Monday, August 30, 2010

The Power of the "P" Word

"Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

"People who are way out of sync with the digital maelstrom of the moment aren't always bad followers. They might be great leaders.” - Seth Godin

(7:00 a.m. Friday) I wanted to write about this subject weeks ago, however, I just couldn’t. I intended to, even started it a few times, but something pulled me away, filled the gap, diverted my attention and drive for action. Just not sure what …

(8:46 a.m. Friday) I often delve into daily news stories on various subjects compiled by Google. Regularly I found myself scanning business leaders on Twitter who choose to condense wisdom into 140 characters. Repeatedly, I am viewing the extremely critical life messages left on friend’s Facebook pages, about what they were eating, pictures of their kids, the outfit they “had to have” or the movie they felt compelled to review. I am connected to various RSS feeds and others blogs and newsletters so I am instantly “in the know.” Nearly 45 minutes of one day was spent watching YouTube videos, transfixed by a laughing baby. There are numerous daily texts I receive and send (yes, I’m a giver), office gossip, longer than needed meetings and lunches, thousand or so emails I engage in weekly and countless phone calls. At night there is always some compelling television show about grown adults acting like Lord of the Flies, and if cable is out, there is always vital pop culture information in Us Weekly, InStyle and People magazine that is beckoning to be read.

(10:08 a.m. Friday) Do you think? Nah, couldn’t be….

(11:22 a.m. Friday) Today's technologically dependent society can opt for hyper efficiency, boundless achievements, unrivaled progression, yet mindless procrastination continues, often manifested through electronics. Procrastination has moved from a bad habit state to a behavioral trait, thriving on a cycle of blame shifting and avoidance. Falling victim to this "habit" myself, I have been on a personal mission to seek out the cause of procrastination. Alright not the cause, who has time for that, but at least some imperative information. It’s not like I have anything else to do.

(12:46 p.m. Friday) The traits of procrastination are obvious, more interesting are the traits of the procrastinator. Chronic procrastinators avoid revealing information about their abilities, prefer menial tasks, make poor time estimates, tend to focus on the past and do not act on their intentions. These characteristics have been related to low self-esteem, perfectionism, non-competitiveness, self-deception, self-control, self-confidence, depression and anxiety.

Wait a second; didn’t the proliferation of numerous medications for those very symptoms arrive in the past decade as technological advancements have been at its height? Haven't children been diagnosed with ADD and variations of same at an alarming rate during this time period? Is this new form of procrastination just an internal cry for help to give our brains some quiet time? Just spit-balling here folks …

(4:30 p.m. Friday) Behavioral procrastination is equated with self-handicap. Essentially, this self-handicap provides a means for further blame shifting, as could be seen in an example of a student doing poorly on an exam and using procrastination as an excuse. The second type of procrastination, decisional, is the pattern of postponing a decision when dealing with conflicts and choices. People with high decisional procrastination display tendencies of perfectionism in taking longer to make decisions.

Research done by Dr. R.L. Strub, an expert on the brain, links procrastination to physical disorders and lesions in the brain, particularly in the frontal lobe, specifically the bilateral hemisphere in Globus Pallidus.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the frontal lobe controls cognitive processes. Many of its functions are routinely used in daily life (i.e. judgment, planning, critical thinking, empathy, attention span, organization, etc.). As the most evolved part of the brain, the PFC is responsible for necessary behavior in a social sphere, consequently affecting our personalities.

"The capacity of the individual to generate goals and to achieve them is considered to be an essential aspect of a mature and effective personality. It is not a social convention or an artifact of culture. It is hard wired in the construction of the prefrontal cortex and its connections,” says Dr. Strub.

When a person needs to focus, the PFC decreases the distracting input from the other brain areas. Therefore, if there is a problem with the PFC, there is no filter mechanism at work or life.

So, you’re saying I may need a brain scan…

(7:20 p.m. Friday) There is yet to be any treatment offered for biological procrastination. However, for those people who subscribe to psychological explanation, there is help after all. Researchers offer an oversimplified solution that recommends procrastinators change the way they think. On a more individual basis, to tackle the universal problem of procrastination, people can try becoming aware of internal excuses, breaking up difficult tasks, focus on the negative consequences, make lists and most importantly question the rationale behind procrastination.

(8:22 a.m. Saturday) At STIR-Communications we have and continue to incorporate processes that help curtail procrastination. Employees are requested to work in at least two 90 min blocks of time per day where phones, text, all social network devices, and nonessential conversations are curtailed. In addition, all projects and clients are placed in a systematic task list and focused on in specific blocks of time. This allows for employees to not be distracted by the enormities of tasks at hand, but rather provide a keen focus at precise missions. This coming week we will take that even further by implementing technology to further assist our production.

(11:05 a.m. Saturday) That is, if we can all find the time to take the tutorial.

All my best,

Greg Salsburg
The Big STIR
Miami | New York | London
c: (561) 386-8064
o: (305) 407-1723

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