I will launch the product, but I need a good logo first...
I can't publish my book yet, there are so many things I want to change...
I'm going to start selling my e-course, but first I need the perfect design..
Do you ever catch yourself saying this? Putting off a project because you feel like so many things are missing?
You're not alone.
According to Joe Ferrari Ph.D., professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, every person tends to procrastinate. In fact, as many as 20% of the population is a chronic procrastinator. They procrastinate in all areas of their life: work, school, home, relationships and even leisure time.
This number is higher than depression, phobia or substance abuse, and it's a global phenomenon: it's 20% not just in the US, but in most countries, regardless of the age, gender or the language we speak.
Yet, we tend to think of it as a light topic.
There can be a number of reasons behind procrastination. It can come from a fear of failure: "What if nobody will like my product? What if people will think I'm a fraud? What if it won't sell? If I don't finish it, people can't judge my skills".
But, it can also come from a fear of success: "What if they will like my product and want more from me? Can I live up to that?"
As Joe Ferrari says, even though these statements sound very logical, they're all just excuses. Procrastinators are the best excuse makers.
There are plenty of misconceptions about procrastination. One of the most common ones is to think that procrastination is the same as laziness.
People tend to think procrastinators lack the effort to get work done, which paints them in an even more negative light than if they were accused for lacking ability.
For this reason, a motivating "just do it" coming from a non-procrastinator is just as useless than saying "cheer up" to a chronically depressed person.
Joe Ferrari has spent most of his life researching procrastination and he came across many false mindsets that go counter to what the scientific data shows.
That's why in 2010 he published his book Still Procrastinating?: The No Regrets Guide to Getting it Done. We were fortunate enough to chat with him over Skype where he shared the biggest procrastination myths with us.
Your smartphone won't stop beeping and flashing until you check who posted that cat video on your wall.
We often think that the internet has too high a distraction factor that keeps us from focusing on the things we need to get done.
But is it really a 21st century problem?
Ferrari reminded us of the snooze button, everyone's favorite "just 5 more minutes" tool, that was first used back in 1956. The snooze button is basically the first technology for procrastination: "My day can start a few minutes later if I press this button"
Another example is the phone which made it unnecessary for people to dress up, sit into their car and go visit their neighbors if they needed something.
Procrastination is not a new phenomenon. Joe Ferrari's first study on the prevalence was in 1996 in which he already found that at least 20% of the population is a chronic procrastinator. This number is just as high as it is today.
The takeaway here? Blaming procrastination on today's tools doesn't help you solve your rampant procrastination.
The world is changing faster than ever before and we love to think we're victims because of this. There's simply too much going on. We're just too busy!
Ferrari thinks this is a massive insult to our ancestors.
Their lives were just as busy as ours. In fact, that they had to deal with every day things such as hand-washing their laundry or plowing the field without any automation. A modern man in the 21st century never spend time on these things throughout his life.
Ferrari doesn't believe in time management. As he pointed out: There has and will always be 168 hours in a week. Not a minute more, not a minute less.
You can't manage time. There will always be 168 hours in a week whatever you do. What you can manage is yourself.
Blaming the busy 21st century is just another excuse to procrastinate.
It's pretty clear why you shouldn't miss deadlines.
If you fail to pay our credit card bill before the deadline, you'll be charged more. If you don't finish a task on time, you might lose your job.
But what if you complete something sooner that it was due? In our culture, this behavior is never rewarded. You don't get a discount if you pay our mortgage ahead of time or finish assignments before the due date.
Our society needs to give early birds the worm again, otherwise there's always an incentive to put things off until the very last second.
We procrastinate because we're afraid to fail, to put ourselves in a bad light and humiliate ourselves.
According to Ferrari however, the question is not if we're going to fail, but when. Just accept it, we're all going to fail at something sooner or later.
But failing is not the problem. The only important thing is how you're going to pick yourself back up after you fall.
Think about it like this: your product may not have done well, but left an impact on the world just by trying something in a way no one ever did before you. If it made just one person's life a tad better, it was meaningful and worth all the effort.
Just like the phoenix dies each day to rise the next from its ashes, your failures will teach you how to learn from undesired outcomes and move forward wiser and more prepared. With this mindset, there are no failures, only learning experiences.
