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  • and to like going into a very cold like when you've decided you're going to go swimming in it.

  • This is how one famous writer describes procrastination.

  • You put your foot in your take it out, you put it in again and still too cold.

  • You think?

  • Am I gonna do this or not?

  • Am I really going to do this?

  • No.

  • Yes.

  • No.

  • Yes, that goes on for a while.

  • If you're going to do it, you run in screaming.

  • So says Margaret Atwood.

  • She's best known as the acclaimed author of The Handmaid's Town and has sold many millions of books.

  • But you might not know that she's also a self proclaimed world expert on procrastination.

  • Yeah, yeah, I racked up, you know, years and years of it because Margaret doesn't do anything halfway.

  • If we're gonna do something, buddies will be good at it, right?

  • I'd hate to be a failed procrastinate.

  • She can procrastinate anywhere with the greatest of use at home in a coffee shop, even up in the air.

  • I think it's always more fun to watch movies on planes than to work of film called Captain Underpants was on the menu, so I was watching Captain Underpants, which well repaid my time.

  • And then the plane landed, and I forgot that my computer was on it and did not tell my publishers that I left this computer with all of this correspondence about the heavily embargo novel The Testaments on the plane.

  • Oh, my gosh, you know, it was very bad.

  • I won't do it again soon.

  • But here's the thing.

  • Despite being a world class procrastinator, Margaret does not turn manuscript in late.

  • No, no, no, no, no.

  • I do not miss deadlines owed considerate, dishonorable to message deadline.

  • How does she manage her procrastination so productively?

  • And can you?

  • I'm Adam Grant, and this is work like my podcast with Ted.

  • I'm an organizational psychologist.

  • I study how to make work, not suck in this show, I'm inviting myself inside the minds of some truly unusual people because they've mastered something.

  • I wish everyone knew about work today, procrastination and why it's not as much of a character flaw or is impossible to overcome as you might think.

  • Thanks to Hilton for sponsoring this episode, procrastination is intentionally delaying a task that needs to be done, even though you know it will come with a cost.

  • Instead of working, you might find herself watching cat videos on YouTube, looking in your fridge to see if something new has magically appeared in the last 10 minutes or deciding your productivity problem is that you type too slow, then taking a typing test online to confirm your suspicion and then taking it over and over to get a better score.

  • If you're like most people, you first became acquainted with procrastination in school.

  • Somewhere between 80 and 95% of students procrastinate, and half of them do it chronically.

  • But it doesn't just disappear when you graduate.

  • About 15 to 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators.

  • I'm not one of them.

  • I'm the opposite, a procrastinator, someone who feels pressure to start test immediately and finish them ahead of schedule.

  • Although I did get sucked into that typing test.

  • But if it's Haskell's important, I tend to get it done before the deadline and my colleagues tell me that could be annoying.

  • I'm constantly late to meetings.

  • My excuse.

  • I was busy finishing another project early, so I'm pretty fascinated by chronic procrastinators who live on the opposite extreme, like Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  • On a typical writing day, he would sit in the bath for hours, waiting for an idea to come.

  • By the time he got Howard and got dressed, he often forgot the idea, which would lead him right back to the bathtub.

  • It was so bad that he once had his editor lock him in a hotel suite for several weeks, one that, presumably on Lee, had a shower.

  • Oh, writers are legendary procrastinators.

  • The question is why?

  • And Margaret Atwood has an answer.

  • I've seen myself as lazy.

  • If you're a procrastinator, you might have said the same thing about yourself.

  • Lazy slacker, Undisciplined.

  • But is Margaret Atwood best selling author of dozens of books Really lazy Now?

  • No, that's That's one of the common miss about procrastination is just people being lazy?

  • Fuchsia Sirois is a psychologist in the UK Her specialty is studying procrastination, and she knows that the root of procrastination is actually something far sneakier than laziness.

  • It's not about avoiding work, it's about avoiding feelings, more specifically, negative emotions, we say.

  • At the core, procrastination is about mood regulation, so a task may illicit lack of confidence, feelings of incompetency, insecurity, fear of failure, anxiety.

  • You put that task aside and you've just regulated your move.

  • Now you feel better.

  • It's like, Oh, great.

  • I don't have to think about anymore.

  • You know more about this than most people do.

  • You do.

  • You still for crossing it?

  • Yeah, well, you know I'm human, so Yeah, I do.

  • I do procrastinate.

  • The classic thing for me is, you know, I've got this paper to write, and I just I'm thinking that it's This is gonna be really hard.

  • And I keep I build it up into something that's really huge And, you know, after a couple of days of that, it's kind of got right.

  • I'm procrastinating.

