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What Does Procrastination Do To Your Happiness?

What Does Procrastination Do To Your Happiness?

In September 2014, two British professors wanted to find out what happens when students do not hand over their assignments on time. Their study threw up an alarming surprise, which, if the students knew, would make them give up procrastination forever.

First, the professors David Arnott and Scott Dacko decided to define the procrastinators as the ones who wouldn’t submit their end-of-term tasks until the last day. Then they dipped into five years of submission data on 777 marketing students from their own Warwick Business School, and found that while each of these students had four weeks or more to hand over their assignments, only about a hundred had done so before the last day. The rest (669 of them) waited out until the last 24 hours to submit their task.

That is, 86% of them were procrastinators.

In a different study at the University of Vermont done in 1984, it was found that 46% of the students had reported they procrastinate writing academic papers. But even that figure might not the surprise all of you. Students are known to be ‘natural-born’ procrastinators to school homework across the world. Everybody knows how busy the lives of young college-goers can be. So, 86% could seem unsurprisingly normal.

The real surprise uncovered itself in the final 24 hours. As they analyzed the data, Arnott and Dacko found a disturbing pattern emerge as the last day of the submission had begun. The students taking another hour from here on started getting lower marks. It was happening by the hour. For example, someone who submitted at 3pm got lower marks than those who did at 2pm.

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It was as if every passing hour was chipping away their scores. The worse the procrastination, the worse were the marks. So clear was the pattern that those who handed in their assignments at the last minute, had the worst grades of all. In fact, these last-minute guys saw a full 5% drop in their marks over those who had checked in their tasks before the start of the last day.
Now, mind it, those five percentage points are substantial for students, because they could well translate into a half or a whole letter lower grade. A possibly ‘B’ could end up getting ‘C+’, just because they handed in their tasks late.

What Procrastination Does To Your Happiness?

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    The verdict is out: Good things don’t always come to those who… procrastinate. Procrastination takes away your happiness. It has been proven over many studies and surveys.

    Procrastination Research Group carried out a survey with over 10,000 respondents, and found that 94% of them reported that procrastination indeed does have some negative effect on their happiness.

    According to Procrastination and Science, almost 70% of the procrastinators were found to be less happy than an average person.

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    As the Warwick study showed, when the students waited until the last minute to tie up their assignments, they got the worst grades.

    Habitual procrastination could damage relationships, create an unflattering reputation of carelessness, and invite setbacks in career and work prospects. Procrastinators frequently resort to lies to reason out their delays, and are often found out, leading to disastrous consequences. And you could swear that all of that can take away a sizable bit of their happiness.

    The big culprit here is regret. It’s a story that goes around in a predictable circle: Procrastinators begin with hope, then go into anxiety, guilt and self-criticism, and end up in regret. Next project, same cycle.

    What Do You Know About Procrastination?

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      Procrastination is not taking action. It is avoiding starting something you mean to start. It is avoiding finishing something you’re supposed to finish. It is doing something else, or lots of something else, when you know you should be doing a certain important thing.

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      Experts classify it into two types – decisional (putting off taking decisions) and avoidant (putting off doing things).

      Perhaps, all of us procrastinate at some of the times. While some of us do it more, and some less, but the truth is none of us do it all of the time.

      The three main areas of our life that we procrastinate on are education, career, and health.

      1. Education: We saw in the opening paragraphs how pervasive is procrastination in the education field. For many of us, this problem can be traced back to our earliest school years when we were perhaps slow learners, and got labeled by our peers and teachers. And we carry the label long after school.
      2. Career: On the career front, most of us know at least one person who despises his current job and desperately wants to change it, but doesn’t. Like a lost soul swimming in circles in a small fish bowl, perpetually planning to dive out into bigger water, but never makes the jump. That lost soul is often the person we know the best – our own self. Are you sure that person isn’t you?
      3. Health: We’re really bad procrastinators when it comes to health. Think of the new year’s day health goals that you set for yourself and kept delaying starting out on them, year after year. Think of that regular half-hour yoga that never came around, or those eight glasses of water or those eight hours of sleep that could never become a reality. That smoking habit that you left and picked up back so many times that you feel ashamed to even whisper it.

      Why Do We Procrastinate?

