Brain and Behavior, Mindset

Do Away With Procrastination Once and For All

This morning I looked over my goals for 2022 and noted that I still hadn’t started on revising the guest bedroom décor. It seemed like that’s been on my radar for quite awhile, so out of curiosity I fished out my “New Year Goals” sheets from years past. Sure enough, this was the third year in a row I’ve intended to update the 15-year old color scheme.

The revelation brought to mind other areas of procrastination: getting my tires rotated and balanced, starting that new skin-care routine (although I wonder if exfoliating cream from 2019 can still be considered “new?”), and painting the front door. To name a few. Eeeek.

I’ve kept lists, created plans, and designated deadlines. Yet task after task still remains unfinished. Why-oh-why does procrastination have such a hold on me?

Research shows that I’m not alone in my procrastination frustration. Most people believe that a to-do list is most achievable with roomy deadlines and plenty of wiggle-room for unexpected obstacles. But do those next-month deadlines really help us accomplish our goals? A professor of economics from the Otago Business School, Dr. Stephen Knowles, worked with a team of scientists to investigate how deadlines impact task completion…or not.

In the experiment, online readers were invited to complete a survey, which would result in a charitable donation. Researchers provided three scenarios for completion of the survey: a one-week deadline, a one-month deadline, or no deadline. Not surprisingly, the one-month deadline resulted in the far fewer responses. But I was intrigued to discover there were more responses for the non-deadline scenario than the one-week deadline. The authors surmised that delayed deadlines give people permission to procrastinate. And as we all know…once that task is out-of-sight, it is out-of-mind.

So what does that mean for you and me?

Instead of putting those goals on a long-term to-do list, I’m better off to tackle just one thing today. The sooner my self-imposed deadline, the better. Which means I have to get honest with myself: if it’s not practical to repaint the front door till Spring, I need to wait till April to put in on my to-do list. But there is one easy task I can stop procrastinating, today! Now where did I put that exfoliating cream…?!?


Terissa Michele Miller, MS Psy

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