Last week I read an AP article on procrastination, a concept with which I am more than familiar. (And boy, that’s an awkward sentence!)
According to a Canadian industrial psychologist who completed a five year study in ten years (ha!), procrastination is on the rise . . . and it makes people poorer, fatter, and unhappier.
University of Calgary professor Piers Steel wrote a thirty page study published by the American Psychological Association. In 1978, only about 5 percent of the American public thought of themselves as procrastinators. Now it’s 26 percent. Why? So many other things to do: TV, the internet, cell phones, video games, iPods, Blackberries.
He estimates that the U.S. gross national product would probably rise by fifty billion dollars if the icon and sound that notifies people of new email would just . . . disappear. “People who procrastinate tend to be less healthy, less wealthy, and less happy,” Steel said. “You can reduce it, but I don’t think you can eliminate it.”
For instance, a delay in filing taxes on average costs a person $400 a year, Steel found.
I can easily understand why procrastination results in weight gain. How many “last suppers” have you enjoyed? I’ve had more than my share, because it’s always easier to begin a healthy eating plan TOMORROW. Ditto for the exercise plan.
But I have to rise to procrastination’s defense. I don’t procrastinate when it comes to things like cleaning house, paying bills, and dealing with taxes–the sooner those things are done, the better. But when it comes to work, I’ve found the following to be true:
1) I work better under pressure. Not crushing pressure, but steady pressure. If I build in too much lead time, I’m too relaxed.
2) Sometimes the old creativity gets a workout while your brain is occupied with a procrastinating activity — an engaging game of Spider Solitare, for instance. Whenever I “hit a wall,” I put off the work and piddle with something else. When I return to work, the problem often melts away.
3) Some ideas/concepts/characters need time to ferment. I call this “back burnering.” Sometimes I know I’m onto something, but I just can’t grasp the big picture. So I set the idea aside and work on something else for as long as it takes.
So–despite Mr. Steel’s study, I would urge you to rethink the matter. Begin to eat right and pull on those sneakers and sweats, but remember that Procrastination wants to be your friend. It can charming . . . as long you don’t spend too much time in its embrace.
Speaking of TV, I’m so excited: JACK’S BACK! I love 24! Are you as hooked as I am?