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Author Topic: Cure for procrastination?
MattP
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I suffer from chronic procrastination. It's bad. Really bad. I'd even call it pathological. I can go for hours putting off some relatively simple, not-all-that-unpleasant task just... because.

Projects at home and work are constantly delayed and I often find myself working long hours and late nights not because I'm a workaholic but because I'm in a panic about getting caught up on something that I'd blown off for several days or weeks previous.

That said, I have somehow managed a fairly successful career. I'm making a good living at a company with great benefits and I've consistently received great evaluations from my supervisors and peers. Still, this is a source of constant stress, so I'm looking for advice.

How do you deal with procrastination? What tools and techniques help you accomplish things that you'd otherwise let lie dormant. I'm particularly interested to hear from people who can relate to my situation and have found an effective solution.

(Note: I'm supposed to be writing a speech for my public speaking class to be delivered before the end of term deadline tomorrow. It's now about midnight, I've got to go to work in the morning, and I'm just getting started. See what I mean?)

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rivka
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What are you getting out of it? Is this a way to get excitement in your life -- that endorphin rush?

Figure out why you're doing it, and you're probably on your way to figuring out how not to do it.

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MattP
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That's the thing, I really don't know. It baffles me. It's like I've got two different minds operating at once, one saying "hey, you really aught to do this" and the other saying "meh, a little later." I want to complete the task, I know that I need to complete the task, I know I'll be less stressed if I complete the task, but I head off to Hatrack or blogs or whatever else instead.

I'm definitely am not seeking/getting any rush. There's occasionally relief when I do some mad all-night catch-up session, but that seems far too distant from the previous days of procrastination to be a motivating factor.

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Lyrhawn
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90% of the time, I embrace my procrastination. My brain does some sort of unconscious calculation to figure out exactly how long it will take me to complete a task, and then makes me utterly uninterested with that task, or totally unfocused when I attempt it, until that second when I absolutely have to start it in order to finish in time. I actually think I work far better under this system than doing things ahead of time.

At the moment, I have a final exam tomorrow night on five books, and I haven't read any of them yet. Well, I've read two of them before, and one is on short stories that I had to browse the other day. Tomorrow I'll cram all day, and then tomorrow night after the final, I have to finish writing my half-written senior capstone paper, which also includes a presentation component Thursday night. On Friday, I have to work a double shift at work, and I have a bunch of grad school app stuff to finish and get in the mail.

In the past, whenever I've tried to complete an assignment ahead of time, or study ahead of time, it actually tends to come out somewhat worse than when I'm under the gun. Case in point, I had two papers due this semester in one of my English classes. I finished one of them three days early, and I finished the other five minutes before class started. I got a B on the early bird, and an A+ on the last minute paper. And the last minute one was harder to do. I set a record writing a paper this semester too, at 20 minutes, and still got an A. I'm not saying I'm particularly smart, as taking more time seems to be less helpful, I'm just saying that pressure and procrastination combine forces to really, REALLY focus my attention when crunch time hits, and the results are often great.

I'll say that procrastination generally only affects me when I really don't want to do the task. I've never had a problem with procrastination when I enjoy what I'm doing, like writing a research paper for a history class, but any other task that involves boring crap I'm apathetic about gets back-burnered.

I might have actually gotten myself into trouble this semester though with sending things out later than I should have for grad school, but, I think everything will still arrive on time. I might have to FedEx a couple things next week, which will, yet again, teach me a little financial lesson about the costs of procrastination.

As far as ways to deal with procrastination? Only one thing ever helps. Make a schedule. When I really have a lot to do, to the point where I just can't let myself put it off, I list everything I have to do, all the due dates, and how long each task will take to accomplish, then I slot things into place. Part of the problem with procrastination is having a million things to do. It's so much easier to blow off a million things, because it all just sort of blends together. If you break them down into pieces and say "I have 50 things to do, but today I only need to do 4 of them," then it seems both more manageable, and far harder to ignore, because you have specific tasks staring you in the face rather than an amorphous blob of tasks.

That might not work for some people, who find it just as easy to blow off one task as they would 50, but, it works great for me. I'd also note that my job is an extremely fast-paced, high-stress environment, and 90% of the time, I love that too.

And now...I'm going to go back to writing that senior capstone paper. Or rather, doing the research for it so that tomorrow night I can write it. See what I mean?

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
How do you deal with procrastination?

Well you see, I
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0Megabyte
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I was going to write something here, but I decided, naw, I'll do it later.
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Dan_Frank
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I know a great way to cure procrastination in three easy steps.

But first I'm going to go check some webcomics.

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AvidReader
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For me, it's all about having a routine. I do my main tasks in the same order at about the same time every day. All the other stuff gets waded through after.

Now, how to not procrastinate on the non-routine stuff? That's harder. I hate to say it, but it comes down to how stressed I'm feeling. Let's face it, putting off an unfamiliar task I didn't get much instruction on and feel like someone else ought to be doing just plain feels good. It's my passive-aggressive at work.

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RivalOfTheRose
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I agree with you, if its something that doesn't really need to be done and I don't want to do it, it doesn't happen until it absolutely has to.

For the last two years or so I've had a wife that gets pretty mad when I display traits of laziness.

