lunedì 26 gennaio 2015

How do I get over my bad habit of procrastinating? - 4

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on procrastination -- it was what we in the psychology business call an example of 'implosion therapy;' one goes farther into a problematic behavior in hopes of coming out the other side, cured. Recognizing that you have asked for an answer - not a treatise - I nonetheless feel compelled to answer your question in proper Ph.D-2-Ph.D form. Please indulge.
My research process followed the standard dissertation recipe: 

  • literature review
  • qualitative research
  • hypothesis development
  • operationalizing variables
  • developing/pretesting a research protocol - quantitative, that is -
  • collecting data
  • analyzing data/significance testing
  • interpreting results
  • going back and interviewing procrastinators/non-procrastinators/people somewhere in between
  • developing treatment protocols, and/or
  • absent protocols, tactics for behavior change.

Hypotheses tested
Based on the above, I hypothesized that there were seven potential predictors of procrastination (I developed & tested a behavioral measure of procrastination, which was the outcome variable). They were:
  • Fear of Success (there is a lot of evidence that many people fear success)
  • Fear of Failure
  • Perfectionism (which can be paralyzing, since few things are perfect the first time around).
  • Issues with Authority Figures ("I am the boss of me" syndrome)
  • Reality Interference (having too many things on one's plate)
  • Issues re-Frustration Tolerance (easily frustrated and/or avoid the experience)
  • Unrealistic-to-completely-absurd planning skills

The answer(s)
All of the above play a role, but by far and away, low frustration tolerance turned out to be the best predictor of procrastination. There are nuances.
  • It's not just a question of avoiding doing something that is frustrating, difficult, and anxiety provoking: the mere anticipation of frustration prevents the procrastinator from even starting.
  • People who procrastinate tend to avoid things they imagine to be frustrating - even if they turn out not to be so. Typically, they begin only when the consequences of not completing the task become, in their minds, more painful than the consequences of completing it.
  • Once that tipping point (pain of not doing exceeds pain of doing) is crossed, and they actually begin the task, they are often shocked to discover it was never that bad at all.

Potential fixes
  • Start with the low anxiety parts of the task first. That way, when the crisis hits, you'll at least be better prepared.
  • Set exceptionally low goals. For instance, if you have a sink full of dirty dishes, set the goal of washing one fork. You'll be surprised at how well this works. I mean it!
  • Set a timer, for a maximum of 20 minutes. Your goal is to do the task you're avoiding for 20 minutes. After that, you must stop. It is a requirement.

I have lots more to say about this. I've run out of juice for the moment, but if you would like more, just say the word.

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