We're all familiar with the saying "Don't miss the forest for the trees", meaning: don't miss the big picture by spending too much time focusing on the little details.
Procrastinators should learn the exact opposite. They have no problem seeing the entire forest. This is exactly what scares them: looking at that wild jungle just overwhelms them!
Ferrari suggests that procrastinators need to re-frame their mind by focusing on one tree when getting started on a project. Or a branch. Better yet, a handful of leaves, if they're still having trouble getting to work.
Chronic procrastinators usually have a much harder time getting over their procrastination habits just by using the mindset re-frame strategy. They might need some external help to succeed.
For the remaining 80% of us however, seeing things from a different perspective can be what it takes to fix habitual procrastination.
Joe Ferrari left us with a few action steps that you can try right now.
First of all, focus on your future regret. If procrastination prevents you from doing the things you'd rather be doing, you'll regret it. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually you'll wish you had just started on your project sooner. When putting off a task, think about how much you'll regret it in the future. Do you want to be proud of yourself or live in regret?
Second, surround yourself with the right kind of people. They say you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Spend time with doers who get things done. Talk to them and ask for their advice. Model their behavior.
Ferrari's third piece of advice is accountability. Post on your social media profile that you're going to do something.
Tell your friends or audience what your goal is, and ask them to hold you accountable if you don't get it done. You're much more likely to get things done if you know that people can call you out on procrastinating.
We only had an hour with Joe Ferrari. Although we found it extremely valuable, this short hour can't compare to the decades of research and work the professor has done on the topic of procrastination.
If you feel like procrastination is one of your weaknesses, we highly recommend you check out one of Joe Ferrari's most important books on the topic: Still Procrastinating? The No-Regret Guide TO Getting It Done.
Also, we've launched a whole podcast series on the topic of entrepreneurial procrastination with the title: Your Job Is To Ship. Listen to the first episode of the series here.
Do you ever struggle with procrastination even when it comes to growing your business or achieving your dreams?
Do you have any good ways of your own to sidestep procrastination?
We'd love to see your thought, ideas and suggestions in the comments section below!
Are you interested in reading our entire conversation with Dr. Joe Ferrari, Ph.D.? Read the full transcript of our interview here:
Joseph Ferrari : Hi my name is Dr. Joseph Ferrari.
I'm a professor of psychology and St. Vincent DePaul professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Chicago Illinois in US. I am the author of quite a number of scholarly publications and lots of media interviews on procrastination, including the author of a international selling book titled Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, by John Wiley & Sons. Now the purpose I wrote this book, the purpose for writing this book was that I did so many of these interviews for so long and reporters would contact me as the expert and say you know, "This particular person came out with a book.
They say this or that. What do you think?" I'd say, "That's not what the data shows. That's not what the science tells us," and so I got tired of doing lots of that and finally decided I need to write a book that summarizes: What are the causes? What are the consequences? Everyone wants the cures but what does the science tell us are the cures for procrastination? That's my background so far.
Shane Melaugh: That's an interesting start right there because can you tell us when you say that in other books or in other writing about procrastination you often felt like this missed the mark. Can you give an example of something that maybe is a procrastination myth that people tend to believe is true but actually isn't?
Joseph Ferrari : Yes I actually was going to cover three of them. I'll also give you the ... Everybody procrastinates but not everyone is a procrastinator. What I have found, since 1980 since I have been studying this topic is 20%, 20% of adult men and women, no gender difference, are chronic procrastinators. Now that means they procrastinate at home, at school, at work, in relationships. They don't go to sporting events because they never get the ticket. They wait until the gauge goes on empty before they buy more petrol. They will get the third bill before they pay it. They'll always RSVP late. 20%, now that is higher than depression, that is higher than phobia, that is higher than substance abuse, and people take this as a humorous, funny topic. It's not. It has major implications, and before you think, "This is just a US phenomena or maybe a English-speaking country phenomenon," let me go to tell you this is true, 20% I have found in the US, in the UK, in Australia, in Canada, in Spain, Peru, Venezuela, in Italy, in Austria, in Turkey, in Israel, in even Saudi Arabia where I've been there, and now more recently in Japan, and we have another study with Korea. 20% of adults, that's very high percentage that are living this maladaptive lifestyle.
