Procrastination is Not Laziness

A link to the above blog post:  Procrastination is Not Laziness

Resulted in the following overview of two books about procrastination.  I’ve read the Now Habit, but this is an awesome overview worth keeping!

From Isamu:

Let me second the OP and recommend Neil Fiore’s book “The Now Habit”.

There are lots of good strategies in that book, such as:

The Unschedule:

  • a weekly calendar of committed recreational activities and breaks, meals, etc
  • productive periods of work are recorded after they are accomplished
  • encourages starting earlier on projects once you see how much time is already committed
  • 30 minute chunks of productive work – too small to be intimidating

Leverage Reverse psychology:

  • do not work more than 20 hours a week on this project
  • do not work more than 5 hours a day on this project
  • you must play or exercise at least one hour per day
  • you must take at least one day a week off from any work
  • do only 30 minute chunks without reward / break
  • work for an imperfect, human, first effort
  • start small

Builds up an unconscious desire to work more and play less

Schedule only:

  • previously committed time – meals, sleep, meetings
  • free time, recreation, leisure reading
  • socializing
  • exercise
  • routine events – commuting, classes, appointments
  • Fill in periods of productive work only after completing a 30-minute chunk
  • take credit only for 30 minutes of uninterrupted work
  • reward each chunk with a break or a change to a more enjoyable task
  • track the number of productive hours by day and week.
  • always have at least one full day of recreation or enjoyable tasks
  • before recreation, take time for one 30-minute chunk of project work
  • focus on starting
  • think small
  • keep starting, finishing will take care of itself
  • never stop when you are blocked or at the end of a section; push through a block or start a new section before stopping


  • realistic timekeeping
  • avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • allows you to experience success
  • deadlines are self-imposed
  • new-found free time


I also recommend another book (by another psychologist): “The Procrastination Equation” by Piers Steel.

The second book is partly at odds with the first, so I leave it to you to see which better describes what you observe.

Summary of The Procrastination Equation:

Perfectionism does not lead to procrastination – this is well studied. It may be that they are thought to be linked because of the cases where there is this discrepancy in behavior. Procrastination is a result of impulsiveness. Self-control and delaying gratification are key to controlling procrastination.

Procrastinators suffer from

  • weak impulse control
  • lack of persistence
  • lack of work discipline
  • lack of time management skill
  • inability to work methodically

Motivation can be modeled by

  • (expectancy * value) / (impulsiveness * delay)
  • The numerator is Expected Utility Theory in economics
  • Expectancy is the perceived likelihood of reward or success
  • Value is the perceived value of the reward
  • Delay is the perceived delay in receiving the reward
  • Impulsiveness is the tendency to (irrationally) pursue immediate reward instead

Expectancy – optimism, expectation of success

  • too much pessimism causes procrastination – low expectation of success keeps us from starting
  • too much optimism causes procrastination – unrealistic ease of success causes delay of starting until the last moment

techniques for improving optimism:

  • success spirals – progressive series of successes build confidence (e.g. earning scout badges). regularly stretching your limits is important to teach yourself confidence in your ability to tackle something difficult
  • vicarious victory – relating to someone’s success story, finding inspiration in books, movies, inspirational speakers, joining a group of inspirational people
  • wish fulfillment – visualization of success and contrasting with where you are now. Visualization that only focuses on the goal may drain motivation to complete the necessary steps.  As you visualize attaining the goal and then contrasting the current situation, maintain your optimism so that you can translate this visualization into a plan of action.
  • Plan for the worst, hope for the best – develop strategies to recover from falling back into old habits. Anticipate temptations and find ways to counter them.

If you’re busy, you’re doing something wrong

Cal Newport wrote an interesting article about how elite musicians actually don’t work that long, but when they work, they work super-hard.


From the HN thread on the topic, I found this comment to be very insightful:

Here’s my theory: the blocks of time the elite players spend is non-negotiable, because it’s their “top idea in the mind.”[0]

In the past when I’ve worked with friends on side projects, the conversation would sometimes go like this.

Me: “Hey, let’s try and meet like three evenings a week for two hours to work on this. Let’s start tomorrow?” Them: “Yeah — wait, I have to meet a friend for dinner tomorrow. Can you do the day after?” Me: “Sure.”

[two days later]

Me: “Hey, we’re still meeting up tonight, right?” Them: “Crap, I have to work late. Let’s meet on Saturday and just bang out some work all afternoon.”

We’re fucked. We’re fucked before we’ve even started. If every “dinner with a friend” or “I have to work late” is going to sideline you, then how the hell are you supposed to do anything? Even if we do work for six hours on Saturday instead of three two-hour sessions during the week, it’s just not the same. We’ll have no cadence or rhythm and feel stressed and probably a lot like the people in the OP’s study.

A few years ago I recognized this anti-pattern and so I don’t really take on new projects or goals unless I’m literally willing to prioritize everything but the bare essentials (ie. family) above it. PG’s “Top of Your Mind” describes what ‘mental prioritization’ looks like, and I think this study points describes what ‘schedule prioritization’ looks like.

I realize that my own conclusions are my projections completely based on own anecdotes, and I’m sure many people on HN won’t hesitate to point out the logical fallacies for why that’s dumb. But look back in your life and think about the times you’ve consistently said, “Sorry, I can’t make it, I have to do X first.” Did you eventually reach a level of achievement with X? I’m guessing you probably did.


By: Nate Hashem


I recognize this anti-pattern too – I’ve lived it for a few years.  I’m going to make a commitment to myself to follow his advice – no new projects or goals unless I’m willing to push it to the top of the list at least once a week.  This will inherently force single tasking as well.

Catching Wisdom

So, I do a lot of reading.  Far more than I should.  That said, there are small bits of data that end up resonating with me, and I’ve never been able to keep them together in one spot.


From now on, this will be that spot – more weblog than “way to promote my personal brand”.  We’ll see if I can stick with it.

An Update!

So, yeah.  The last few months have been an adventure.

Leaving NREC in December was far harder than I thought – my new team there was wicked smart, very dedicated, and fun to be with.  I started working for a company called Deeplocal – and it was everything I imagined working for an advertising/experience startup to be.  It was a lot of fun and I was heavily involved in developing some great prototypes for major brands.

However, that business is very cyclical and as of Monday, I found myself back on the street.

So, now I’m looking for new work – and I’m very much at a crossroads.  I’ve picked up some interesting new skills – a modicum of iOS, a little Javascript, some design.  I’d love to exercise these more, but my directly salable skills are in pure C++/C work – sensor fusion, perception and robotics.

What’s next?  I don’t know yet.

I’d also like to keep innovating in my side work – likely working on inexpensive outdoor LIDAR and stereo systems for mobile platforms.

Pittsburgh Picklefest 2012 Champions – twice!

We entered 3 entries in a field of 32 entries across 3 divisions – cucumbers, non cucumber veggies and fruit, and condiments. We entered 1 cucumber item – bread and butter chips, and 2 non- cucumber veggies – pickled Vidalia onions and pickled honey jalapeños. We took first place in 2 divisions with our bread and butter chips and our pickled onions. They are super yummy!! Jeff was able to eat a lot of charcuterie and other delicious food while chilling at the festival before coming home victorious. If you want our recipes, they’ll be in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette sometime this week. 🙂


Sent from my iPad