I don’t have TIME!
Are you the type who buys self-help books or purchases online classes but never gets the chance to watch them or does not put them into practice?
Bakers out there who want to set up their own business someday has a smorgasbord of resources from breads to cakes to macarons but has not tried any of them?
What if tell you that you are not alone?
These has been happening to many people and it is not your fault!
Achieve your goals by understanding this behavior.
The better that you understand, the faster you achieve your goals!
What is Procastination?
Procastination according to Merriam Webster is
to put off intentionally or habitually the doing of something that should be done.
What does that really mean?
Let us take for example Jane who whose son goes to the same school as my son.
- Her husband is the one working.
- She has a son that goes to school. Her husband takes her to school on his way for work and she leaves home at 2:30PM to fetch him.
- On her spare time she like browsing the internet and watching TV.
- She thinks of setting up a baking business at home to add to their income.
- She is a very good cook, self taught however she has failed in baking.
- Baking has a better market
- She bought several baking courses online to learn and realize her dream.
- It is January and she wants to start her business before the end of the year.
It has been a couple of days since she has bought the online class. It is a Monday and she has finished her morning chores and her husband went off to bring their son to school before going to work.
She thought about starting to watch her online class but realized it 10 AM. In time for her favorite TV show. She decides to watch it. After an hour, she went to the kitchen to prepare lunch.
At 1:30 she has finished eating, cleaning the dishes and the kitchen. She opened her computer and when she was about to start her classes, alerts from Facebook flashed on her screen. She clicked those coming from her close friend Casey. She posted a few of her trips from Bali. She scanned through the pictures and even chatted with her on what happened. She then saw a few videos from the feed such as cooking demo, celebrity gossips and clips of cute kittens.
She did not notice that time had passed by quickly. It is 2:30 PM. Time to pick up her son. After picking up her son, in the next hours she would need to divide her time later on to her son to help in the assignments and preparing dinner. After all of these she needs to sleep early to wake the next day to start all over.
In the example there was a missed opportunity of starting the online course. Jane instead did other tasks that prevented her from completing a task that has been waiting for a while.
We know that there is an opportunity to do the task but why do we make these types of decision?
- Done their projects the day or night before submission? Or probably
- Studied a quiz or some kind of test the night before?
- We probably do this because this has worked for us before. We may not get a perfect score but a grade for us that is satisfactory.
We cannot predict the future. The future we may encounter obstacles from completing a task. These can be in a form of other tasks that may suddenly appear or overlap each other. Completing one may sacrifice completing others or affect the quality of work for each task.
We may also not be in ready physically to accomplish a task. We may not be up to complete a task because of sickness which may not always predict or simply the way we “feel” in the future. Our mood or our emotions may affect how we complete a task or the quality of our tasks.
If Jane was thinking of starting the course tomorrow but unaware that say that there will be leaks on the pipes. Would she still be able to start on her lessons?
It is Hard!
We put off a task because:
- It is difficult.
- We do things the easier one first and handle the harder later. Some people would disguise this as doing the easier ones to warm up and by the time we get to the hard ones we are on a roll or we would work better if we are closer to the deadline.
The concern of doing the difficult tasks at a later time is that we are unsure when and how we can complete the task. Difficulty may cause complications such as if the task requires skills beyond our skill level or if there are time constraints.
It is difficult because we find it challenging with our current skills and capabilities. If a deadline was set on a difficult task, then we increase our chance of failure. If this task was done at once we may have a chance to seek help, learn more of the task at hand or give us enough time for completion with minimal impact to the quality of work we put into a task.
In Jane’s case, she is a cook and has difficulties in baking. We can assume that baking is beyond her comfort zone. Most likely at the back of her mind that from the failures she had she realized that baking is difficult and causing her to put off leaning how to bake.
- Another aspect we should look at is that we may be afraid to fail.
- An easier task would increase our chance of success or better performance versus a task that is hard and higher chance of failure.
- We could also look at this at a different perspective. Let us say a person who is difficult to be with is asking you to meet him, there is a possibility that you would make excuses to avoid the person if there is a fear of saying no to the person.
Sooner or later we have to face this person and if we keep on avoiding this will cause further conflicts and inconvenience for us.
We may get away with not doing a task but this may come back in one form or another.
Going back on Jane’s difficulty at baking this may cause fear. Failure she has experienced in the past may have played a part in keeping of learning baking even if she knows the potential of earning.
When we procrastinate, we basically make a decision if we are going to do a task, do something else, do something that pleases us or do nothing at all. The decision that we make will depend on how much we value of doing the task now. The value is what psychologists call subjective value. Procrastination is the result when value other things rather than doing the task.
Jane instead of starting her online class decided to watch TV. At that time watching TV has a higher subjective value because of the pleasure that it provides.
After watching she then prepared lunch and ate. Having lunch at that time has a higher subjective value than any other task because of a biological need.