Well why? Because our cultures or at least the Western cultures, tend to make this a light topic, a frivolous topic, and people don't take this seriously. You see the procrastinators, The chronic procrastinator, would rather other people think that they lack effort then lacking ability. Effort and ability ... Let's explore that for a moment. Think about that. Now neither of those lacking either of those is not very positive image to portray but, which, if you had to give a negative image, would you rather other people think? You lacked effort, which means you didn't try but you could do something, or lacking ability, which means no matter how much you try you can't do it? You see if I never finish you can never judge my skill. If you never judge my skill, I can tell you I'm very good at this and we'll never really know because you never quite finished it.
There's a lot of myths that people tell themselves that are part of the excuse-making but I call it in my book the but however, the people engaging. If you listen to procrastinators and even those of you who are listening to this podcast who may be ... Procrastinators might say, "Well that was interesting but for me blah, blah, blah, blah. That's an interesting interview, set of interviews he's got, but however for me blah, blah, blah, blah." There's always a reason for these people.
Some of the myths that they tell them then are part of their excuse-making tendency is let's take the technology one. You'll hear from people today that they'll say, "You know technology today makes us procrastinate. There's so many demands from technology, the internet and all these other things." Well wait a minute. Wait a minute, slow down. In 2006 a reporter from Connecticut, here in the States, phones me and says, "Doctor Ferrari what do you think about the snooze button on an alarm clock." Puzzled, and I said, "Well, why are you asking me about snooze buttons?" He goes, "Because the snooze button is 50 years old now. It was first available in 1956 and that's the first technology for procrastination. It allowed you those nine extra minutes that you just keep pressing and pressing." I go, "How interesting, he's right."
Then, if you think about this even more so did the telephone allow people to procrastinate and the automobile also let people procrastinate because there was a time they had to jump in their buggy and get the buggy ready and jump in the buggy and go down visit the neighbor, down three miles away and prepare for all that. Now they can wait and crank this car automobile and go. Well, the telephone, even wait longer. There was a time they'd have to write a letter and make the person get it. Now I can just turn this knob pick up a receiver and call somebody. Technology has always been there. It's a myth to say that technology today promotes procrastination. [inaudible 00:12:28] that-
Shane Melaugh: What if we went even further back? Is the prehistoric man, did they also have 20% procrastinators?
Joseph Ferrari : We don't know. There's some people who are claiming that it's m ore prevalent now than it's been the last 20 years. My first study on the prevalence was in 1996 and I found 20% then and I find 20% now, and that's just the hype. I don't know about cavemen but I do know that procrastination ... Hamlet said, "To be or not to be." That's indecision. Do I or don't I, that's the question. I don't know. Scarlett O'Hara is famous for saying ... The last line of Gone With the Wind is not, "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn," when Rhett Butler turns and walks into the Mist. It's when Scarlet O'Hara says after that when she goes, "Wait, wait. What should I do? Where shall I go? I'll worry about that tomorrow for tomorrow is another day."
There's always been these samples, but we've just never taken this as serious as, and I'm glad we're beginning to take it more serious. Let me give you another common myth that people have, and that is that our lives are busier today, that we have so many more things today that keep us busy and we just can't juggle it all, can't do it all. When you think about that that's a pretty insulting comment. That insults our ancestors. You know there has been for centuries 168 hours, no more, no less. Take 24 hours times it by seven, you get 168. There's always been 168 hours and our ancestors had to work with 168 hours. They had to get up and plow the field make sure the roof wasn't leaking, fix the pump, get the goods canned, mend this or that, fix the fence, feed the animals. They got it done. You mean their life wasn't busy?