  • I've just got to get on with this.

  • Everyone procrastinates on something.

  • If you're on top of your work, there's probably still a task you're delaying, Even though you know, it comes at a cost.

  • You've got to buy a present for your aunt.

  • Did you only see once a year, for example?

  • Then she tends to be really picky.

  • And so now you're thinking, Ah, if I make a mistake, she's just gonna give me that look.

  • It's good.

  • This doesn't sound like a hypothetical example.

  • I'm not gonna ask you to name your aunt, but if you still think you're just lazy, here's some proof.

  • Take a look at what you do while you're procrastinating.

  • Some of those tests actually take a lot of energy and effort.

  • You'll see some, you know, classic chronic procrastinators.

  • They will have the neatest houses.

  • Everything will be organized.

  • All the dishes will be done.

  • Everything will be clean.

  • But the big looming task that they're supposed to be doing isn't being done.

  • If you're actively doing something else, it's pretty clear that you're not lazy.

  • You're avoiding a task that stirs up negative emotions and that can have consequences at work.

  • Chronic procrastinators air less productive than their peers, and their health suffers for it.

  • If your chronic procrastinator you have higher levels of stress, you have poor sleep quality.

  • You tend to not exercise as much.

  • He might eat more junk food, especially because you're stressed right?

  • If you're a chronic procrastinator, you've got difficulty regulating yourself, which can lead to depression and anxiety.

  • They actually put off seeking help for those mental health issues, which doesn't help either Oh, no.

  • So they met a procrastinate?

  • Yes, definitely.

  • People feel guilty when they procrastinate, but that guilt doesn't operate in the same way that it does.

  • For most people go, it could be a motivating emotion, right?

  • Yeah.

  • It's like the Irma Bombeck line.

  • That guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Yeah, well, for procrastinators.

  • What it gives is more procrastination So unfair, right?

  • Even if you're not a chronic procrastinator, there's certain types of tests that you might have a habit of postponing.

  • Might be a procrastinator genic environment.

  • Because did you say procrastinate?

  • Genic?

  • Yes.

  • Progressing great.

  • Well, it's It's an environment that it can evoke procrastination.

  • I am absolutely using this as an excuse.

  • It's not me.

  • It's not that I lack willpower.

  • This is just a very procrastinate genic task.

  • Yeah, tasks that Lem don't give you autonomy that lacks structure and that are ambiguous is that way.

  • So many writers struggle with procrastination.

  • That could be because, you know, when you're writing who's telling you what the next thing is you're supposed to be writing right?

  • You are.

  • I mean, it brings up uncertainty about yourself, right?

  • Brings up doubts about whether you know what you're doing right?

  • We all have that feeling.

  • From time to time.

  • You might find yourself procrastinating to avoid anxiety, confusion or boredom, whichever your flavor of procrastination psychology points to a couple ways to curb it.

  • For one, you can start by trying to be a little kinder to yourself about your past procrastination.

  • Yep, this actually makes a difference.

  • Our emotions can actually change the way we view the task.

  • Instead of beating yourself up, show yourself a little compassion.

  • Relieve the guilt.

  • Research reveals that after students put off studying for an exam, those who forgive themselves are actually less likely to procrastinate.

  • On preparing for the next test, fusion or colleagues have found that it helps to remind yourself that you're not the only one suffering from procrastination.

  • It's part of the human condition.

  • Everyone does it on occasion.

  • Sometimes I will just sort of step back and go.

  • Yep, yep, I'm just being like every other procrastinator out in the flat out there right now, and you're acknowledging what you're doing except accepting responsibility for.

  • But you're not feeding back into the negative emotions that probably put you in that place where you wanted to procrastinate in the first place.

  • It turns out that self compassion is especially hard.

  • If you're a neurotic perfectionist, the kind of person who constantly beats herself up for never doing work.

  • That's good enough.

  • If that's you, you might take a cue from productive perfectionists and stop judging your work before you've even produced it.

  • In other words, don't criticize yourself while you're creating.

  • Try waiting until you've finished of helping your ideas.

  • Before you worry about evaluating them.

  • That's something Margaret Atwood advisers.

  • The wastepaper basket is your friend, So go ahead, say something.

  • It may be the wrong thing, but you can throw that out and no one will ever read your dumb thing that you've put on them.

  • Margaret has a long history of procrastinating to escape negative emotions.

  • I'm procrastinated about starting the inmates telling Progressive dated for about three years.

  • Um, I tried to write a a more normal novel instead because I thought it was just too bad e to batty.

  • Really?

  • Yeah.

  • I mean, it doesn't seem very badly now, but but think of when this Wasit was in the early eighties.

