So does leaving things till the last minute ever pay off, or do procrastinators inevitably pay a price for their delay? One recent North American survey found that individuals who leave the preparation of tax returns to the last moment make errors costing them $400 per return on average. … Students who scored low on the procrastination questionnaire and who worked at a steady pace tended to fare well academically, with an average grade of 3.6 out of 4. Not so those who scored high on the questionnaire, whose grade average was just 2.9. …
Since the late 1990s [Piers] Steel has spent countless hours poring over the results of 553 studies. … So what did he find? First, some people are more at risk of procrastination than others. Men postpone things slightly more than women, and the young tend to loiter over tasks considerably more than seniors do. … Surprisingly, there was no evidence that rebelliousness, neuroticism or perfectionism caused people to put things off. … There were, however, four factors that stood out as the most strongly linked with procrastination: how confident a person is of completing a particular task successfully; how easily distracted an individual is; how boring or unpleasant the task is; and how immediate the reward for completion will be. The more uncertain of success or easily sidetracked you are, the more likely it is that you will put off an assignment or chore. Conversely, the more pleasant the task and the more immediate its payback, the greater the chance you will get on with it quickly. …
Strategies to help us do away with delay:
- Make a firm commitment to your boss or partner to finish a task by a certain time. This will make delays more embarrassing and difficult to cover up
- Strip your workspace of all distractions, from your iPhone to your Xbox. Then turn off the "ding" on your email. "We have all these temptations," says Steel. "We’ve made our world motivationally toxic."
- Many people say that they put things off because they are too tired to deal with them, so get a good night’s sleep and try tackling the most unpleasant and difficult tasks early in the day.
- Set a series of realistic goals. Some counsellors and therapists recommend drawing up weekly, daily or even hourly goals. The more readily sidetracked you are, the more you need to divide your main task into smaller chunks.
- Promise yourself a reward for each goal that you meet.
- Believe in yourself. "The old saying is true," says Steel. "Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are probably right."
- Outsource your motivation. Get someone else to regularly goad you into action.