You see again, it's that excuse making that we're more complex today. I'm not saying we're not complex today. I'm just saying it's still 168 hours which is why you can't manage time. Research shows that time management programs don't work. Absolutely, because it's 168 hours. You can't manage time. What you manage is yourself. What you manage is how you deal with that time. See we can't control the wind but we can adjust our sails and that's what we're asked to do in life, is to adjust the sails what we do. The procrastinators problem is they think too much of themselves. "It's all about me. I don't like it. I don't enjoy it. I can't do it. I don't have the energy. I don't do this or that." Life isn't about me. Life is about we and if I don't get something done the next person can't get their thing done and if that person doesn't get their thing done, then the next person. It all snowballs. It's all interrelated.
This idea that, "I don't like it," well I'm sorry but life isn't just about you, it's about all of us. Adjust your sails. Learn to do things for the sake of others. There's an expression. "Now, if you have something to do give it to a busy person." Well think about that, that's kind of odd. Why would I give it to a busy person? They're already busy. Because the busy person recognizes that your life is busy as well as their life is busy. They value your time they value their time. They're able to get things done. Now, cultures today have lost the old proverb, "Give the early bird the worm." There's the old cliché, "The early bird gets the worm." I think we've lost that image. We've lost that notion. Today we went to cut the worm up and give it to everybody and make sure nobody's lost or offended. Give them all the same piece." Well, no. We need to reward people for doing things ahead of time.
We instead in our cultures tend to punish for being late. If you don't pay your mortgage on time you get a fine. Don't pay your credit cards, you get a fine. I don't know if there's taxes and all the listeners have government taxes but if you are taxes ... you don't pay them your fined. Wait a minute. What if I paid my mortgage for 12 months in a row ahead of time before they were due? How come when I get there new statement, it goes up? There's no, "Here's 2% off your escrow account, or something, because you saved and you gave us that money earlier." No, there's no recognition for that.
Shane Melaugh: Right, there's no cultural incentive really, too.
Joseph Ferrari : Correct, incentive right. We punished for being late. I'd like to create not punish, but incentives for doing things early. Now, do you want to hear a third myth or do you want me to move on to something else?
Shane Melaugh: I'd like to present you actually from the kind of people in our audience in my experience there are two scenarios that are very typical that I'd like to present to you and get your thoughts on. Maybe they're not the typical procrastination examples so I'd really be interested to hear your thoughts. Like I briefly mentioned before, the typical person we're looking at here is an entrepreneur, is usually a single person entrepreneur. They have a business that they want to start or that they're in the process of starting. Actually a typical example of this would be someone who decides to write a book. They're an expert at something, they decide to write a book. Part of that is writing the book and then part of that is getting to the part where you say, "Okay this is finished and I'm either going to self-publish this or I'm going to send this to publishers." Another example be maybe someone's a fitness instructor and they decide, "I'm going to do an online fitness program. I'm going to sell it online."
Again, there's the one component of actually putting together the course and putting it on a website and all that kind of stuff. Then this final step where you actually say, "Okay this is the first version of my product. This is what I'm going to start selling." That is where many, many people get stuck. They are just always, always in this almost finished mode. There's two ways in which I see this happening. One is them is that someone is putting things off with either inaction, so they just never work on that last chapter in the book let's say, or by working on unimportant stuff. They say, "Oh, I haven't finished my think-
Joseph Ferrari : Oh, I'm sorry I lost you on that.
Shane Melaugh: Oh, sorry.
Joseph Ferrari : Can you repeat that one? It gobbled up. Somehow you weren't there.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, no problem. The first way in which people fail to pull the trigger is by putting things off either with inaction or by distracting themselves with unimportant stuff, right? "Oh I have to finish my logo and my business card and so on," instead of no, finish your actual product and ship it, right? Does that ring a bell for you? Do you recognize a typical procrastination thing in this?
Joseph Ferrari : Oh yeah. I do and I have some comments on these. Let's take this single entrepreneur, has a business and maybe that business is writing a book. Now they've gotten the book and they're about to send it out to a publisher or they decide to self publish it. Why don't they take the next step? Why aren't they doing that? Maybe even putting out a version on the website? Because, "If I put it out there and it fails I look poor." There's a fear of failure and there's a fear of success that could be operating. Now these people are going to be great excuse makers whether it's writing a book or someone who had a fitness program. They will have great excuses about that. For example, the book: "What if a publisher picks it up and will they like it? Then they might want a three book contract and I don't know if I have another contract and another book and me. I'm not sure I can live up to that. What if I don't? What if the first ones sells well and that the other ones."
