Procrastination (I’ll write this article tomorrow)
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.