Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't Never Say You're a Perfectionist

A friend of mine has been teasing me on facebook about my claim to be thinking about what I will do in an upcoming seminar rather than actually preparing that seminar. He's accusing me of procrastinating.

Quoting from a findcounseling.com article, Piers Steel, an expert on the subject at the University of Calgary “says that the popularly cited perfectionism is not at the root of most procrastination. Rather, a lack of confidence combined with other factors such as self-control, distractibility, motivation to achieve, task aversiveness, self-efficacy and impulsiveness are strong predictors for an individual's likelihood to procrastinate.” Whew! If any employers have been reading Steel’s ideas then you don’t want to risk telling an interviewer that you’re a perfectionist, do you? No, no, no. (Incidentally you can read Steel’s article, which is cited in the findcounseling page—if you get around to it.)

There’s another article about procrastination that I read recently about procrastination that might be helpful in this context. I was putting off writing about it because I could not find a good enough hook. I’m not altogether happy with what I’ve written so far in this blog item either but it will just have to do.

Rick Nauert and others have reported a study led by Sean McCrea of the University of Konstanz that appears to show that abstract instructions as opposed to concrete ones tend to lead to more procrastination. Added to Steel’ work I take this to mean that there are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors involved in the phenomenon, as would be expected I suppose. This being the case, and whether or not one is a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator it would appear that one could take advantage of the results of McCrea’s group’s work by rewriting sequences of instructions—even for oneself—to make them as concrete as possible, and avoiding abstractions. Clearly broad-brush generalities might be alright initially but they should be replaced quickly if one has any tendency to ... well, you know what I mean. (No need to be compulsive about completing every last thing, is there?)

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