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STILL PROCASTINATING:THE NO REGRETS GUIDE TO GETTING IT DONE (Unplugged)
A conversation between Joseph R. Ferrari & Moe Abdou

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

About Joseph R. Ferrari & Moe Abdou Joseph R. Ferrari "20% of adult men and women are chronic procrastinators" - Dr. Joseph Ferrari is a noted author, professor and an expert on the issues of procrastination. As part of his academic curriculum and personal interests, Dr. Ferrari has embraced his work to figuring our why people choose to procrastinate both personally and professionally. He has defined procrastination as the "intentional delay of starting or finishing a project" - and has provided a road map to get things done.

Moe Abdou Moe Abdou is the creator of 33voices — a global conversation about things that matter in business and in life. moe@33voices.com

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

Dr. Ferrari, I’m delighted to have you join us this morning. What a timely topic as we begin a new year. This issue of procrastination, I think is a fabulous topic to talk about specifically with somebody, who in the past 25 years has been researching this topic. Thank you so much for including me this morning and including me in your program. You are correct. It’s a timely processed topic and an issue that arises. It doesn’t ever seem to go away because everybody procrastinates. I would like to talk about today that not everyone is a procrastinator. There are 20% of men and women who are chronic procrastinators. This is their lifestyle. You are correct. I’ve been studying this topic for a number of years because my interest is trying to understand what are the causes? What are the consequences for these people who are chronic procrastinators? And then I decided to write my book that came out at the end of 2010 called Still Procrastinating. What I wanted to do was to show the reader that here is what we know are the causes and the consequences and here are the cures based on science. There are so many books out there on procrastination and most of them take the time management problem approach. That just is not going to work. To tell that chronic procrastinator just do it, would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up. That’s not going to work. There is something far more involved for why people procrastinate than poor time management. One of the things that might be a good point Dr. Ferrari to start with is, over all of those years I know that there had been about eight books that you’ve published on this topic. Actually three scholarly books on this topic and one popular book. I have researched in other domains. It’s eight books but not eight on procrastination. There are books in other areas. I do work on addictions and I do work on sense of community and other areas. What has changed in your time and in researching this, just about this notion of procrastination? Anything changed over all of this time? That’s a good question. I have heard people say, other people currently say that we are procrastinating more now than we’ve done in the past. Let me give you a little story there. In 2006, I received a phone call from a reporter in Connecticut who tells me, “What do you think of the snooze button, Dr.
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

Ferrari?” I’m thinking, “Why are you asking me about the snooze button for alarms?” He goes, “Because the snooze button is now 50 years old.” It was designed in 1956. That’s when it first came out. That is the first modern technology for procrastination. They thought, “Yes, this guy is right.” The point of the snooze button was to give us a brief extra few minutes to sleep. It was a technology to give you extra 9 minutes to delay getting up, to procrastinate the start of the day. The problem is the chronic procrastinator doesn’t press it one or two times, he consistently presses that button. To hear that people say, “We’re doing it now more. Our technology today procrastinates us more.” I think, wait a second, that’s not true. People have had these technologies around for 50 years. The remote control that delays us from getting up and turning on and off our TVs first came out of the 1940s. That’s a misnomer. That’s just trendy to say that we do it more now. What has changed more? People say we are busier today than we have been in the past. Again, I take exception to that. Actually, I think it’s kind of insulting to our ancestors because if you think about it, the farmer was busy. Most of us came from agricultural societies earlier. Do you mean to tell me that the farmer didn’t have a full day? He had to go out there, plow the fields, come back fix the roof, make sure the pump is working. Make sure the animals are fed. Take care of this, make dinner. Get everything ready for the winter and then the next day the same. He had a busy day and they managed to get things done. There is only 24 hours a day and there is only 7 days a week and as far as I know at least for the last several hundred years, that’s been our calendar, 365 days. There is not 25 hours. There is not 23 hours. It’s always been that time. That’s why we don’t manage time. We manage ourselves. We manage our lives. What I’d like the listeners to understand is you can learn to change. You can learn to manage your time. In the book, I try to address those issues, to start them on that journey. Are you still procrastinating? It’s time for change. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, it’s hard. But we can learn to manage and change our times. Life is short. Life on this Earth is short. We don’t have much time. Why not enjoy what we can. Sure we’ll make mistakes along the way. Sure there’ll be errors along the way. But better to have loved than lost than never to have loved at all, as we say. Better to have tried. Better to have done things than not to have done anything and just let life pass you by.
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