  • Yeah, it just seemed a bit too bad E.

  • Margaret wasn't just worried that the plot was far fetched.

  • Her fears actually kept her from writing the book sooner.

  • You don't know who's going to read it.

  • You've got no idea.

  • You don't know whether they like it or not.

  • It's not something you can anticipate or have any control over really.

  • Years ago, when asked to describe her writing routine, Margaret said she would spend the morning procrastinating and worrying, then plunge into the manuscript in a frenzy of anxiety around three o'clock when it looked as though she might not get anything done, it still happens to her, sometimes scrolling around when the news certainly can get me sucked in.

  • Luckily, Margaret has come up with a unique strategy for dealing with her procrastination habit.

  • And it's a trick that lines up with what some researchers recommend.

  • I had another name that I grew up with, and that gave me two names, so I had a double identity.

  • So Margaret does the writing, and the other one does everything else.

  • Her alter ego's name is Peggy.

  • It's a Scottish diminutive of Margaret.

  • Do you actually refer to yourself by both identities in your head?

  • Absolutely seriously.

  • Well, you say what arrange it gives me.

  • Do you have conversations between Margaret and Peggy?

  • Uh, no.

  • They lead quite separate lives.

  • Peggy does the laundry.

  • Now There is, Of course, I'm overlapped because sometimes when Peggy is doing the laundry, Margaret is thinking about what is being written.

  • Deciding what to write is done by Margaret.

  • Deciding when to write is sometimes a tug of war.

  • Margaret's dual identity strategy isn't as strange as it sounds.

  • Psychologists have long observed that we have two Selves, the want self and the should self.

  • You're want self runs on emotions.

  • It's drawn to whatever avoids pain or brings pleasure in the short run.

  • That's Margaret watching Captain Underpants.

  • Well, you'd rather me what?

  • Watching Captain Underpants.

  • Let's face it.

  • The show itself is more concerned with doing the right thing in the long run.

  • That's Peggy, the ordinary person who walks the dog and needs the bran flakes for breakfast.

  • In the moment, the want self is often stronger.

  • No matter how hard you try to push yourself to do the work you should be doing, it's easy to get pulled into the show.

  • You wanna be binging like maybe the handmaid's tale.

  • That's the bad news, Theo.

  • Good news is that this should self is smarter.

  • You can outwit the want self by planning ahead.

  • This is a second strategy for beating procrastination that science teaches us.

  • You don't have to worry about resisting temptation if you remove temptation in college.

  • My roommate, Palmer, was brilliant at this.

  • Whenever it was time to study for an exam, he would ask me to hide his video games.

  • You've probably done it thio.

  • Your should self puts the alarm clock across the room at night so you're want self can't reach the snooze button in the morning.

  • You prevent procrastination by taking willpower out of the equation.

  • Or maybe you're should self announces to the world that you're signing off social media so you're want self won't get sucked back in.

  • Which is what Peggy does for Margaret, who loves Twitter and sometimes posts random questions that pop up.

  • For instance, I put up a picture of a weird mushroom and said, What is this?

  • Because I couldn't find it when you're tweeting.

  • How often does that happen?

  • While you're writing?

  • Do you actually interrupt yourself?

  • Forget too strong?

  • No, No, no, no, no, No way, No, I might get distracted before I before I take the plunge into the writing burrow.

  • But no, it Well, I'm in it.

  • How do you prevent that from happening?

  • Is there, uh, is there a mental firewall of sorts?

  • You turn it off for many people, Easier said than done.

  • You just turn it off and and that's it.

  • No, don't go there.

  • It can help to schedule a specific task in your calendar the same way you schedule meetings.

  • In one experiment, writers were randomly assigned to plan daily writing sessions.

  • They were over four times more productive, and they didn't lose any creativity.

  • Even scheduling 15 minutes a day was enough to make some progress.

  • That's time management.

  • You can also think about timing management.

  • When do you procrastinate?

  • Procrastinators tend to be night owls.

  • The start of the workday is out of sync with their circadian rhythms.

  • If that's you and you have the flexibility, try moving a task for you procrastinate to later in the day, when the wants might be less tempting.

  • One of my favorite tactics for outsmarting my want self is a twist on the to do list.

  • I found out that Margaret does it, too, So the list would include everything from Call the Tree Guy, too, you know, clean the furnace.

  • It's not on the list.

  • It doesn't happen.

  • That's her to do list.

  • But she also has it to don't list a set of activities to avoid while working.

  • Think about your to don't list.

  • What would you put on it when I'm working on my boring procrastinate genic tasks like reading contracts and proof reading articles?

  • My to don