The Hard Facts: The One in Which… Eh, I’ll Tell You Later

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.”

(Check email.)

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.)


Filed under 21st Century Friendships, The Hard Facts

29 responses to “The Hard Facts: The One in Which… Eh, I’ll Tell You Later

  1. I am so one of those making new friends procrastinators. I’ve only live in NYC what? 4 years?

  2. The one thing that keeps me from procrastinating is a deadline. A strict deadline. If I don’t have one of those, I have to set up my own reward system in order to finish stuff. In a job where I sit in front of the computer all day, sometimes I hate the Internet for making it so easy to stray.

  3. I like the three pronged tip approach – I’m a procrastinator as well so I gobble up any little tip! Someday I will apply them….(check email)…someday!


  4. Lisa Z

    Hahaha! Hilarious post.

  5. I LOVE this post! I am totally the exact same way about procrastination. I admit I even checked my email in the middle of reading before noticing how you were writing the post. I think it is part procrastination but also part technology overload in the time being. There are so many places I can go to connect with people (phone, twitter, facebook, reader, gmail, etc.) that it makes it all too easy to become a procrastinator. I was at the Atlanta airport yesterday at about 6:45 in the morning (where WiFi is so expensive) trying to finish a paper for a graduate clsas, and I found myself amazingly productive.

  6. Great post! I am totally guilty of procrastinating on finding new friends. I keep thinking that when my life calms down and work gets less busy, I’ll finally make it a priority. Guess what — life isn’t going to calm down and work isn’t going to get less busy! I think I’m finally realizing that, only took a couple of years….

    I like your tips — those are things I already do to beat procrastination at work so hopefully they will translate to my social life as well.

  7. I’m going to write down your three points and post them where I’ll see them everyday. Well, I’ll do that in a minute… First, coffee. Then I have a few emails I need to get to…

    I’m the worst kind – a procrastinator who can’t admit to being such. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Megan

    At least I know I’m not alone!!

  9. Rachel,

    Great post! I’ve been a closet procrastinator for years. I only respond when there is a deadline. I have to write it down on a list to ensure I stay on track.

    As far as making friends, I try to set a goal of at least organizing lunches and dinners at least a few times a month in order to cultivate my new relationships.

    • I think that’s a great idea. It’s also really nice because then you can get to see a bunch of people at once. Kill, like, five birds with one stone… or something like that.

  10. So true! The to-do list is the only thing that works for me, although I try to balance my tendency to make lists with a reminder that life is more than just a series of to-do lists…

    Thanks for another insightful and funny post!


  11. Did you give a tip in there about how to deal with someone who is a procrastinator? I could use one. Cause I am NOT a procrastinator but my husband is. So frustrating for me.

    • Hmm, I don’t think I did. But I should. Or maybe we should ask my husband. Though I must say, he is a procrastinator as well… Let me think on this one!

  12. That last comment freaked me out. I consider myself a procrastinator because I don’t plan out everything as I should. When an event is involved I’m on the ball…but anything that seems to lack urgency I don’t always rush to.

    But I find that people need to set goals to meet friends. That’s really important or else they just leave it to fate. Kind of like dating. You got to go and introduce yourself to people.

    • Yes! I totally agree. We always thinks friends will “just happen.” And sometimes they do, but usually they “happen” because you left your house, signed up for a new class, said hello to someone who looked nice, etc….

  13. JB

    I want to know the migraine joke! As someone who suffers from migraines regularly, jokes are always welcome!

    • It was SO bad, but I will share anyway. I said something about a friend having a migraine, to which cousin Sam texted me: “I hope yourgraine is better than migraine.” Wah wah waaah.

      I know, I know. But you asked!

  14. Yep, I am also the kind of person that needs a deadline. I try to put deadlines on myself to avoid procrastinating and like you said – telling someone so you have accountability really helps.

  15. Caz

    Totally need a deadline for things. Alas my job is a sort of “whenever it’s done” with a lot of tasks and things slide in favour of other more time sensitive projects.

    If I don’t have something urgent to do I’ll waste days on the internet. Even in high school I did my best work at 11pm the night before something was due.

  16. Edie

    Procrastination can also be a sign of perfectionism. “It has to be done RIGHT, but I can’t do it RIGHT right now, so I’ll wait until I have time”. This is where most of my procrastination comes from. I don’t have an hour to work out, so I’ll do it later. I want the right card to send for my mom’s birthday, but I don’t have one now, so… I’d like to call, but have to get the kids in 15 min, etc. I’m working on “good enough” and getting it done.

    • I fell out of my gym habit for a bit for this very reason. I figured if I didn’t have an hour than it wasnt worth it. I’ve recently given myself permission to log just 30 minutes on the treadmill — something is better than nothing–and I feel so much better. But it certainly wasn’t easy.

  17. I’m totally this person. I have procrastinated at everything especially meeting new people. Its pretty overwhelming to be in a new city and trying to build friendship circles. This is a great post!!

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  19. tommy

    “he found it harder to wean chronic procrastinators from the habit of delaying than to wean alcoholics from booze.”

    Just finding that quote must have involved some world-class procrastinating!! Hmm… while Im here I’ll look up that crocheted coral reef thingy, and see what an epiglotis does. The dishes can wait. Oo – and how do you make guncotton? What? – Oh, laters….

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  21. Fanfan

    I used to be a procrastinator, but guess what, I trained my brain to stop procrastinating, at least much less than before!
    How I did it was I prioritize everyday after I make a to-do list and as I reward myself, I really give myself some time to savour the moment when a dreadful task is crossed off of my list(You know if you don’t enjoy this moment, more things will be added to your list before you know it!). Those moments positively reinforced my brain to procrastinate less.

  22. Pingback: The Hard Facts: Fair Weather Friends | MWF Seeking BFF

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