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Parkinson’s Law, the Doom Loop, and Proscrastination

It must have been the close of summer and the burst of the 4th quarter that had everyone posting their various insights on how to increase efficiency and productivity. In the past few weeks alone, no fewer than three major online publications weighed in on procrastination in particular.

The heavy hitter in the group was undoubtedly Derek Thompson’s exploration in the Atlantic of new scientific speculation that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination “really has nothing to do with time-management,” Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.” Thompson details the self-imposed “doom loop” created by our assumptions and reactions to what may in fact be perfectly legitimate inclinations for delay. When we get caught in our own self-recriminations, we end up furthering the delay out of a reluctance to confront our own supposed limitations – but which have nothing  to do with our initial reasons for choosing something other than an immediate response. Read more about the the dreaded doom loop here.

Mashable found a smart and insightful posting on Quora by Brandon Lee, a young entrepreneur and investor (if you haven’t checked out Quora yet, it’s a fascinating and fast-growing social information network) who answered a question about procrastination in an unusually scientific and practical way. Procrastination, he suggested, is related to the Parkinson’s Law – that’s the one you’ve undoubtedly heard about work expanding to fill the time allotted. Lee suggests breaking down your to-do items into minuscule tasks. This not only reduces the work needed to achieve more completion, it makes the tasks feel smaller.

On the lighter side, Adam Ellis over at Buzzfeed illustrates the thought process behind procrastination. Yeah, it’s like that.