Procrastination is often the silent killer of productivity, but has new research found a way to avoid it and supercharge your productivity?
Believe it or not, there are some people in this world who just sit down, figure out what they need to work on, and do it instantly. Then they just continue on with their lives, as if they haven’t directly insulted the 90% of us who leave everything until the last minute. Am I jealous? You’re damn right I am.
Take this article for instance. I should’ve had this written days ago, but no…here I am, mere minutes before this is due to be published, making my final edits. I’m a career procrastinator.
Thankfully, some new research out of the University of Otago could help me with my chronic time-management problem.
How Exactly Did They Study Procrastination?
The research team set out to examine how much having a deadline affects the completion of a task. Participants were asked to complete a survey online that would result in a charitable donation being made. There were various deadlines assigned to the participants at random. They were given either a week, a month, or no deadline at all to complete the survey. While the study looks at the concept of procrastination, it was initially devised to try and figure out an evidence-based way to help charities raise more money.
The results showed that participants given a month to complete the survey had the least amount of responses, while those with no deadline had the most responses. The work also showed that early responses were more likely amongst the one week and no deadline cohorts. Participants given a month to respond were more likely to procrastinate and, ultimately, forget.
According to Professor Stephen Knowles, lead author of the paper,
“We interpret this as evidence that specifying a longer deadline, as opposed to a short deadline or no deadline at all, removes the urgency to act, which is often perceived by people when asked to help.”
So, How Do I Use This to Stop Procrastinating?
Quite simply, one quick fix might be the removal of deadlines. As the saying goes, give someone three days to get something done and it will take three days, give them three hours and it will take three hours. By removing the deadline you may be psychologically implying that the task requires some level of immediacy. This may work better when setting task for other people however, as you may have implicit knowledge of actual deadlines, as much as you might tell yourself there are none.
At the very lease, if you do have to use a deadline, make it short. Longer deadlines are evidently of much less use and actively encourage procrastination (according to this study at least).
To read the full journal article, follow this link.
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