procrastination

It turns out that in order to beat procrastination you either have to put a very hard fast deadline, or not to put them at all.

How often do you catch yourself «procrastinating», putting off to the last minute the beginning of preparing an important report or memorizing material for an exam? Surely in everyone’s life there have been such moments. The process of «procrastination» is called «procrastination», and it is not so easy to fight even by setting deadlines. 

However, procrastination has nothing to do with laziness — we can do other things. It is not a lack of character or willpower, but rather a way of coping with negative emotions — such as boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, insecurity, and so on — as well as bad moods caused by certain tasks. 

The specific reason for our aversion to a task we put off depends on its meaning or situation. It may be due to something inherently unpleasant — for example, the need to clean up or to do a long and boring data analysis. But it can also be the result of deeper emotions associated with the task, such as insecurity, low self-esteem, anxiety, or uncertainty. For example, when we look at a blank page in a word processor, thoughts like «this is too hard» or «I’m not smart enough to write well» may come to mind.

The most effective method of beating procrastination

However, scientists at the University of Otago have discovered the most effective method of combating procrastination. It turns out that the best way to make yourself get things done on time is to set no deadline, or to set the toughest one possible (with a short time frame in which to complete the task).

In a study that was published in the journal Economic Inquiry, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and send the information by letter to decide how donations would be allocated to charity. They were told that there was either a week or a month to complete the task, or no exact deadline was specified. A total of three mailings were conducted a few weeks apart, with 300, 390, and 402 letters, respectively. The response rate was quite low: 8.32% in the group that did not receive information about the deadline, 5.53% in the group that had a month to respond, and 6.59% in the group that responded within a week.

The lowest number of response emails with a completed questionnaire came from participants who were guided by a one-month deadline, and the highest number came when no deadline was explicitly set. Interestingly, the researchers interpreted this result as follows: when long deadlines are specified, as opposed to no deadlines, it removes the urgency for action that we often feel when we are asked for help. Therefore, people tend to put off completing a task and due to forgetfulness or inattention do not get to it in time.

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