I confess – I am a procrastinator. Don’t get me wrong – I am very organized and I use good time management techniques but for tasks that I find boring or painful, I tend to put them off and spend time chatting with friends, reading and sending emails and browsing through Facebook newsfeed.
Research shows that 95% of us “label” ourselves as procrastinators. Why? Most of us have too many things to do and not enough time to do them all and so we delay certain tasks or decisions. It is inevitable!
Consider this article. I started this project about 2 months ago, with an idea of listing tips to help my readers with procrastination issues. Clearly, deadlines are not very tight for my blog articles and the procrastination or the delay actually helped me look at this topic from a very fresh perspective.
I use a method called “Pomodoro” Technique (see below for details) to deal with important yet boring tasks such as invoices, payment follow-up, grading papers etc. By the time, I finished researching the topic, I found that we can be more effective if we are mindful about the tasks/decisions we have in front of us.
Perspective One: Traditional approach - Time Management Issues
Yes! About one in 5 of us are chronic procrastinators. We pay a price for our procrastination of important tasks/decisions that affect our health, relationships and at work. We need to take action on key matters and we need to be efficient.
Steel Piers, a leading researcher on procrastination, has proposed a “Procrastination” Equation.
Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay).
Procrastination results from lowering Motivation too much.
Expectancy = how likely you think you are to reach your goal. Low expectancy or lack of optimism makes us think the task is very difficult to do.
Value = the value you place on the goal. If the particular task or decision is not perceived as valuable to you, you are likely to postpone your work on the project
Impulsiveness = how influenced you are by short-term vs. long-term rewards decides whether you complete the task. Often, you can waste time on Facebook or the internet, rather than complete the task.
Delay = Most Project Managers will recite the Parkinson’s Law - Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
If you want to use this equation to your advantage, use these five tips
If you are still reading this article, you likely belong to the second group. You do procrastinate but you are not paying a very big price for it. You are here for the extra edge of effectiveness that comes from being mindful about your procrastination. Research shows that some delay and extra review of tasks and decisions prevent us from making mistakes and help us do better.
A mindful approach to procrastination is very helpful. Review your tasks and decisions on a regular basis. Put them in one of the four buckets
Important but not Urgent – This is the category that tends to fall on the high procrastination list. Start work on it on a regular basis. Daily physical exercise and meditation practice fall in this category. These are the tasks/decisions that often have great impact on your life. Want to start your own business, set the groundwork today. Want to run a marathon, start running around the block.
Important And Urgent – This is an area where most of us are good. We may get stressed out but we find “quick and easy” ways to handle these tasks and decisions. Work related projects, bill payments and medical appointments are good examples in this list.
Not Important But Urgent – I urge you to axe some of these projects. We often undertake to work on urgent projects but they are of little or no importance. Attending parties when we need to rest during the weekend is a good example.
Not Important And Not Urgent – This category easily sucks in valuable time. Watching TV series marathons, Facebook browsing, checking our phone/text messages every few minutes. While mindless activities are good, sometimes, as it appears to improve our creativity. But, this category of tasks may lead to significant waste of time and other valuable resources.
Be Aware! Procrastinate and eliminate tasks that do not fit your main goals and objectives.
Pomodoro Technique - a powerful method to beat procrastination!
Francesco Cirillo crafted the Pomodoro (Italian for Tomato) Technique in 1992, as a personal system to get more studying done. I teach this technique to my students and friends, who complain about critical tasks they need to get done.
Choose a task to be accomplished
Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer that is in the shape of a tomato)
Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
I use a FREE timer app and set it for 25 minutes. You can purchase timers specifically for 25 minutes but you do not need it. There are POMODORO apps available for your smart phone. Check Google Play or iPhone App Store for more details.
If you like more details about this technique, check out the link below.
A FREE ebook by inventor of the Pomodoro Technique is available at http://caps.ucsd.edu/Downloads/tx_forms/koch/pomodoro_handouts/ThePomodoroTechnique_v1-3.pdf
Frank Partnoy (2012) Wait: The Art and Science of Delay Hardcover 2012
Steel Piers (2012)The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done
Measures of Procrastination Try these online tools
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.