Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scoring on Procrastination

Yes, that's Albert Einstein, sitting at his cluttered desk, in a 1955 Life Magazine photo. He got a lot accomplished.

Here in Seattle, it's gorgeous out; the sun is shining--but I need to be working. I have a deadline. Can't sit outside now.

So, I just took an online survey about my procrastination. You, too can take it here. It only cost me about 18 minutes. Now I get to write to you about it.

It's redundant; it asks the same five or six questions in oodles of ways. Are you a risk-taker? Do you ponder your choices? Is your work boring? Is short-term gratification irresistible? Interestingly, I noticed my answers varying depending on the phrasing of those same questions.

One of the questions is, oddly, "do you procrastinate?" Well, here I am, surrounded by reference material, half-finished chapters cluttering the bottom of my computer monitor, reduced. Yes, here I am, writing about taking a procrastination survey. Umm, do you think I chose "very characteristic of me," "characteristic," "neutral," or not characteristic?

Truth is, I only procrastinate on the one big project on which I'm afraid to fail. Probably reflects my underlying fear that I'm really not as good as I'm supposed to be...that old "I may seem to be competent and successful, but I'm really a fraud" syndrome. Well, intellectually, I know that's not true, but emotions trump logic every time. So I take quizzes and write blog posts and run to classes and volunteer on projects.

My score on the survey was 66 out of 100, "above average procrastinator." Nice to be above average in something.

When you get your score, the helpful folks at the University of Calgary Haskane School of Business offer "tips" to help you overcome your above-averageness. Like goal-setting (been there, done that), routines (got plenty) and stimulus control. That's the bugaboo. I can always find something that needs doing first. Since I have a home office, you can imagine how neat and clean my house is. I collected the dust bunnies right after my deadline became pressing. The laundry is done; the darning too. You know you're procrastinating on something when all the buttons are sewn on your sweaters.

OK, now I must actually work. I've got everything I need all around me: I should be inspired by Einstein, surrounded by the accoutrements of genius. Truth is, once I get into it, I find my topic and research fascinating; it's the writing I fear. But when I start, I can usually keep going for awhile. Till I look up and see what time it is, get that cup of coffee and, hey, is that the sun still shining out there?

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