The Procrastination Equation

Everything you wanted to know about procrastination but put off finding out.

How to Become a Procrastinator

In Ten Easy Steps

Efforts to increase procrastination have been a resounding success! In the 1970s, only about 5% of the population thought themselves as chronic procrastinators, while today over 25% place themselves in that category. However, there are a stubborn 5% of people who say they procrastinate very rarely or not at all. If you find yourself aberrantly efficient, don’t feel left out. Here is a top ten list to help you put off until tomorrow what you should be doing today.

  1. Choose occupations or work you hate. There are a lot of options out there and there is bound to be something you despise. For example, if you are a social person and like variety, try working in isolation or exercising alone. You will detest your tasks in no time.

  • Be excessively pessimistic. If while pursuing your goals, you experience a setback, get sick or miss a few days, make sure to blow it out of all proportion and use it to criticize your self-worth. Repeatedly, tell yourself you can’t do it. If you reach a temporary plateau in progress, make sure to visualize it being permanent. Believing that your goals are impossible ensures your motivation ebbs.

  • Be excessively optimistic. It will all work out! Don’t worry about details as there will be plenty of time to address them later. Actually, we are mentally constructed to underestimate the time tasks take, but if you want to become a procrastinator you might as well encourage this mental bias. By the time the final minute arrives, you’ll find there is actually far less time than that.

  • Surround yourself with distractions. The easier it is to indulge in a distraction, the more likely you will procrastinate. Consequently, if you are working on the computer, keep your social website open and accessible. If you are dieting, your freezer and pantry should be full of all that you are trying to cut down. Better yet, keep big bowlfuls of candy immediately in front of you and a bag of chips by your side.

  • Maintain mystery. It is easier to do everything once we have a routine, from brushing our teeth to paying the bills. To prevent this, keep when and where you do your work unpredictable. Instead of habit, it should always be a question of conscious choice. Never work in the same place twice!

  •  Do it all with willpower. Willpower is a renewable but limited resource. The more you make use of it, the sooner it depletes. If you rely on your willpower all the time, sooner or later it will exhaust, you are going to give in to a distraction and you will find yourself procrastinating.

  •  Repression. If you find yourself bothered by a distracting temptation, just decide never to think of it again. Funny thing, by trying to block something from your thoughts, you ensure that you think of it again and again. For example, just try to purposefully forget this factoid.

  •  Promise yourself “Just this once”: If you want to give into a distraction and put your best intentions aside, simply justify it after the fact! There are load of excuses to draw upon, most of which have the handy feature of being re-useable. Here’s one excuse you should have available at all times; repeat after me, “Just this once.”

  •  Tell everyone what your goal is in the vaguest terms: We gain satisfaction from communicating our intentions but this reduces our motivation to pursue them. This is especially effective if you couch your goals in vague terms that leave you unaccountable. You want to talk about being more successful and getting more done, not about specific and verifiable steps or tasks.

  •  Don’t read The Procrastination Equation. Really, don’t even look at this book. It is based on the best battle-tested and scientifically proven techniques that reduce and even eliminate procrastination, with several that are immediately effective. Worst of all, it is an engaging fast-paced read; if you pick it up, you just end up reading it cover-to-cover.
  • Want to learn more about yourself? Take one of our online surveys on different aspects of your pesronality and get immediate feedback about yourself.

    Piers Steel has a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and is a professor of procrastination at the University of Calgary.

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