Pro­cras­ti­na­tion (I’ll write this ar­ti­cle to­mor­row)

The Covington News - - Local news -

This af­ter­noon I was con­fronted with a choice: write an ar­ti­cle for The Cov­ing­ton News or work out­side with the horses. I chose the horses be­cause that was the thing I wanted to do and, be­sides, I didn’t know what I was go­ing to write. And it was a pretty day. The fact that this piece is due to­mor­row and the horses didn’t par­tic­u­larly need any at­ten­tion did not per­suade me to do the more re­spon­si­ble and sen­si­ble thing. So I put off writ­ing this ar­ti­cle un­til now, when it is late and has to be writ­ten be­cause I’m out of time.

For­tu­nately, I’m not alone. Most of us pro­cras­ti­nate at some time or other. But then we rarely think of the costs of our foot-drag­ging. Ex­perts es­ti­mate that 40 per­cent of peo­ple have sus­tained a fi­nan­cial loss be­cause of pro­cras­ti­na­tion, some­times a se­vere loss. Amer­i­cans over­paid the U. S. gov­ern­ment $ 473 mil­lion in taxes in 2002 as a re­sult of rush­ing and er­rors. The low in­ci­dence of re­tire­ment sav­ings of Amer­i­cans can, in part, be at­trib­uted to pro­cras­ti­na­tion. The im­pact of pro­cras­ti­na­tion on health is even more se­ri­ous. Putting off physi­cian and den­tist vis­its yields higher stress lev­els, den­tal prob­lems and more acute health prob­lems than those who do things in a timely man­ner.

Pro­cras­ti­na­tors like im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion, which oc­curs when we put the work off un­til the last minute. Then we are re­warded right away. Prizes that are awarded some dis- tance in the fu­ture are not quite as mo­ti­vat­ing. Ex­perts also at­tribute the un­pleas­ant­ness of the task as one of the main rea­sons we put off work. This is par­tic­u­larly true for stu­dents. Few stu­dents get ex­cited at the op­por­tu­nity to write a schol­arly pa­per about color vari­a­tions of amoeba in the Ama­zon rain for­est.

Time-stamped pre­scrip­tions some­times help pro­cras­ti­na­tors. In­stead of set­ting a vague goal of “ get­ting healthy,” a spe­cific time linked ac­tiv­ity is bet­ter, such as “ I will go to the gym at 7: 30 in the morn­ing.” This im­ple­men­ta­tion in­ten­tion makes a pro­cras­ti­na­tor eight times more likely to ful­fill a com­mit­ment than some­one who did not make such a pre­scrip- tion. In­tel­li­gent sched­ul­ing can also thwart pro­cras­ti­na­tion. When stu­dents are al­lowed to make self-im­posed dead­lines for pa­pers in their course­work, they tend to space them through­out the se­mes­ter as op­posed to putting them all at the end. The one tech­nique that works for this au­thor is “ just to get started” be­cause I know that the an­tic­i­pa­tion of the task is not nearly as bad as the task turns out to be. My avoid­ance of writ­ing this ar­ti­cle has turned into some­thing of a plea­sure now that it’s done.

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