She then spent the time browsing the Internet because it satisfied her curiosity and at the same time gave pleasure. However when she realized that it was 2:30PM she dropped everything she was doing and fetched her son. The subjective value of fetching her son and the events after were high considering the commitment that she is giving to her family.
People are said to be irrational in putting value on things.
Take for example a car.
A car bought brand new would have a different value right after buying it, a month from now and years after yet its subjective value would be different depending on the person, in this case the car’s owner would feel. A new car owner would feel very satisfied that he just purchased a brand new car and probably more so if this is his first car.
Months after he would feel differently about the car once operating and maintenance cost would be realized.
Its subjective value to the owner may have gone down. There are some cases when the car has stayed with the owner for years that we would not let the car go because it is the first car he bought or probably because its styling is unique or for other reason.
The subjective value of the car to the owner would then appear to be more than the actual value. Other people may have viewed this differently and may have sold the car.
The way we value things on time is called delay counting. Like the car losing its value after certain period.
A study was made where it showed that receiving $100 to people now, on an average is the same as receiving $83 right now. For them it is acceptable loosing $17 than wait a few months to get the reward.
Jane has set a deadline for his business, which is at the end of the year. She made the decision on January and has less than 12 months to complete it. Making the effort now her now may not justify the end result expected at the end of the 12 months.
Gain and loses.
For money, gaining and loosing it affects its subjective value. Relating this to the car we had as an example is when it suffers accidents over the years which affects its value. We should not expect a perfect match between the objective and subjective value.
We then procrastinate based on delay discounting because the completion happens in the future. The further the deadline is the less attractive the work on the project now.
When Jane watched TV, she gained pleasure from watching. At that point in time there was no gain that she has realized. She may loose the opportunity to see what happens to her favorite TV show.
All tasks takes effort.
Research tells us that mental effort is intrinsically costly.
In simple terms, if mental effort is monetary, it would cost us to do a harder task therefore avoiding momentarily or completely. On the other hand a task that are harder with have higher subjective costs probably because of the higher rewards but this can be offset by experience on the task.
Looking at the tasks Jane has done. She may have equated all the tasks for the day to the mental effort she needs to exert. The effort that gave her pleasure or satisfied her biological needs is less compared to starting her lessons.
What happens if we procrastinate?
People would procrastinate more the harder they expect the task to be. This is because the more effort a task requires, the more someone stands to gain by putting the same amount of effort into something else. Studies suggest that people procrastinate on unpleasant tasks. Back to our example, doing a project or cleaning a room is unpleasant compared to watching a game or playing video games which is pleasurable.
We all have our goals that we want to achieve. May it be a business to minimize or end our dependency with employment, get a better job or position or even non-monetary tasks such as additional learning or travelling. These are goals what we may want to achieve. Rarely do our goals in life realized in a few days and even months. Most take years and these does not involve just one effort but series of tasks that happen and may happen over and over again.
Procrastinating is a human behavior and is common, however it keeps us from achieving our full potential. We may miss other opportunities because we are busy completing tasks which may have been done earlier. The completion of tasks may not have the perfect timing for you because its completion has been delayed or worse failure to achieve your end goal because you have put off to many tasks.
What Jane has not realized yet is that these are opportunities for her to learn and hone her skills. Identify why she failed the last time and to improve herself. She has not realized yet what she can do.
Procrastination is actually an effect on how we value things. It does not directly relate to our ability to accomplish things but on our motivation. You can be very good at one task but regardless our skills on doing a task, it can be set aside or delayed if we do not posses the motivation.
Increase Subjective Value.
We have talked about subjective value and delay counting and how it affects the value of the task ahead of us.
Hanks says that:
procrastination stems from the failure to “identify sufficiently with our future self”.
In the future, how is it important for us? It is not relevant to us now but to our future self. How can the task affect us in the future.
Robert Hanks, in his essay describes procrastination as “a failure of appetites”.
Positive Self Concept.
People are said to be motivated in maintaining a positive self-concept. Goals that are related to ones value such as life goals or core values. In listing your task identify which values close to you. Where do you want to be in the future? How does a task help you achieve that
Moving the Deadline.
Since we value tasks that are close to the deadline, let us move the deadline earlier. We should think about the reward “earlier” to reduce the effect of delayed discounting
For difficult and unpleasant task, break it down to make it manageable, familiar and simple tasks to minimize procrastination.
We have all heard the phrase “easier said than done”. Like what we have discovered we can break down the difficult to simple parts.
Step 1: List down all of your WHY’s. This will help you remind yourself whenever you’re getting off track. For example, I’m doing this because I would like to give my children to the best education that they could have.
Step 2: Make a “dream board”. Look at ourselves and our goals. Our values must be aligned with the tasks and the goals.
Step 3: List down projects that you want to complete. You don’t have to do everything at once. Do one project at a time. Break down all tasks into simple parts. Small victories will boost our confidence making it easier for us to achieve our goals.
Step 4: TAKE ACTION! All of these will be nothing if you don’t take action! Select a project from our online classes and start a project today!
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