As you can see, I get very much into this and I can keep talking. Life is like a stream. Time constantly keeps moving in that stream of time. Sometimes there is a pool where the water simply seems not to be moving and it’s slow although it’s still moving underneath the surface. Sometimes our lives are like rapids and they go quickly. But it’s always moving and it’s always advancing. We need to enjoy life and to get on to the task that we have to do. So basically maybe what you’re saying to me is that we’re making a lot of excuses. Procrastinators are tremendous excuse makers. It’s never their fault. There’s always a reason. As you listen to them, you say, that kind of makes sense. You’re absolutely correct. Procrastinators are always trying to blame something else. Suppose you have to give a negative image to other people. Procrastinators are very concerned about what other people think of them. Supposed you are to give a negative image to others. What would you rather have people think about you, that you lack effort or that you lack ability? Let’s talk about that for a moment. Lacking effort or lacking ability - neither of these are positive. Neither are constructive but if I do a task and it comes out poorly and I show lack of ability, it doesn’t matter how much effort I try the next time, you think you just can’t cut it. But if I take my time this time and I don’t do the job on time and I delay it and I say I just didn’t have time, that’s why it’s the poor quality then we can attribute you and I to the lack of time not to me. So I have a nice ready excuse. Sure, lack of effort might portray the image of being a little lazy or being a little not focused on the task but it certainly doesn’t reflect, you don’t have the ability. So again, if I’m very concerned about what other people think of me which is what procrastinators are, then I can protect my social esteem as we call it in psychology. We know what self esteem is. It’s how I feel about myself. Social esteem is how other people feel about me. Chronic procrastinators are very concerned about what others think of them. Interesting point. I want to get your perspective on something. I was at a hockey game here in Los Angeles last night. As I was sitting in the stands, I’m also watching the National Championship football game on my phone with the people that I was with.
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

It was really interesting and it triggered something in my mind. The last two minutes of that game was incredibly intense because one of the teams were losing and then everybody is just throwing their bodies around trying to do what they can to win. The same thing that was going on -- if you happened to watch that National Championship game -- at the end, it seems like the last two minutes of the game are the most exciting. It triggered a thought in my mind that especially when people set goals. There is a belief out there that we respond well to deadlines as human beings. You see it in business. You see it in sports and so forth. I want to get your perspective on that. If we respond well to deadlines, does that really mean that we need that target date to help us stop procrastinating? You raise a few issues here. One of the issues that you’re really asking -- one of things I think you’re asking and hearing is some people claim they were best under pressure, under the deadline pressure. They really need that to get going. That’s a myth. I talk about that in Chapter 2 of the book. That’s a myth not only have I shown that over these years but there is actually been a couple of more recent major studies done by others that have replicated my claim. That this notion that, I need the arousal. I need the thrill to get things done is really false. There is arousal. There is a sense of anxiety that’s occurring. That’s what the person is really experiencing. There is no more time in getting anxious. What they’re doing is becoming very impulsive at the last minute. We might think impulsivity is the opposite of procrastination. That was a study back in ’93, I looked at. I thought they were. I thought people were impulsive. We’re just too fast. Procrastinators are just too slow but that’s actually false. Procrastinators are impulsive - When? At the last minute when there is no more time and the deadline is here and I got to get this done. I’m just going gather any information. Any information just to get it done, any kind of way. So this notion I work best under pressure, we have found not only the impulsivity link but we’ve also found in experimental studies that I did a number of years ago, that they do worse under pressure. They just think they do better. So that’s one kind of notion. You also mentioned the notion of deadlines and what role do deadlines play with procrastinators. Another insulting thing that people say is, when do you really want it. This is the deadline. I want this thing by February 1st.
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

