Well, if you’re reading this, you might be procrastinating. Maybe should be hard at work, or you could be avoiding housework at home, or perhaps you are pretending to study English.. We all procrastinate at some point in our lives, after all it’s so much easier to give in and go on facebook or play another round of Candy Crush than it is to finish that really tedious assignment you are meant to be doing. Even doing the washing-up or filing your emails might suddenly seem the most appealing of activities when all you have ahead of you is a long session of work and very little motivation.
The explanation for this very common feeling is something that some scientists call ‘temporal discounting’. The root of the problem is that we tend to have a distorted perception of the rewards we are going to obtain from a given effort or task. Most times this is directly related to the time remaining until we get the ‘reward’ from performing that activity. For instance, the satisfaction we get from watching that youtube video or leaving our desk to get a quick snack comes faster and because it is so immediate we prioritize it over staying focused on writing an assignment that is due in a couple of days, since the reward of completing the assignment seems so far away down the line that it feels a bit unreal and less important. Probably in 36 hours’ time, as your deadline comes closer and more difficult to avoid, you won’t be feeling the same way about your assignment and it will suddenly become your number one priority (very likely over basic needs such as eating or sleeping when you arrive to the twilight zone called ‘the night before’).
Not everybody is as bad at estimating the real value of their time but this is painfully true for many of us when faced with unattractive tasks such as coursework, cleaning or sorting out paperwork and, what is worse, this malady can become chronic. Research has shown that the whole idea of working better under pressure is more of a myth than a reality and the levels of stress you reach prior to completing the task and the high dissatisfaction rates after finishing it at the last minute make procrastinating a very bad choice.
So do you think you are a slacker?
Luckily there are ways to fight procrastination and strategies you can use to finish those tedious tasks on time and as stress-free as possible. The guys of asapSCIENCE have some very interesting advice on exactly how to do this and if you like it you can also watch some of their “sciency” (sometimes bizarre) videos on their youtube channel.
- Procrastinate (v): to put off or defer (an action) until a later time; to delay.
- Distorted- from the verb ‘distort’: contort; deform a shape or sound or, in the case of something more abstract as for example a fact or motive, to alter or misrepresent.
- Reward (n): profit, satisfaction we get from doing or achieving something.
- Slacker (n): a person who evades work or duty.
- Twilight zone: a situation or conceptual area that is characterized by being undefined, intermediate, or mysterious. The hours previous to an important deadline are definitely a scary time.