We’re all busy, there’s no denying that. At a certain point, our agenda becomes burdened with appointments, work and tasks we need to complete in order for us to move forward and tackle the next thing. As obligations pile up, the more likely we are to push them aside, which explains why many succumb to the stressful but quick-fix solution of procrastination.
From stressed-out college students to overwhelmed parents, the list of must-dos can seem daunting and often pushes people to their time-managing limits, hence where procrastination comes in. It’s a trait that has intrigued researchers for many years, leading them to discover that the way people manage their procrastination varies greatly from occasional to chronic procrastinators. Although most people fall somewhere on this broad spectrum, the consequences run high for all. Psychologists and researchers alike have turned to a particular group of people who are high-functioning and self-aware individuals: millionaires.
Author and researcher of self-made millionaires Thomas Corley has outlined traits that wealthy individuals all seem to possess, and none of them included the daily decision to put things off. Similar to what Napoleon Hill found in 1937 when he documented that millionaires all encompassed the trait of quick decision making, Corley has found supporting evidence of this in the new millennium.
In Corley’s 5 year study of millionaires, he found that 91% of them were the final decision makers at their jobs and were very adept to making quick decisions when needed. In other words, they were so engaged in their roles that they could not, and wouldn’t want to, procrastinate. Although their climb to success took an average of 32 years, the traits they all embodied were present from the early beginning.
Millionaires were aware that procrastinating was not just detrimental to their work, it could have harrowing effects on their physical health; from indigestion to heart disease, procrastination has been proven to wreak havoc on our bodies. 44% woke up at least three hours before their workday began, 76% of millionaires polled reportedly exercised at least four days a week, and 67% of millionaires reported to watch less than an hour of TV a day. Even with working close to an average of 60 hours, they made time in their busy schedules and did not postpone the activities that not only bettered their productivity, but also enabled them to work more efficiently.
If millionaires are put as the guideline for success, then it is imperative that should success be an achievement one is aiming for, procrastination needs to be one of the first things to go. By making prompt decisions – what to do first, how soon it needs to be done, and so on – then we are able to stay motivated and well immersed in our tasks. Corley summarized that for us to be engaged in our tasks, we need to like the things we are doing. Another study found supporting evidence that people procrastinate the things they find tedious and boring. By procrastinating, we are attempting to trick ourselves into thinking that although we may not want to do something in this moment, our feelings towards the activity might change in the future, and this is simply not the case; if we do not like the activity or task now, we most likely won't like it in a couple of hours, days, or weeks either.
There may be a cure for all of this, and it’s called “pre-crastination.” A study done by researchers at Pennsylvania State University provided evidence to show that people were more willing to complete tasks quickly when broken down into smaller tasks. By tackling one part at a time, people felt “a sense of accomplishment” and were able to get one step “closer to the final goal.”
(At this point, I decided to procrastinate by going out to buy a bag of chips and then to munch on them while listen to the new Beyoncé album.)
Corley’s latest book is focused on the topic of habit formation and how daily growth, focus, and persistence can help you change your own habits, especially those of a procrastinator. Corley concluded that “habits dictate how successful or unsuccessful you will be in your life…There is a cause and effect associated with habits. Habits are the cause of wealth, poverty, happiness, sadness, stress, good relationships, bad relationships, good health, or bad health."
To change from a mindset of a procrastinator, breaking tasks up in organized to-do lists with firm deadlines will not only help us see the tasks more clearly, but will add as a “cumulative effect” on our own personal success to the point where our new habits will be performed without us thinking about them. In addition, when we find the task enjoyable as opposed to burdensome, it is much more likely to be done quicker, so choose what tasks make you happy and implement as many of those in your life as possible. This can be anything from a job to where you grocery shop, but any and all tasks that are deemed as tedious can be molded into something new with just a few tweaks.
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