How to defeat the procrastination: scientific approach

How to defeat the procrastination: scientific approach

With procrastination, or constant delaying affairs for later, psychologists and neurobiologists have long been fighting. Luke Muehlhauser, Executive Director of the Institute for Study of Machine Intelligence, tells how to solve the problem with the help of a scientific approach.

How to defeat the procrastination: scientific approach

Luke Melhauser Executive Director of the Institute for Study of Machine Intelligence. Leads a blog about rationality and personal efficiency.

If you think in the spirit of rationalism, then you will probably want to solve the problem of procrastination by the power of the mind from scratch. But sometimes it is much more efficient to proceed with the structuring of all the scientific knowledge that we have on this issue, as is done in classical research.

Today I will try to cope with the procrastination, summing up everything that is known about her and how to overcome her.

I’ll start with three characteristic sketches.

Eddie attended sales seminars, read all the books, spoke all motivating affirmations in the morning in the morning in front of the mirror. But he still did not sell anything. The refusals that followed one by one completely demoralized it. He is cleaned on the desktop, views the Internet and does not begin to call customers until the working day ends.

Three houses from Eddie lives Valerie. She opened Word and stares at an empty document. Her task is to write an essay about municipal policy until tomorrow is a breathtakingly boring. She decides that she needs a break: she writes messages to friends, watches the series … and understands that she has even less motivation than it was. At 10 o’clock in the evening, she plunges into work, but the result reflects the time spent: her essay is terrible.

The one who lives a floor below has moved on. He issued a visa, bought tickets for an airplane, took a mark in the vacation schedule and is ready to rest in the Dominican Republic. True, he still needs to book a hotel room, but this can be done at any time. Tom first transferred the task for a week, because he had many more urgent matters, and then completely forgot about her. Packing things, he remembered that he did not booked the number, but all the places near the beach were already busy. Upon arrival, Tom received a room in the building on the 10th coastline, decorated with dead mosquitoes.

Eddie, Valerie and Tom suffer from procrastination. But differently.

Eddie has underestimated the level of expectations, he is only tuned to defeat. Eddie is not awaiting success from the new series of cold calls. According to the results of 39 studies of procrastination, the low level of expectations is the main reason for postponing cases. You question your ability to lose weight with a diet;You do not believe that you will get a job;You really need to go for a walk, meet girls more often and learn to flirt, but you are not waiting for anything but failures, so you put off actions. You are taught to be unhappy.

Valerie’s problem is in a task that has no value for her. We all delay what we don’t like. It is easy to meet friends and skip a couple of cups or open a video game – it is more difficult to fill out a tax return. And this obvious fact is confirmed by numerous studies.

We put off for later what we do not love.

But the strongest factor that triggers procrastination is the problem of volume. This is impulsiveness. It would be easier for him to book a number in advance, but he was distracted by more important and interesting things and did not recall the need to book a number until the last minute, when he found himself before a very modest choice of places in the hotel. Dozens of studies have proved that procrastination is closely related to impulsiveness.

Impulsiveness belongs to a more voluminous component of procrastination – time. The influence of the event on our decisions the less, the farther it is in time. Future awards motivate much less than immediate incentives. Temporary delays especially affect impulsive people.

Expectations, value, delay and impulsiveness are four main components of procrastination. PierS Steel, a leading researcher of procrastination, explains: “Reduce the size of the award or doubt that it will be – that is, reduce the value and expectations – and you are unlikely to make efforts. Set aside the award for the task or

You may think that this is not subject to you, but the researchers have found several useful methods to achieve each goal.

Most of the tips presented below were taken from the best of the existing books about the procrastination – the “Exploration Equation” of the Steel Pierce. It explains these and many other methods in more detail.

Optimize optimism

If you do not believe that you will succeed, then there will be no motivation to complete the task. Everyone heard advice: “Thoughts are positive!” But how to do that? To date, researchers have identified three main techniques to increase optimism: a spiral of success, a replacement victory, a mental comparison.

