Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks.’
You just read the first lines of the play ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare, written about 1600. Instead of ‘To be, or not to be’, Shakespeare could have written ‘To act, or not to act.’. Hamlets Procrastination leads to a tragedy… Don’t let that happen to you.
In my first Blog post I showed procrastination as a source of creativity. But today I want to take a more serious look on this issue. Psychologists assume that 1 out of 5 is concerned by procrastination. Researchers show how to get out. Step by step – You just have to start. :)
Joe Ferrari, psychologist at DePaul University of Chicago compares the effectiveness of advices like: ’Just do it!’ with telling a depressive person to be happy. The field of research in procrastination is relatively young. Only since the mid eighty’s scientists are busy with procrastination. But their first finding is one of the most important ones: Chronic procrastination is not a bad habit that can be handled with a little discipline. In addition, it has nothing to do with bad Timemangagement. It is a strong working disorder.
Procrastination is especially researched in the academic environment. Students have difficulties to organize themselves but they are heavily concerned by consequences by not fulfilling their work. In addition, students procrastinate more often at the end of their studies than at the beginning or in the middle. But procrastination is not just a problem of students. Especially self-employed-persons with a workplace at home but also employees that
spend a lot of time online have to deal with the constant distraction that is only a mouse-click away.
In the study that Joe Ferrari presented in July 2005 at the International Meeting on the Study of Procrastination in London, the percentage of people suffer from chronic procrastination was estimated to be 20%
independent of nationality and sex. 13,4% belonged to the so called arousal Procrastinators and 14, 6% to the so called avoidance procrastinators.
Arousal procrastinators claim that for them the only way to be creative is to begin shortly before (or after) the deadline and that they hadn’t the ability to have only one meaningful thought before. This form of pressure lets adrenalin rush through the procrastinators veins and as a consequence makes them feel good.
Avoidance procrastinators are not just avoiding unpleasant work but work that they or their milieu is seeing as inferior. They prefer beginning late to make people think that their problem was a lack of effort not a lack of ability. That gives the possibility to say: ‘I could have done it but there was not enough time.’.
Experts are not sure about the reasons why people become procrastinators. Joe Ferrrari claims that the reason lies in the family background. For people that have cold and expecting parents it would be a way to show their rebellion by not doing things they were asked for. But Prof. Dr. Fred Rist, head of the psychological institute at the University of Münster in Germany, claims that this theory is not proved. According to Rist, procrastinators are in a so called avoidance-avoidance-conflict. On one hand they want to avoid unpleasant work but on the other hand they want to avoid unpleasant consequences. The one unpleasant thing outweighs the other by coming closer to the deadline. The negative consequences are anticipated.
What can I do to avoid procrastination?
The University of Münster gives the following three advices to avoid procrastination:
- Begin punctual – Set down a certain point in time and try to begin at exactly this moment.
- Plan realistic – Many procrastinators have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. They think they could do things in a much shorter period of time than it actually takes to fulfill the work.
- Use learning restrictions – Procrastinators are given a short period of time to learn. At the beginning it is at least 20 minutes per day. Before and after that period learning is not allowed. The procrastinators are just allowed to learn more the next day if they kept to the period.
Here are some more advices taken from this article that may help:
- Divide big projects into manageable parts (Not: ‘My second blog post’. But: ‘Introduction for my second blog post’).
- Drawing up a To-do-list is not the real work.
- Everything takes more time than you think.
- There is a life without E-Mail and Facebook.
- Try to find a fixed point of time to start your work.
- Search for a room where you can work undisturbed.
- Begin in the middle if the beginning doesn’t want to work.
But according to this article new software could also help to avoid procrastination. Programs like RescueTime, Concentrate or Dejal Time Out are offering new possibilities to help overcome procrastination.
RescueTime and Concentrate are good tools to watch yourself: How productive am I using my working hours? Which websites distract me the most? Both programs show how you spend you working day in a horrible honest way through statistics and graphs. These programs make it possible to block time eating websites for a specific period of time, prevent from ineffective multitasking and thereby create a perfect working atmosphere. Nice gimmick: At the end of asuccessful working phase it is possible to reward yourself with a nice sound or a motivating sentence. Dejal Time Out could be also interesting for procrastinators. It forces you to make regular breaks which can be a great motivation. Every 50 minutes there is a normal break which takes 10 minutes and every 10 minutes there is a micro-break for 15 seconds to relax your eyes or take in a new sitting position. All programs can be downloaded or at least tested for free.