Friday, August 05, 2011

How badly do you procrastinate?


Procrastination can be a real problem for me, so when I saw this ebook available from my library, I put my name on the wait list.  Amusingly, I procrastinated about getting it, moving my hold back several times because I had too many other ebooks checked out and knew I wouldn't have time to read it... and now I've procrastinated on picking the book up until just a few days before it's due.  Not much hope for me if I'm procrastinating on reading a book about fixing my procrastination, huh?

Anyway, I've only just started reading the book, but I wanted to share my results to the author's procrastination survey.  It's a 70-question multiple-choice survey, so it's a perfect distraction when you're procrastinating on getting something else done.  (Ha ha.)  There's also a shorter, Facebook-based quiz, but I took the longer survey.

Your score is 53 out of a possible 100
You're an Average Procrastinator!

You rank in the middle 50% of the population in terms of your level of procrastination. That is, when it comes to putting things off, you do so at times even though you know you shouldn't. Likely, you are about average in terms of conscientiousness and self-discipline. Probably, your work doesn't consistently engage you or perhaps you are surrounded by a few easily available and more enticing temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you possibly see a few of them as a waste of time. Though you likely still get your work done, you could probably could do it sooner and experience less stress. You may want to reduce what procrastination you do commit. If so, here are three tips that have been scientifically shown to work.

Answering the questions in the survey, I started getting the feeling like I wasn't going to rate as highly as I'd feared.  I do get frustrated at myself for procrastinating, but I also don't have terrible issues with impulse control otherwise (lots of questions in the survey ask about that), so theoretically I should be able to control my procrastination.  And while I do often leave things for the last minute, I don't do that with everything.

My test results also gave three tips for how to reduce procrastination: goal setting, stimulus control, and routines.  It says that goals should be short-term, detailed, and achievable (we all know what happens when you set general New Years resolutions!).  I don't think my problem is there, unless you count the fact that I tend to put way too many items on my to-do list every day.

The section on stimulus control advises me to have one place that I work that's free from distractions.  This is probably my biggest problem area, but the advice doesn't work for me for a couple of reasons: One, I do like a change of scenery sometimes when I work (and often find that I can jump-start my productivity halfway through the day by moving, say, to the couch), and two, my biggest distractions come with the territory.  I need the Internet for research when I work, but it also happens to be my biggest distraction!

The last section, on establishing routines, is probably also part of my problem: I don't really have one.  I definitely think having a routine is helpful as a freelancer, though.  For instance, a lot of freelancers I know start out with something easy to get warmed up — checking email, blogging, etc.  Next might come marketing, and finally some client work.  Or, as I know many freelancers do, you might jump right in by starting out your day with client work (because that's the hardest and therefore the most likely victim of procrastination).  I personally tend to follow the warm-up approach, but sometimes I find that I run out of day before I get to the things I most need to do, so perhaps I need to rethink that strategy.

The problem is that not every one of my days starts out the same way — as I mentioned in my last post, about making time for hobbies, I go to the barn a couple of mornings a week to ride.  So perhaps what I need to do is establish two different routines, one for full days and one for half days.  The half days are the ones where I'm most likely not to get anything done, so perhaps I should skip my "warm up" on those days, and go right to the more pressing tasks.  Hmm...  Food for thought!

What about you?  How do you score on the survey?  Any thoughts on the suggestions for how you can improve?  If you write about it on your blog, please feel free to include a link in the comments — I'm interested to see how my own bad habits compare with my fellow freelancers'!

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