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        Procrastinators have a complicated relationship with time, and often believe Time is up against them and they have outsmart it somehow. But even then, procrastination is not just an matter of time-management. Rather, it is a complex psychological problem with deep roots into self-esteem issues.

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        The main reasons that make procrastination likely are:

        1. Uninteresting: We delay doing it till eternity because we find the work utterly boring and without any fun. That comes from the human nature’s basic Pain-Pleasure Principle – we run from painful activities and go after pleasurable ones. Scientists call it task aversiveness.
        2. Impulsiveness: Procrastinators have been found to be largely impulsive too. Being impulsive, they fail to handle their goals effectively, and keep jumping from task to task leaving most of those unfinished. Some researchers even argue that procrastination is a by-product of impulsiveness, even when these two behaviors seem polar opposites (just give it a thought!).
        3. Low Confidence: We don’t feel sure of our abilities and presence that we can tackle something effectively. We don’t do things because of fear of failure or even fear of success. This is the issue of low self-esteem that is believed to be the strongest reason.
        4. Anxiety: We have often felt that when a deadline is right upon us, we end up procrastinating more. That is anxiety causing us to procrastinate. In that anxiety, we drive ourselves busy doing everything else other than the project at hand. Suddenly, our desk clutter needs to be cleared immediately, and our cars need to be taken for service.
        5. Goal Problems: When the goals are not clear, or the goals lie too far into the future, or there are no goals at all, we procrastinate.
        6. Perfectionism: People who search for perfection often end up procrastinating. Perfectionism in certain fields is demanded by default, as in competitive sports and classical music. But for most, this is a handicap that leads to an unending delay in finishing things.
        7. Heredity: Procrastination could be 46% heritable, as a study on 347 Colorado twins indicated. Which means there is half a chance that you may have got it from your parents. But remember, that’s half a chance. The rest is how your environment molded you into.
        8. Mental Illness: Procrastination has been found to occur in some serious psychological illnesses, as borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety, addiction problems, as well as in strained relationships.

        How Can We Beat Procrastination With Science?

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          1. Avoid Procrastination. This is the best method. As the professors hoped after the Warwick study that the teachers recognize the habitual procrastinators in time, and help them change their study habits. To do this, set clear goals with realistic timelines, break each goal into many sub-goals, and measure and review progress at fixed time-points.
          2. Get A Growth Mindset: This is a concept researched and presented by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” she writes. Building into yourself a growth mindset can increase your self-worth, and help take new tasks as challenges to thrive on rather than shirk from.
          3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy that centers around accepting what is outside your personal control, and committing to action that enriches your life. It has shown remarkable short-term as well as long-term effects in decreasing procrastination, especially academic procrastination. If you want to learn mindfulness quickly, here’s how: Mindfulness in 7 Steps.

          Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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          Sandip Roy

          Medical Doctor

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          Published on January 16, 2019

          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

          We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

          You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

          You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

          That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

          Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

          1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

          Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

          We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

          To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

          At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

          The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

          2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

          Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

          The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

          In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

          It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

          It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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          So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

          • Are you a great strategist?
          • Are you an effective planner?
          • Is Project Management your strength?
          • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
          • Are you the ideas person?
          • Is Implementation your strength?

          Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

          3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

          One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

          Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

          Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

          Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

          4. Take Time for Planning

          “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

          One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

          You can take the time to think about:

          • What’s the purpose of the project?
          • How Important is it?
          • When does it need to be delivered by?
          • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
          • What are the KPIs?
          • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
          • Who is working on this project?
          • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
          • What tolerances can I add in?
          • What are the review stages?
          • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

          Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

          5. Focus on Priorities

          Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

          Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

          One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

          1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
          2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
          3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
          4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

          James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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            The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

            If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

            If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

            6. Take Time Out

            To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

            If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

            Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

            In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

            Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

            7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

            Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

            I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

            Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

            If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

            8. Stop Multitasking

            Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

            So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

            When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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            If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

            9. Work in Blocks of Time

            To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

            I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

            Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

            Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

            Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

            Then take another 10-minute break.

            Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

            By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

            10. Get Rid of Distractions

            Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

            “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

            Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

            If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

            11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

            You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

            Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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            Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

            12. Take a Time Audit

            Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

            Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

            You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

            Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

            Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

            At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

            If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

            13. Protect Your Confidence

            It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

            When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

            Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

            When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

            Final Words

            A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

            The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

            If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

            Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

            Reference

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