There's this fear of failure but also fear of success. The stakes might get harder next time. "The publisher may want this next book much faster. Oh, they put this fitness program up online and it does well, then they might want to do an infomercial on TV or oh my God. What if somebody gets hurt while they're doing my thing? Then I might get sued and I don't know if I can get sued." Again, their excuses are not silly excuses. They're analogical because procrastinators are very logical people. It's just a question of there's always an excuse. There's always a reason for not doing this.
Now you mention this inaction, not thinking doing the next thing. I just finished a paper literally today that we're going to be setting up with Tom [Tibid 00:21:50] from Texas A&M. He's a doctoral student. Tom and I looked at the role of indecision decisional procrastination indecisiveness with life satisfaction and whether regret in life mediates that. In other words, is there a relationship between being indecisive by not making the decision, by not going forward, and life satisfaction? The answer is yes. The more indecisive you are the more people report less satisfaction. This has been a study with 2,200 US citizens but rather large sample of adults. It's mediated by regret. In other words the life satisfaction really depends on areas of life where we regret. There were 12 area's domains that we study in Psychology or in life regret. Education, sports, job, leisure things, and in all of those areas people's indecision is negatively impacting on how satisfied they are with their life.
What does all that jargon mean for you, the listener? It means you're going to regret this, maybe not today maybe not tomorrow, but you will regret this. The data suggest that by not taking action you will regret it and you will think back, "Yeah I should've finished that book and sent it out. What I read in the paper obesity's just climbing in my country here. I could have helped somebody. Oh, that friend of mine died of a heart attack was overweight. If only they had a ..." There will be regret is what we're saying. Yeah I think this is a major issue for you to raise and for people to listen to.
Shane Melaugh: Is that someth-
Joseph Ferrari : You're going to have failure. Excuse me, just a second.
Shane Melaugh: Sorry.
Joseph Ferrari : People are going to fail, absolutely. It's not a question of whether you fail, it's all a question of how you get up. It's all the question of how you rise. The Phoenix, the Mystic mythical Phoenix, dies every day, crashes and burns every day. Every day, the next day, rises out of the ashes. The question is how do you rise? Look you're not alone. 20% of people are like you. That's huge. That's a lot of people. 20% of people are similar to you and so take comfort in knowing that this inaction that you're taking, this inertia, this inability to want to finish doesn't make you unique, doesn't make you weird, doesn't make you whatever negative adjective you'd like to use. It makes you very common and common globally, it seems to be.
The question is what are you going to do to leave a legacy? What are you going to do to make the world just a little better because you did something? That's what the question is. I'm all not about procrastination. I'm about prevention. What can we do to prevent problems and make the world a little better because you were there? If our life is like a grain of sand and we are just one grain in the whole Sahara Desert, how is that beach, that sand, that desert, just a tad better because you were there? That's the question. I think we need to look at it that way. Yeah of course you're going to fail. It's like car insurance and accidents. They say it's not a question of if you'll get into a car accident, it's when. We all get in [inaudible 00:25:27]. You're going to get in an accident.
A friend of mine, 70 years old, had his first accident about it was four or five months ago. He was devastated by this. I looked at it the other way. I said, "Wow you've been driving all these years and you never had an accident." The question isn't if you're going to have it an accident it's when you're going to have an accident. We all going to fail. The book may not do well but you did. You've now left a legacy. Look at it this way, listener. You have now left a product, a thing that no one has done before. You're this new entrepreneur. You've come up with something that will make life a little better, make life maybe a little easier, make life a little more interesting, challenging, whatever word and something has been different. If life is full of stepping stones maybe yours isn't going to be the one that revolutionizes everything. It's not the next best thing since sliced bread as they say, but now you've made it possible for someone else to make that loaf another way. It all adds on. I'm sorry I've been talking and not letting you ask questions.
Shane Melaugh: No problem. No problem.
