Absolutely. So the last question I would like to ask is what are your top three personal tips for being more effective, not necessarily overcoming procrastination, maybe, but just what are your top three things for being more effective in your day? Tim: That’s a goodquestion,notmanypeople ask me that question. I am a plan-full person, so one of my first is that I usually use a Day Timer, actually it’s on the computering on my iPhone and iPod and I actually colour code all the different parts of my life, like within my work life I’ve got research, teaching and administration those are different colours. I’ve gotpersonal things,recreation,kidsrelatedthingsandconsultingandbook relatedthingsandall those are differentcolours. Ican do a forensicaudit of my week. I can lookat themand I can lookat that weekandsee how much recreationdidIdid, was there a lot of time with the kids, what’s the balance between research and administration. So, one of my practices is to be plan-full and also do a forensic audit constantly. AmI livingthe life Iwant to live? Am I getting the time for recreation that I want? Am I making time for the balance between teaching and research that I might want. All of those things and it’s a very good tool for me so that’s one of them. The next one is the planning cognitive level. The most important part for me is the affective part about feeling like it. I am a big one for building good habitual theme so that things become nice so that they don’t take mental energy but it takes me a lot of energytoget there,everythingfromflossingyourteeth,a habit that I can never miss to doing regular sit ups and push ups and strength exercise for my core, so even if I don’t take aerobicexercise Ialwayshave thatcore strengthand honestlyeventhoughI do my push ups and sit ups, back exercises every day before I shower that’s my implementationintention. In situation act before I can step down into the show I step downand dothose core exercises. SoIhave got that implementation intention and my vista reaction is I don’t feel like it, not today. So I always battle that with Tim just get started and a really mundane example of that is that I was doing push ups and back exercisesreallyeffectivelybutIwasskippingmysit ups and so to break that ice all I had to do was go from being on my knees which is the way I do my back exercises and all I didwas roll overonmy back, I didn’tthink about doing the sit ups, I just said when you finishthisinsituationx whenyourbackexercise isdone roll over on your back and now I am ina positionwhere I might as well do the sit ups. You see how I am very strategic because you have to find the fin age of the wedges for you to be able to really build
  9. 9. habitsyouwant. Sofor me,that’ssuperimportantthat...youknow some people lookat and sayI reallyadmire yourself-discipline. Youknow it’snotso muchself-discipline,it’s just really building really good habits. It may be take a little discipline to build those habits but once you do life become so easy. So the first one is the plan-fullness, the next one is creating those habits but always, I guess the bottom line to all of it for me is to just get started. You know I will face anything and then I would go I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to. I know different than any otherpersonthatI know I am not the most super-motivated man in the world but I do know what my goals are and so when I get to that point where I made an intention and I go I have thisreactionI don’twantto do it,I hate this and I don’t even know what I am talking about really I’m just feeling it, I said let’s just get started and that has changed my world Harry: That's awesome,that'sreallyawesome.Okay, so we are going to have links to yourself and the show, but where's the best place for people to find out more about you. Tim: As I mentionedearlierwww.procrastination.ca . I mentioned that when you asked me about my research and there is so much in there. But if you got there you won’t just find my research you will find a link to my blog on psychology today, so if you want to read available procrastination research, I just been writing about that for years. I just readresearchand summarize it and try to find the main take away points. Unlike you I like topodcastI startedback in 2005 and an onoff again podcastbut there isa lot there. Harry: I know. I love your podcasts. Tim: Thanks very much. And they range from interviews to personal stuff, so if you go to www.procrastination.ca you will find all of that. Harry: Wonderful Tim.Thankyouso much. Thishas beena reallywonderful conversationfor me and I really appreciate your time. Tim: And for me too. Most of the time I have been staring at your handsome face here and youhave such a warm, it’sa nice picture of you even though it’s one of those snapshot from my computer camera but it felt like I match it and that’s a nice thing Harry. Harry: Thank you very much. Tim: Alright take care.