One of the world's experts on procrastination has finally published some of his key findings. I'm interested in this because I've always seemed a little ADD and I struggle to focus. The weird thing is, the more I do focus, the better I get at focusing. I usually go through spurts of 2-3 months where I avoid multitasking and am extremely productive. Then, inevitably, I have a day that is a little too busy and I break back into my old habits. I multitask, I become less productive, and I find it hard to ever catch up on my work or to break out of that mindset. Once I reach a point of being totally overwhelmed, I shut off IM and email so that I can get my work done, and I get back into the habit of being focused and disciplined. It's very difficult for me, and always feels a little unnatural at first, but I am overwhelmingly more productive.
The conclusions of this researcher seem to match my experience.
Steel says motivational failures such as difficulty in sticking to diets and exercise regimes – frequently the focus of New Year's resolutions – are related to procrastination because impulsiveness is often at the root of the failure. "Temptations that are close at hand are difficult to resist. Addicts often relapse after returning from treatment facilities because drugs and alcohol become easily available and daily habits reassert themselves. Or we load up on bread in the restaurant before the meal is served. Or we check our email 10 times an hour instead of completing a project."
The good news is that willpower has an unusual capacity. "The old saying is true: 'Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're probably right'," Steel says. "And as you get better at self control, your expectancy about whether you can resist goes up and thus improves your ability to resist."
The problem is that nagging feeling that I may miss something. It makes it hard not to stay connected to everything as much as possible. I have to remind myself that solitude has benefits.