Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Procrastinating 101--Still Procrastinating

Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It DoneFor the next several weeks, I will be devoting this Tuesday Procrastinating 101 feature to learning from Joseph R. Ferrari's new book, Still Procrastinating?  The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done.  One of the heavies in the field of procrastination research, Dr. Ferrari 
is a distinguished professor of psychology at DePaul University and the American Psychological Association's main resource on procrastination.  [He] has been featured on ABC News and Good Morning America as well as on NPR, BBC, CBS, and NBC radio.  He has been interviewed in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Crain's New York Business, Redbook, Parenting, Good Housekeeping, Elle, Vogue, Money, Men's Health, Scientific American, and Psychology Today.
He is also good buds with Dr. Timothy Pychyl, another procrastination researcher whose work I have mentioned in this blog, and creator of the website, which ambitiously "indexes all current and past scholarship and information on procrastination."  In his Psychology Today blog Don't Delay, Pychyl wrote that "Joe [Ferrari] has published more research about procrastination than anyone else in the world."  His foreword to Dr. Ferrari's book provides a strong endorsement of its contribution.
A frequently cited quote from Dr. Ferrari tells us that

Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.
As someone who has wrestled with this entrenched difficulty for years, and who has purchased every conceivable type of weekly planner to little or no avail, I can attest to that.

In his book's introduction, Dr. Ferrari makes the case that, in a universe where his Google search turned up 2,370 hits for procrastination in book titles, there is still room, and need, for his.  He modestly reminds us of his stature in a field he has labored in for over twenty years.  And he promises to go beyond "time-management or quickie solutions."  He holds that his research-based approach, and the knowledge it provides, will help the reader stop procrastinating.  Once and for all.

To figure out whether or not one is a "chronic procrastinator," and thus part of Ferrari's intended audience, he offers the following--with the disclaimers that it is not a "personal inventory," a "pop psychology 'personality test,'" or a "diagnostic tool."  He refers to the statements below as a profile, against which we can consider ourselves.

  • I am regularly late for meetings and appointments.
  • I feel uncomfortable saying no to others when I'm asked to do something.
  • I wait to meet deadlines until the last minute, because I get a kick out of beating the clock.
  • I have lots of clutter around me and tend to be disorganized at work, at home, and in my life in general.
  • It really is not my fault that I start and finish projects at the last minute, if at all; other people and other tasks that I have to do get in the way.
  • I find it so hard to make decisions; I'm not a good decision maker.
  • I know what I should be doing to meet deadlines, but I simply don't do it.
  • It is so hard for me to just get started or to do more than one task at a time.  It's easier if I don't even begin.
  • I don't seem to be able to gauge how much time I'll need to get tasks done; I underestimate or overestimate what is necessary.
  • It is difficult for me to organize things and then to get started, so I simply don't do it.
  • I tend to focus on short-term, immediate pleasures, and I really don't think of or consider the long-term positive outcomes that would result from getting my tasks done.
  • People know that I'm usually late in whatever I do (from purchasing gifts to getting sport or concert tickets).  They know that I work hard and this is why I can't be punctual.  If others pressure me to get tasks done by a certain deadline, I react by taking my time--they don't have the right to tell me when to do something!
  • Life is short; I want to enjoy it now.
So mostly, yes, I seem to fit the profile.  Next week, we'll find out what kind of company I'm in.

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