Is it possible that Scarlett O’Hara, the main character of Gone with the Wind, was a procrastinator herself, especially when she dramatically declared “Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow”? Putting things off is a sin of which everyone is guilty. But being a serial procrastinator is very different from occasionally postponing unwanted tasks. In my personal ranking of procrastinators the winner is, without doubt, Victor Hugo, the famous author of Les Miserables. Apparently he was so plagued by stalling that he asked his servants to leave him cold and naked until he finished his writing.
Some people declare that they perform better under pressure: the adrenaline of the deadline gives them the energy and the motivation to burn the midnight oil to get their job done. But is it really true: can people find the right push from being late?
According to several studies in procrastination this formula works only if the goal is to perform worse and be way more stressed (by the way I discovered that a lot of academics are really researching the topic!). Obviously, the benefit is more free time at the beginning, but both performance and mental health might suffer especially if this is your way of life. Although everybody procrastinates, this does not mean that everyone is a procrastinator. Research has shown that 20% of healthy adults have this problem and procrastinate no matter what.
The Procrastination Formula
The University of Calgary researched the chronic pushbackers and concluded that the main reasons for procrastination falls into poor time management or mood regulation (or maybe both). In the book The Procrastination Equation, the author explained that inaction is defined by this formula:
(Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay) = Procrastination
The factors that influence actions are the first two: Expectancy is how confident you are about completing the assignment, value is how much the job is important to you.
What can instead hinder the completion of an action is impulsiveness (how likely you are to follow your immediate need or desire) while Delay is how close you are to your deadline. But in order to jumpstart motivation (expectancy and value) it’s obvious that the ability to regulate your own mood and emotion control is pivotal. If something makes us feel dreadful it’s totally understandable that we try to avoid it.
The good news is that there are several strategies to ditch the problem.
Here are some ways to stop procrastination that have proved effective for me:
- Clean your space from distractions and focus.
- Identify the best moment of the day for you: are you working better in the morning or in the afternoon?
- Set a clear plan of what you have to do: break the task into very small actions, if necessary.
- Celebrate your wins and make steps to create fun while doing the job.
- Be understanding with yourself: you are working hard to change a habit; that’s never easy, but every little step can help you progress and change how your brain works.
Are they working? Let me know what works best for you.