Joseph Ferrari : I hope this is the kind of stuff you're looking for. Absolutely yes. Yeah, to follow up on that a little bit if I manage ... so if I have this problem, right? I'm terrified of actually pulling the trigger releasing my thing into the world. Does this reframe? Because I'm hearing two things here. I'm hearing I can remind myself that if I don't do this in the future I will regret it, and also I can reframe it and say, "Well no matter what I'm going to do this. I'm going to put this out there and it might fail but this isn't just about me. Maybe I can put this out there and help someone. Is that going to be a useful intervention for a chronic procrastinator?
Okay now we've got two groups of people here. We've got the 80% who might be delaying this book, this fitness, this new pair of shoes, new brake on automobiles, whatever. Then you've got the 20% who chronic. The 20% will at the end of this podcast say, "But however." They will say, "Well, that was interesting but," my case is to this or that. "Oh, that was interesting however." This is not going to work for them. Reframing will work if they go for cognitive behavior therapy. That 20% needs a professional to help them. I don't know about a life coach. I had to be a good clinical psychologist, a PhD, who knows cognitive because you've got to change the way you think which is the reappraising, and behavioral because you've got to change the way you act. It's the two together that they need to have.
A podcast isn't going to work. It'll be a nice start. Reading my book I think is a good start because it gives you the facts. You might not like to hear the facts [inaudible 00:28:28], but you're going to need therapy. For those people this is not going to necessarily work. For the 80%, the majority, most people, I do think the reframing is going to work. I do think focusing on possible regret and doing some [inaudible 00:28:46] work, so yes the answer is. It's more complicated than yes or no because of who we're talking about.
Shane Melaugh: Then, there's a second scenario that I see about not pulling the trigger which is slightly different which is what I call procrastination via perfectionism where someone basically says, "Oh you know the reason I haven't [crosstalk 00:29:09]."
Joseph Ferrari : That's another excuse [inaudible 00:29:10].
Shane Melaugh: "I have to make it better and I have to add a chapter."
Joseph Ferrari : It's got to be perfect.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly, it's just never finished.
Joseph Ferrari : And it's not perfect. Right and, "I don't want to put it out there if it isn't quite perfect. Until this really great because I don't want to waste people's time. I don't want it to take away." Yeah, remember the excuse-making. These are great excuses. A rose is a rose is a rose. It's still procrastination. Let me give you a study, yet again. I actually did a couple studies on procrastination and perfectionism. Let me give you the one study and then we'll take one procrastination in the workplace. The first study was looking at the motivation. I wondered what motivates the procrastinator versus what motivates the perfectionist. Long story short, what I found was for the procrastinator they're motivated by a desire to get along. The perfectionist is to get ahead.
What does that mean? In other words their perfectionist wants the best possible product that they can do while the procrastinator is trying to get along so that, "You like me." It's all very social. One we call get ahea. One we call getting along. There's sort of two different ways to frame that. Now, is procrastination and perfectionism really different? Well they're separate concepts, separate [inaudible 00:30:36], but they have a lot in common and they go together. In my 1995 book the first scholarly book in the field, I asked some authors who do work on perfectionism to write a chapter because there's a strong link.
Listeners, listen to this story and play this out with me please. I had a position one year where I worked in New York City and I was teaching business students, business majors, graduate students. I had them go out and collect data, ask people in the workplace to read a scenario and to also fill out a measure to identify themselves as procrastinators, or not. In the scenario, in the story, there was a company worker. He never got things done on time he was always working on it. Nice person but never seemed to finish. At the end of the story for one third it said, "And he called himself a procrastinator." For another third it was, "And he called himself a perfectionist." In another third no label. You've got this person as delaying, one because he's a procrastinator, one because he's a perfectionist, and one because he's just delaying.
Then I look to see the people who were judging this person in the workplace, whether they were procrastinators or not. Now here's the kicker. Here's the kicker. Here's the interesting thing. Procrastinators who read these stories were more likely to criticize, to judge, and to be harsh on the person in the story than the non procrastinators. It didn't matter if he called himself a procrastinator or a perfectionist. They wanted the person fired. They said, "The company's problems is this person's performance. This person shouldn't be allowed to do things," more than the non procrastinator. The takeaway is if you're a procrastinator and you think people in the workplace are going to be kind to you if they too are procrastinators, like maybe your boss, the answer is no, they're going to be harder on you. Even if you called yourself a perfectionist, they're not going to like you. Procrastinators don't like other procrastinators, no matter what they call themselves. That's pretty powerful.