Success spiral. One of the ways to recharge with optimism is to use a success spiral. When you reach one difficult goal after another, you get confirmation of your ability to succeed. Put a series of significant, complex, but achievable goals and achieve them in turn! Set yourself for success, doing what you do perfectly so that your confidence holds on a high level.

Style recommends setting a goal to learn newly or devote time to the process, and not get the result. The goal of “developing your abilities” is preferable than the goal of “win” or “get the highest assessment”.

Extreme sports and adventures are best for training a spiral of success: rafting, climbing, hiking. Determine something new. For example, learn to cook. Or start to engage in karate. Take more responsibilities at work, include social activities. Go to the next level in your favorite hobby. The main thing is to reach one goal after another and think about your success. Your brain will reward you: you will tune in to win, which means that you can cope with the procrastination.

Office Victory. Pessimism and optimism contagious. Wherever you are, you have the opportunity to access communities that simply radiate positive. Visit 5-10 such associations to join the best of them. May you first help you believe in victory, and then you will achieve your.

You can also expand the boundaries of optimism by watching inspiring films, reading inspirations of biographies or listening to motivating lectures.

Mental comparison. Many popular self -development books propose to use creative visualization, practice of regular and lively representation of what you want to achieve: machine, career, achievements. To surprise, studies show that this method can destroy your motivation.

And so that this does not happen, use the reception of a mental comparison. After they imagined what you want to achieve, mentally contrast it with what you have now. Imagine your old, terrible car and your small bank account. This will help to relate to the current state of affairs as a hindrance that should be eliminated in order to fulfill your dreams, will give a sharp start to planning and execution.

It should be noted that an excess of optimism can also be a problem, although less common. Determine why you put things off for later, make a backup plan in case of failure and use the methods described in this article to succeed in the fight against procrastination.

Increase the cost

It is difficult to be motivated for a business that has no value for you, or, worse, completely unpleasant. Good news: value is to some extent relative and can be designed. Plasticity of value is a well -studied area that psychophysics deals with. Researchers give some tips on how to add values to tasks.

Flow. If the task, the fulfillment of which you avoid, is boring, try to make it more complicated so that its level corresponds to your skills. This will help you go into a stream state. This was done by the heroes of the film “Super Police” – they invented strange games and tasks to force themselves to make their boring work. Myrtle Young, for example, figured out how to make her work at a factory for the production of potato chips more exciting: she is looking for in the tubers the features of similarities with celebrities before sending them to a conveyor tape.

Meaning. The search for value helps to make sure that the tasks facing you are related to the business that you love just like that, even if the connection is mediated. For example, imagine such a chain: you read the book, it means you will pass the test, then, perfectly finish your account, get a job and build a career of your dreams.

Energy. It is obvious that the tasks are more difficult if you do not have enough energy. Get down to business when you are in full combat readiness. Energy reserves depend on your daily biorhythms, but most people are at the peak of activity a few hours after awakening. The productive period of about four hours lasts. Of course, for this you need to sleep enough and regularly play sports.

Such life hacks also work:

  • Drink more water;
  • use less flour;
  • Use pharmaceutical drugs (strictly as prescribed by a doctor);
  • once a week, arrange a short intensive training;
  • If you feel fatigue, wash yourself with cold water, take a shower, make a series of jumps or go to the run;
  • Listen to music that cheers up;
  • Remember order in your life, because any mess emits your brain, prevents it from functioning throughout the day.


An obvious way to add values to the task is to reward yourself for its implementation. Bitter drugs should be consumed with sugar. Combine long -term benefits with short -term pleasure. Find yourself a work partner you like to communicate with.

For each step, use the methods described above (set goals, block distracting factors, use a success spiral).

Attention! Do not try to be perfect. Do not try to completely get rid of procrastination. Be real. Excess self -control can make you unhappy, so it is important to observe the balance.

Now you have all the tools to defeat the procrastination. Determine which part of the equation requires an application of efforts from you, highlight the methods that are most suitable for you. Become faster, better, stronger!

And read more about the equation of procrastination.

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