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The 4 Causes of Procrastination | Nick Wignall

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The 4 Causes of Procrastination | Nick Wignall
Hundreds of research studies confirm that there are four primary causes of procrastination. Understanding which ones you are especially vulnerable to is the key to overcoming procrastination. If you've spent any amount of time reading about procrastination on the internet, you will have noticed a strong tendency to assume that there is a single cause of procrastination and therefore a single solution.

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Self-Efficacy

A person’s belief and expectation that they are capable of completing a task. 

When we don't trust the fact that we'll be able to complete a task (with good results), we're mor...

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Value

The more enjoyable a task, the less we procrastinate on it. 

Boring tasks are more likely to lead to procrastination than difficult ones, that's why we keep postponing all ...

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Impulsiveness

Difficulty maintaining focus in the face of immediate and more appealing distractions.

If we work in an environment where we're bombarded with distractions and we are not capable of...

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Delay

How much time there is in between the decision to take on a task and the point when it must be completed.

The longer you have to finish a task, the longer you’ll wait to get started...

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The Procrastination Equation

Odds of Overcoming Procrastination = Self-Efficacy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay.

Our likelihood to resist procrastination on a specific task is equal to the product of our se...

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Fight back against procrastination

  • Don't follow blindly advice from other people on overcoming procrastination. We may procrastinate because of very different reasons. Find what works for you.
  • Identify yo...

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Anti-procrastination suggestions

... for the 4 causes of procrastination:

  • Create small wins to address Self-efficacy: break the big goal into smaller manageable ones.
  • Create artificial systems of reinf...

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Procrastination as a coping mechanism

People tend to procrastinate to avoid emotionally unpleasant tasks - so they choose to focus on something that provides a temporary mood boost.

This creates a vicious cycl...

The science behind getting started

Progress on our goals feeds our well-being. So the most important thing to do is bootstrap a little progress: get a little progress, and that’s going to fuel your well-being and your motivation.

Implementation intentions for better focus

This is a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an "if-then plan": "If the phone rings, then I’m not going to answer it." "If my friends call me to say we’re going out, I’m going to say no." So you’ve already made these pre-commitments.

Procrastinating and emotions

According to traditional thinking, procrastinators have a time-management problem. They are unable to understand how long a task will take and need to learn how to schedule their time better.

Short-term mood lifters

Studies show low mood only increases procrastination if enjoyable activities are available as a distraction. In other words, we're drawn to other activities to avoid the discomfort of applying ourselves.

Adverse consequences

Procrastination leads to two primary consequences.

  1. It's stressful to keep putting off important tasks and failing to meet your goals.
  2. Procrastination often involves delaying important health behaviors, such as taking up exercise or visiting a doctor.

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“Positive” Procrastination

At the top of your to-do list, put a couple of daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t). 

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Dashes

dash is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute.

The first thing is to take one minute and just write down the steps you need to do to finish the task - just a rough draft, at first, and that’s it. 

Now there is nothing else to think about, and there is no way to screw this task up. Everything is laid out and you can just start working on it.

Commitment Devices

First, give your friend $100. If you get the task done by 5 PM, you get your $100 back. If it doesn’t, you lose the $100.

Or make it $200 that the friend doesn’t keep — they donate it to some weird organizations, in your name.

Get the picture? That’s a commitment device.

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