Solving the procrastination puzzle

Reading time: About 3 minutes

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a book about procrastination by Tim Pychyl…

I haven’t yet read The Procrastination Puzzle by psychology professor Tim Pychyl  but I’ve put it at the top of my list after learning about the book on a blog by Chris Bailey.

Chris does an excellent job of summarizing Pychyl’s approach in his post headlined Here’s Why You Procrastinate and 10 Tactics That Will Help You Stop. My favourite tactic? Limit how much time you spend on something. It sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. In fact, I’m constantly telling thesis writers they should be spending less time on their thesis and more time having fun.

Here’s another tip that resonated with me: One of Pychyl’s studies found that people spend 47% of their time online procrastinating. Here is what Pychyl says about that:

There is little doubt that our best tools for productivity–computer technologies–are potentially also one of our greatest time wasters. To stay really connected to our goal …we need to disconnect from potential distractions like social-networking tools. This means that we should not have Facebook, Twitter, email, or whatever your favorite suite of tools is running in the background on your computer or smartphone while you are working. Shut them off.

I also learned something new from this blog post. We should become better friends with our future selves — who are more likely to be interested in success rather than simply having fun now. This will help us succeed in finishing tasks that we might otherwise delay. To accomplish this, a free service called FutureMe.org allows participants to send emails to themselves — with instructions, pep talks or just check-ins — at a future date they specify.

I think I’m going to go send myself an email right now.