Shane Melaugh: That's interesting. Go ahead. The perception is basically that ultimately if we read these stories we just see a procrastinator no matter. There's basically no difference in the perception between someone who's a perfectionist and someone who's a procrastinator, [inaudible 00:33:12]. The result is they don't get stuff done.
Joseph Ferrari : Yeah, exactly and if you're a nice person telling me another excuse is a perfectionist, yes. The bottom line is like you just said, I'm not getting it done. Delaying is not procrastination. Gathering facts not procrastinating. Waiting is not procrastination. When you delay and when you wait, you usually are gathering information. You're gathering facts. You're adding to your knowledge base to make an informed decision. If you've got this product and you just haven't put it online yet, you ask yourself, "Well is it because I need two more pieces of information?" Okay great then you're not procrastinating. Now the question I ask is, "You've got those two pieces of information. Why are you waiting for four more? Then another three? Then I've got to have yet another one, or maybe I've got to go back to the first two and revise them." That's procrastination.
If you're never quite getting it done, so there is a difference. Delaying is not procrastinating. I don't want your listeners, I don't want those listening to this to think, "Well, I'm procrastinating because I got 12 things to do and 10, 11 and 12 got to wait, or I'm procrastinating on 10, 11, and 12." No ask yourself, "Alright did you do one? Did you do two? Did you do three? Yeah, if you're moving down the list you're not procrastinating on 10, 11, and 12. You're prioritizing and prioritizing is good." There's some people today that are actually publicly writing books and getting interviews on what they're calling structuring their procrastination, "I've got to structure it." That's not procrastination, that's called prioritizing, and that's called being good strategy.
The procrastinator, see here's the kicker. The procrastinator reads this, hears this and says, "Ah, there's my excuse. That's what I'm doing. You see it's not so bad what everybody tells me. All I know is really that I'm structuring by delaying," well no. Stop the excuse-making. Life isn't about you. Life isn't about me. It's about we. Does that help?
Shane Melaugh: Yep. I've got two more questions.
Joseph Ferrari : Is the sound good here? Because I took the speaker in the phone I put it a little closer to my mouth. Too close too far?
Shane Melaugh: No, it sounds good, sounds good. Again if I'm having this procrastination problem, I think a typical intuitive solution. I perceive myself as a procrastinator. I perceive myself as lazy and I basically say, "Well to solve this problem I need to apply willpower right? I need to somehow apply willpower, stop being lazy and I need to strengthen my resolve. This is how I'm going to resolve this problem." What are your thoughts on this?
Joseph Ferrari : Okay two problems with what you've said. Procrastinators are not lazy, absolutely not. They're working very hard not to do what they're supposed to. These aren't lazy people. Non procrastinators might view them as that that's part of the negative image that we give them. Willpower, this is not just willpower. You also have to have the way power. One of the factors that you have to do is not only have the desire to do something, you have to have the skills. It might be the person is lacking the skills and that's not the same as procrastinating. "I'm not finishing this because I just don't know how to do this."
Like if I had a product, quite frankly I wouldn't know how ... I do not know how to download it onto the web and do all these things. You saw earlier, I am not that technically savvy. Does that mean I'm procrastinating? No. It just simply means it's not my forte. It's not my skill. I'm not losing sleep over that. I'm trying to make my life and the life of others equally important and valuable. I think the notion of calling them lazy is wrong. I think it's more than just get willpower. It's more than say just come on and do it. As I say telling a chronic procrastinator, "Just do it," would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, "Cheer up." No this is more than that. There's something more involved with that. I want listeners to realize that for 20% of people this is a very serious maladaptive lifestyle.
There was a study done in the US that showed that companies lose $10,000 US dollars a year on each employee who procrastinates. That's a lot of money. This is not just delaying. I want your listeners to realize that you're right sometimes delaying pays off in your life. You'll recall the one time, "I remember when I delayed and I didn't buy that airline ticket and it was so and lose just one time then the other way around. We need to get people to realize that this is a serious problem. We need to as cultures, begin to take it seriously. I'm not saying be firm and don't be flexible. No just don't be spineless. We need to give the early bird the worm again. We need to teach procrastinators the opposite of the old problem. Have you ever heard of the expression, "Don't miss the forest for the trees?"
