Studies Show That Procrastination is a Sneaky Thief
As the holidays roll around, it is easy to get lost in time. The fear of missing out (FOMO) – yes, FOMO is a real thing, a new mental health syndrome that many of us suffer, especially in the age of social media – may be the companion to the sneaky thief we call procrastination.
Procrastination and FOMO are comfortable bedfellows, tempting us to put off what is important, but not necessarily urgent. Time slips away, and before you know it, your day is gone and your project is left untouched. We’d like to think that procrastination fuels the fire of a successful final output. However, studies show that procrastination increases stress, may be harmful to heart health and prevents good diet and exercise habits.
I recently read that psychologists from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio conducted an experiment to understand how procrastination affects students. The researchers gave a group of students a range of time to submit their papers as opposed to a final due date. They were able to track and trend the stress levels of these students in comparison to the student’s turn-in date and grade.
It turns out that those students who put off turning in their papers until the last minute suffered adverse health issues, including greater stress levels. Plus they received poorer grades than those who turned their papers in before the final deadline. The remedy may be to better understand what causes you to procrastinate in the first place and find ways to overcome those barriers.
Time is Limited and Distractions are Plentiful
Whether you are an "activity-dependent" procrastinator or have what psychologists assert is an inherent tendency to procrastinate, like a stable "procrastination" trait , there are ways to overcome the excuses of procrastination and learn new behaviors. But, as with every solution, there is no one “silver bullet” that is good for everyone universally. Also, it may take time to unlearn behaviors that lead you to procrastinate.
Here are seven strategies that may help you capture the time-thief and be more productive now and into the new year:
1. Face the fear. In other words, the more complex the issue or project, the more time you may waste. Rather than become overwhelmed, tackle small bits at a time, then reward yourself with some indulgent social media or other activity time.
2. Block off "procrastination" time in your day. Yes, actually schedule blocks of time for procrastinating. This time may be natural down time for you, e.g., after lunch, mid-afternoon slump, etc. or small chunks of time in between larger tasks. You decide what works for you.
3. Remove the distractions. You know what I’m talking about: checking the news feed, answering or reading emails, scanning your social media, etc. Experts remind us that being busy does not mean that you are being productive. So don’t be fooled.
4. Don’t put off what you can do today (or now!) This may be counterintuitive to #3, but what the researchers say is that you can trick yourself into minimizing a task. So, if there is a project with a strict deadline, and it seems like an “easy” task, make sure to examine it and allot the actual time needed to complete it well and on time.
5. Get over yourself. Let’s face it, we don’t "love" every task that comes our way. So make a pact with yourself to tackle this type of project first, and then do something that you enjoy when you’re done.
6. Take the challenge. Don’t be scared to fail or fall short of your own expectations. Believe in yourself and take on an “I can do this” attitude. Worrying about the "what-ifs" will cloud your mind you and stifle your progress. Worrying is like an unlocked door to the time thief.
7. Change it up. If you can, work in another environment when you have a big project to complete. Sometimes, a change of location can stave off daily distractions.
I myself am a victim of procrastination. Although I am a planner and love organizing my time, I have found that I need to work on managing a self-guided dissertation that lacks hard deadlines and provides no straight path for me to follow (things that normally keep me on course and ahead of schedule).
I have worked to remove distractions, changed locations and separated "work" from "research," yet my time is still victim to the thief. To collar him, I must first get over my fear of failure, remind myself that I’m not perfect and take the challenge full force.
As always, I must relax, enjoy and appreciate the challenge that I have before me – without self judgment or the constant (and forever) loss of time. So let’s give ourselves the gift of time well spent this holiday season and into the new year. Here’s to not fighting procrastination, but embracing it – in whatever way works for you – so that you may full engage, be creative and get more done!
Stacie Rivera is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.