Your choice: Have three major papers due at the end of the semester, or set your own deadlines at any point in the semester. The catch: If you set a deadline, there are penalties for not submitting on time. If you don’t set a deadline, there is no penalty to turn all papers in on the last day of class.
Thus goes one of the experiments in Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. The finding: those who set deadlines prior to the last day of class had better grades than those who waited to turn all papers in on the last day of class.
The key: Set deadlines. With accountability.
The psychology behind the results: Humans have a tendency toward limited self control and are more efficient when external motivation is involved. We over-estimate our rationality and under-estimate our tendency to procrastinate.
Despite my best intentions, and my skills as a project manager, I fall prey to this far too often myself. Take blogging for example. As a new blogger, it’s entirely to easy to tell myself, “Eh, very few people are reading anyway, so what does it matter if I post or not?” I’m able to talk myself out of any self-imposed deadline because there are no consequences. Participating in the #write31days challenge has been an excellent deadline and external motivator to consistently write AND publish my writing.
As Ariely states:
When we have problems with self-control, sometimes we delay tasks that we should do immediately. But we also exhibit problems with self-control when we we attend too frequently to tasks that we should put off – such as obsessively checking out-email.”
My secondary challenge: Not obsessively checking my blog metrics to see how many people have read each post. That’s truly not why I’m doing this challenge, and is obsessive behavior that wastes time.
- Review your to-do list and set deadlines for key tasks and projects.
- Create accountability for that deadline by communicating it with someone else (feel free to email me!), or setting a self-induced penalty or reward for meeting your deadline.
- Bonus: Determine one area you obsessive over, and make a determination to stop!