Charles says: Nowadays there are more distractions than ever before. It has become increasingly tough to stay focused on professional and personal projects and complete them within a structured timeframe. This BBC article talks about strategy for the problem dubbed “the action of ruining your life for no apparent reason.”
Putting play before work may seem irresponsible, but experts argue that this counterintuitive move might actually make you more productive in the long run.
One 2013 study found that the worst procrastination offenders tend to have lower salaries, shorter employment and higher jobless rates. It’s not even fun: as everyone knows intuitively already, procrastinators tend to be more stressed overall, and there’s some evidence that the habit could even make you ill.
Enter ‘unscheduling’: an upside-down approach to help chronic postponers get their lives back on track. Like most time-planning methods, the technique involves creating a weekly schedule that blocks out specific time periods for particular tasks. The twist is that rather than making a plan for the work that you have to do, you do the opposite: schedule in activities that you would like to do, such as meeting a friend for dinner, as well as activities that are necessary for keeping yourself happy and in working condition, such as going for a run and getting enough sleep each night. Finally, you add in whatever you have already committed to, such as holidays and meetings. The key is not to schedule in any plans for work whatsoever. A model unschedule will never contain the words “write book”, “finish presentation” or “revise for exam”.
The unschedule was invented by the psychologist, author and skilled procrastination-avoider Neil Fiore and published in his book, The Now Habit, in 1988. Fiore noticed something surprising. “Those of us who finished our dissertations in one to two years as opposed to three to 13 years, we were the ones who were busier in our lives.” The unschedule works because rather than peering tentatively at your diary and baulking at a sea of dull meetings, overwhelming life admin and intimidating tasks like “write a book”, instead you see a week that you can actually look forward to. It’s about control: rather than cancelling lunches and postponing gym sessions in order to devote yourself completely to a particular project, you can slot it neatly into the life that you want to lead. And with all of your leisure and commitments laid out ahead of you, it becomes clear exactly how much time you will have for work. Then all you have to do is get started.
The second part of the strategy involves understanding that procrastination is caused by fear and a lack of confidence. Once you’ve made your weekly plan, the idea is to avoid intimidating yourself with giant, scary plans like “complete tax return”. Instead, you’re asked to begin by focusing on the task in hand for just 15 minutes, because anyone can commit to that amount of time.
Write some sentences using the … words and phrases
- What’s your personal experience of procrastination?
- Does this strategy sound simple to implement?
- What is a counter intuitive study or work strategy that you use.
- Can technology be used to overcome procrastination – is technology more of a help or a hindrance?