I guess that helps. So, I guess my advice is to get married. If that is not an option, I look forward to the advice of others for myself.

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Rawrain
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http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/

I read this a long time ago, I assume it's the same as I read the 1st time...

He talks about a method of abusing procrastination to get things done...
Example: Making an extremely important non-important task set above a task you want done, you will begin to do EVERYTHING but the task you made for yourself that "needs" to be done...

Confusing :D
_______________________________________

I am a master procrastinator,but it is because I have ADHD-PI, which pretty much robs me of all that wonderful energy everyone else seems to thrive on /:

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dem
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MattP,

Life long procrastinator here (41 years old).

OK, here is what works for me.

To Do Lists. I think they are stupid and ridiculous and I hate that I need them. HOWEVER, when I make a to do list, I get it done. A simple list is enough, but I have even made google docs with points for reoccurring tasks (with consequences and rewards). The high I get from marking things off my list is great. Also, I have a partner in crime that has her own list and we get competitive with it. Somehow, the tasks that we loved to put off became the tasks that we loved to get done.

We made a separate document for exercise/eating and I lost 37 pounds. It is easy do go all day only drinking water, when it is worth 3 points and I need 40 points for the week!

Examples...
>2 points for cooking dinner/2 points for cleaning up after dinner/+1 bonus point if I do it on the same night.
>3 points for cleaning a toilet (had to put a max of 1 cleaning a week, cause I wanted more points...)
>10 points for setting a doctor’s appointment (really hate going to the doctor)
>1 point for each bill paid on time
>5 points for accomplishing a work/school task on time/10 points for completing it 24 hours in advance
EXERCISE / DIET
>3 points for a water only day / +5 for a water only week
>2 for no snacks for the day
>2 points for healthy lunch
>3 points for healthy dinner
>1 point for each 10 minutes of exercise

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Rawrain
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But Dem what are the points for?
I am also immune to incentive, yep bribing me doesn't get me to shut up nor does any other existing medical option, you just gotta axe off me handssssss

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Phanto
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To do lists are the way to go from my perspective. You write it down, you do it, you cross it off. simple yet works wonders! =)

If this is a chronic and serious condition, may also be worth considering looking into whether ADHD may be an issue. See adult adhd test.

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theCrowsWife
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Have you read the book Getting Things Done? The author says most of the time, if you can't get motivated to work on a project, it's because you haven't clarified to yourself what the "next action" is. I don't follow the whole system, but the concept of determining a concrete next action has been very helpful for me.

--Mel

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dem
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Rawrain...

We set minimum points per week to avoid a negative consequence and a reward for achieving certain point levels.

The biggest problem we had was finding suitable rewards. Neither of us like to spend money so that wouldn't be rewarding and we didn't want food to be the reward. Ultimately, the rewards were intrinsic which is the way it should be.

[ December 08, 2010, 02:11 PM: Message edited by: dem ]

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scifibum
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MattP, I could have written that OP and meant every word, minus the last paragraph.

Good thread idea.

I'll be checking throughout the day.

<_<

>_>

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MattP
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ADHD - Most definitely. I've tried a few medications but nothing had a noticeable affect. I'm not currently taking anything.

Todo lists - There is where I have my most success, though I haven't been able to stick to them. I'll track things for a few days and then just... not.

Getting Things Done - been there, read that. It's an effective organizational system, essentially a todo list on steroids, but I find it just as easy to put off the GTD tasks like processing my inbox or consulting my next actions list. I've started GTD several times, only to peter out within a couple weeks.

Points - I like the idea, though I have poor impulse control and enough disposable income that I can generally just buy what I want when I want it.

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rollainm
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quote:
90% of the time, I embrace my procrastination. My brain does some sort of unconscious calculation to figure out exactly how long it will take me to complete a task, and then makes me utterly uninterested with that task, or totally unfocused when I attempt it, until that second when I absolutely have to start it in order to finish in time. I actually think I work far better under this system than doing things ahead of time.
This describes me exactly. No advice, though.
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Lisa
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I was going to procratinate today. But I decided to let it go until tomorrow.
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PSI Teleport
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Matt, are you a perfectionist?
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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
Matt, are you a perfectionist?

I can be, sometimes, but I wouldn't consider it to be a prominent characteristic.
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kmbboots
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MattP, when you get this figured out, I will be very glad to steal from you.

I am not a perfectionist, but I hate making mistakes or doing part of something.

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Phanto
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As someone who has written a book and done some work in this area, I feel compelled to say this, so please pardon the somewhat technical post.

If you've been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, might be worth revealuting seeking treatment.

I say this because a) the potential benefits when properly done are tremendous b) proper medication for ADHD is a complicated thing that can take some work to figure out

Some people don't respond to instant release as well as extended, for instance. And some people don't notice the medication working when it actually is. For some people, one type of medication will work, while another won't. For some, only the l-form of a medication works, while the d-isn't so good.

As you can see, it can get surprisingly complicated.

Because honestly, based off what I know of the condition, there is little you can do about it in general. If you have it, then it has symptoms and life implications that are hard to get around. It's sad, but also fairly true.

Of course, you can try improved organizational methods and so on.

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