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Ask Mr. Manners

Procrastinate no more

I am usually a highly productive person, both at work and at home. I usually don’t mind the clock on my iPhone because there’s no time to look at it. But, alas, I am also an excellent procrastinator. My to-do list is always dozens of notes tucked away in an app that if you were to check my phone use history ranks among the most used — always running silently in the background. Coupling my short lived attention span with my ADHD, I am constantly jumping from one thing to another. That is probably why it is no surprise that while writing this article I am shopping at Banana Republic online, perusing Delta for flights, casually checking work emails, and glaring at my phone waiting for my wonderful boyfriend to text me that he has finished work and awaits my company.

I’ve got great excuses, mind you. The best is that I work best under pressure. Unfortunately the research I just tried to Google in an effort to validate that statement doesn’t support me in the slightest. Studies from the University of Calgary reveal that 54 percent of procrastinators are men, and those guys tend to be poorer, less healthy and less content than men who don’t procrastinate. I don’t feel any of those effects in the immediate term, however I am not one to wait around and see what comes of it.

Reams of research have determined that we (gay men among the leaders of the pack) are programmed to prefer quicker, smaller rewards to larger, more delayed prizes. That’s why, most of us, can’t resist a dessert, that final drink offered by friend — or the allure of a shiny new “toy” — and in the process miss out on the chance to own a home near the beach. Research also deems that it is the reasoning behind so many failed New Year’s resolutions.

I am not one to put all my stock into one piece of scientific research; I tend to prefer multiple opinions. However, if you are one (like myself) who finds himself succumbing to bouts of procrastination and would like to break the cycle, here is the best “prescription” for building a strategy to bet back on the productive course:

  1. See the Slack: People who wish to break a habit have to first recognize that they are doing it. This principle readily applies to procrastination; you have recognized you are wasting time you don’t have before you are ready to break the cycle.
  2. Don’t wait to be Inspired: Inertia is stronger than inspiration — from any source. Our motivational state will rarely match the task before us; you don’t look at an obstacle that exists and just readily expect to tackle it, there is always that need to push yourself in the direction to start. The overall lesson here is that it’s not about how you feel, it’s just about getting started.
  3. Don’t Wait! Period. Don’t think about starting your task, just start! You’ll be in the groove in no time at all. According to one study, “Attitude follows behavior, not vice versa.” It’s really magical.

So, it’s time to close our web browsers, set that phone to “airplane mode,” and dive into the tons of tasks that await us all. Whether it be a gym goal, a work project, a personal dream, it’s time to up our game and be productive. So quit reading about my habits of “multitasking” and delaying what’s before me, and get out there to accomplish the items staring at you from the to-do list on your notes app.

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Brock Kannan

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