Shane Melaugh: Sure.
Joseph Ferrari : Which means for some people they missed the big picture because they get so caught up with looking at the trees. That's not the procrastinator's problem. In fact, they're the opposite. They see the forest and they say, "Oh my God this is all that I have to do? You mean if I finish this fitness program and put it on the web then it's going to lead to that and oh, it's going to lead to that? Then I've got to do this? Oh this is just too much." I tell them, "Wait, not only just cut down one tree. If you can cut down one tree give me three branches. If you can't do three branches, how about a handful of leaves, but start. Do something because a body in motion stays in motion, shows physics. Once you start you're more likely to continue.
We want people to get going, not just do it. You're not lazy but reframe it as you said earlier. Think about why and yeah you're going to fail. Look, back to that perfectionism. Use the rules that clinicians like to say. Clinicians like to talk about what they call the 80% rule. I call it the 85%. In other words if you get 80% of what you were going to do done, well that's a success. That's having done it. If that's too low I stay go to 85%. If I can do 85% of the task that gets me towards putting this thing online, that allows my new product to be done, if I can in the next month do 85% not all 100% maybe, but most of it, that's a success. Would I have liked 100%? Yes, but I got most of it done towards reaching the goal. Not 50%, that's mediocrity but I'm saying do most.
The perfectionist says, "No, it's got to be 100. I didn't meet all the objectives this month so I can't go forward." Well no, you met most. I like to see people focus on what they have done, the successes rather than the failures.
Shane Melaugh: Okay.
Joseph Ferrari : Does that make sense?
Shane Melaugh: Yep. As the last question, is there ... We've talked about various problems and solutions already. Is there anything that is very practical? If someone listening to this says, "Okay I want to start doing something in my life, something simple, practical, that will help me overcome procrastination." Is there any simple intervention that you can share with us?
Joseph Ferrari : Yeah, well I hope that they take comfort in realizing that they're not alone, there's many people like them, men and women, no significant age difference [inaudible 00:41:31]. Unless you're very elderly, then it's more a developmental issue. You should also consider on taking that task and seeing, "What can I do that leads to success so that it breeds success?" Success breeds success. Surround yourself with people who are doers, people who are likely to get something done so that you now have role models and people that will carry you through, help you follow. If you're in a entrepreneur situation find somebody who did successfully launch their product, that's not exactly like yours. That's why you're coming up with something new, but similar in that same genre same area, and ask yourself, "Can I reach out to them and ask them to share some advice, to model with me? Can I shadow them? Can I work with them, so that they can help me in the day-to-day workplace?"
This works very nicely when you can say to that person, "I'll take you to lunch afterwards, let me follow you the next six weeks because you always seem to be able to get things done." What you want to do is find people that are successful and model after them. Get started. Don't focus on what hasn't been done. Look at how much you have accomplished. Public postings, you want to go back to media. We've known this technique since the 60s. It's called public posting. Now when you post something, when you tell other people, "This is something you're going to [inaudible 00:43:01] do," you're much more likely to do it. Well in this age of social media why not place something on the web, on Facebook, on whatever social media site your add. Say, "Hi friends, I'm going to do this step in the next three weeks. Hold me accountable, follow up with me."
Now you're more likely to do it once you go public. Then if you do type in a response in three weeks, "No I didn't do it because of blah blah and blah blah and blah blah?" How is that going to come back and say, "Oh come on. I've heard that one before. I've known you since you were a kid doing this and this." It's amazing among students for example how many times Grandma dies. "I couldn't do it because Grandma died," and then Grandma dies again. We need to get people, hold them accountable publicly and know their history.
All right thank you very much. That's all I have. Thank you very much for your time Dr. Ferrari.
Alexandra is a traveling marketer. When she is not editing podcast episodes or writing blog posts, she's out there exploring a new city. She's the creator of the Morning Mindset daily mindfulness journal.
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