Psychological knowledge of practice

I am a conscience person. If I buy fresh bread but there is still some stale bread in the house, I eat stale bread first before treating myself to fresh bread.

I sometimes feel the same way with work tasks: If I decide to “finish a task” first, I often feel like taking on another task. During my studies, when I had to prepare for exams, I had a burning desire to repaint flowers. I don’t like redrawing flowers at all! Once the exam was over, it never occurred to me to put the flowers back in.

I noticed at one point that I only eat stale bread this way, because most of the time fresh bread was a day old before I cut it. In the same way, when I conscientiously complete the first task, the second often seems like stale bread and the allure which was to me has flown away. And if I don’t outgrow myself, my poor plants will still live in very small pots.

What saved my innocent flowers? I used to repaint myself with flowers to learn rewarded. I first studied for half a day, then got soil and utensils during lunch break. At the end of the day I prepared the first bucket, the next the next day, and so on. In the end I had prepared for the exam and prepared the flowers. I did nothing but craving for the mission in reality not It was my turn to use it, and things really took off.

Organized procrastination

This type of self-deception is similar to what’s known as “organized procrastination.” Procrastination is the behavior of putting off an important activity until the last minute and then doing it with very limited resources when you can’t avoid the task at all. The classic example is the completion of the thesis the night before the deadline. The problem, of course, is that performance is still well below its potential.

Instead, John Perry (a professor of philosophy at Stanford University) described a strategy in which procrastinators are still productive. Organized procrastination is when you procrastinate on important tasks but do a lot of other useful activities at the same time. In this way, procrastination can sometimes be more productive than consciously working through the activities being done: while the actual task suffers a little, you are very productive ‘on the side’. I suspect that especially talented procrastinators have thriving gardens in heaven – unless gardening is their top priority.

Berry recommends that an intelligent and organized procrastinator make a list of activities, with the most important being at the top and gradually decreasing in importance and urgency. For procrastinators, the top priority is like a red cloth for a Taurus. But if, instead of sharpening your pencils, sorting by book base color, or alphabetizing your collection of records, you can just channel your energies into one of the next activities on the list, you can be very effective! Perry admits that the first task can suffer from not being completed (on time). Therefore, tasks are particularly suitable whose deadlines seem strict and unalterable at first glance, but are not as important or urgent as they seem. If at the moment such a task is postponed and one intensively “distracts” oneself with another important task, then the first task can become attractive again. Especially when a new, more important and urgent task appears on the list, the first task in the original suddenly reveals its allure for organized procrastinators.

Stall in bite size

Berry’s ideas have unfortunately not been (as far as I know) experimentally tested – except by me! Strictly speaking, I developed his strategy further, because I no longer put flowers first and then prepare for the test, but instead discontinued preparation for the important test with a less important task. I like to call this strategy “partial procrastination” and would love to get rich and famous for it. The difference between classic or systematic procrastination and procrastination is that important tasks are not only completed at the end under time pressure and with fewer resources. When it comes to important tasks where performance can’t be affected, the trick is to enjoy the interruptions as a peak, not as a day’s work. A change from what you find irresistible at the moment should be refreshing and last like a good break or a relaxing evening after work. So take smart breaks and do what you suddenly feel like doing. Just be sure to break things down into nice little work packages and consciously enjoy it as a break.

When do you procrastinate?

What you need to be able to do in order to have organized or micro-procrastination is to distinguish between tasks that are really important and those that could use a little bit of procrastination. If the first task is one of not procrastinating and not delegating, then procrastinating little by little is like a respite. The beauty of bite-size procrastination is that you don’t even have to do an activity at the top of your to-do list. You can confidently do exactly what makes you want to.

But if the first task is not more important than the second, then you can procrastinate in an orderly way: simply flip the tasks! If possible, put off the deadline, get help with the first task to get it done well at the last minute, delegate it or don’t do it 100%! Instead, use the momentum and vitality that is pulling you into the second task at this very moment. But beware! With organized procrastination, you have to realize if the replacement task really occupies one of the highest points on the to-do list, or else you will end up in real procrastination, and aside from sharpened pens and a well-categorized set of records, you just don’t. She has a lot to show in the end.

Where possible, I think bread should be eaten fresh. If that stale bread really needs you to eat it, enjoy it! Mixed with fresh bread pieces it becomes lighter. And if not: feel free to slice up fresh bread! Simply make dumplings from stale bread or toss them as Hawaiian bread later.


Publications: Berry, c. (1996). How to procrastinate and still get things done. http://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-ProcrastinateStill/93959

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