It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“In 1978, only about 5% of the American public thought of themselves as chronic procrastinators. Now it’s 26%.” (USA Today “Study Is a Put Off: Scientists Research Why Procrastination is Getting Worse,” 1/12/2007)
I am a world-class procrastinator. I redid my ponytail five times in the last ten minutes just to avoid sitting down and writing this post.
I never miss a deadline, but I must have a deadline. When someone asks me to write something “whenever” they should assume that time will never come.
(Get a glass of water.)
I put off my friendship quest for two years. I yapped on and on about needing new friends, but delayed any proactive searching for various reasons—I was finally in the same place as Matt, so I wanted to focus on him for a while; I was starting a new job; I was getting married (couldn’t add to the guest list, so not a good time to befriend anyone). University of Calgary Professor Piers Steels, who studies procrastination, told the USA Today that people who procrastinate are “less healthy, less wealthy, and less happy.”
From what I can tell, there are lots of people out there who are similarly putting off a friend search. When I tell interested parties about what I’m doing they say “Oh, I should do something like that” or “I need to meet new people in my town” but follow it up with how they don’t have time or just don’t know where to start or are too embarrassed. These are all excuses that I used—and still do, plenty (Check text message. No response from message sent earlier, which I knew since I would have heard it but checked anyway)—but they are all some form of procrastination.
Steele says the causes of procrastination “combine temptation, sense of immediacy, the value of doing the job, and whether you believe you can get the work done.” These all apply directly to friend searching, especially the last point. People don’t think they can get the job done, so they don’t start. I am living proof friending can be done. Once you’re hyper aware of the task set before you, you’ll notice little things happening—a text message here, an invitation there—and you’ll realize, ‘This is it. I’m really doing it.’
(Still no email.)
(But a text message! From cousin Sam. He had fun in Vegas. He knows a really bad-slash-amazing joke about migraine headaches.)
Here’s my three-pronged approach to beating procrastination: 1. Write a to-do list of the things I can reasonably accomplish in a given time-frame, so I get the rush of crossing things off. 2. Set a deadline, even if it is self-imposed, and tell someone about it (accountability is key). 3. Promise myself a reward when I finish what I’ve been putting off (when I hit save at the end of this post, I will start preparing my next meal. Yes, that is my reward. It can’t always be shoes!)
If you’re putting off a friend search, give those tips a try. Write your friending to-do list (maybe you want to get up the nerve to talk to the girl in yoga class, to sign up for a meetup group, or email the potential BFF you’ve been meaning to write for weeks). Set a deadline (I must introduce myself to yoga girl during the next three classes). Plan your reward (as if a new friend isn’t reward enough). Then, of course, tell me how it goes.
If my words of encouragement aren’t sufficient motivation, how about this tidbit from Psychologist William Knaus, who told the USA Today that “he found it harder to wean chronic procrastinators from the habit of delaying than to wean alcoholics from booze.” I just don’t know what do to with that.
(To all procrastinators out there, I highly recommend the practice of writing down every time you get off course. It’s disturbingly eye-opening.)