Let’s say someone was to ask you. Today we are on January 11. Then someone says, I really need to have this in two weeks or by the first of February. And then they’ll come back and say, “When do you really want it?” I think that’s an insulting kind of question to ask. Because what are you saying, you’re saying, “Well, I know you really were not sincere that first time. I know you really were only kidding that first time. When do you really need it?” Don’t really ask that question. I would like your listeners to say, if you’re procrastinating, don’t ask that question. Because you’re sending a message to the person who asked you, perhaps the boss, perhaps the teacher, perhaps someone who is waiting for you to get something done. That I know you’re only kidding and they weren’t kidding. They were serious about that. I would like the person being asked to answer by saying, “But I told you the deadline, that was the deadline and that’s what you need to meet.” “But now I’ve only got two more days before that deadline. I didn’t really think you were sincere.” I wish you would trust me and think I am sincere. What happens is of the culture, we are letting people slide. I’m not asking this to become rigid. I certainly don’t talk about that in the book. I’m not saying be stiff and rigid. I just don’t want us to be spineless. You got to be flexible in life but not spineless. We need to hold people to deadlines because that teaches responsibility. We don’t as a culture give the early bird the worm anymore. I don’t know about you, but growing up, I used to hear an expression, “The early bird gets the worm.” Today, in our modern times, we don’t do that. I guess when you asked me early what’s changed. I don’t think the time notions have changed. I think it’s our perception or our treatment of people who are procrastinating. We bail them out, we do it for them. We let them slide. After all, we don’t want to upset them. What would they think if I really hold them to that? They’ll think I’m too rigid. They won’t like me for keeping them to the deadline. You’re doing them a disservice. You’re teaching people that anything works, anything slides. Life isn’t like that. When someone procrastinates, they’re usually holding up the next person in the process, the next person in line. What we need to do is hold people accountable and make them realize if you don’t do your part, if A is not done, I can’t do B. And if I can’t do B then C can’t do their part nor can D and etc. Everything builds on everything else. People don’t often think about that. It’s

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

not all about us. It’s not all about me. It’s all about we. We need to remember that, that everybody is involved in life. Is this what you’re looking for? Is this the kind of information you’re looking for? Yeah, absolutely I’m thinking as you’re speaking - that especially with project management deadlines and even goal setting, it seems like deadlines -- what it really does is it triggers our mind to say this has to be done by such and such time. If we learn to avoid procrastinating, then I would think deadlines are really good. Deadlines are very good if we learn to hold people accountable and responsible for that. If they were walking down the street and a piano falls on their head and they can no longer do the thing. Of course, you’re going to be flexible, you can say sorry if something major happens. But remember people are great excuse makers. Pianos don’t fall on our heads that often. Grandma only dies once. I know that sounds that crude but people will use the expression. I hear that from students, well, you know, grandma died. I’m sorry, great. Sure, we’ll let you slide but she only dies once. People will use things to become excuses quite a lot. We don’t hold people accountable. What I’m asking people to do is not to bail people out, the procrastinator out, don’t do it for them. Sometimes you have to let people fail. That’s another conversation for another question I guess. We need to hold people accountable for their behaviors and let them know, it’s not you that I’m upset with. You as a person are fine. It’s the fact that you’re not meeting deadlines. Thousands of hours, billions of dollars are lost by procrastination. Thousand of hours are lost. Billions of dollars are lost in businesses every year because of procrastination. Because people, as I said earlier, don’t realize that their delay is impacting on somebody else. That impacts on somebody else. So it’s a whole chain of events. We have to teach people to start doing it. So what if it’s not a hundred percent? Clinical psychologists talk about the 80% rule. If you get most of it done about 80% of it, not mediocrity, that’s 50%. But 80% of it done that’s a success and feel good about that. It’s the fact that people are constantly waiting to get things done or imposing it on other people that’s the problem.

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

I want get to that 80% rule in a second because that really guides my thinking a lot of times. There is a lot of work to do. Personally, I find myself procrastinating tasks that I don’t particularly like to do. Do you see a correlation there? Absolutely. Remember when I started off. I said that everybody procrastinates but not everyone is a procrastinator. Most people, 80% of people, will delay a task they don’t like to do. A task that might be too much effort, a task they don’t feel comfortable being able to achieve in that one domain, that one area. Maybe there is something with a household chore but in other areas of their life they don’t procrastinate. Then they’re not a procrastinator. They are procrastinating on that task but they’re not a procrastinator. They don’t do this as their lifestyle. I’m interested in both but primarily the person who does it at home, at school, at work, in relationships, in their daily lives. That’s the person that’s fascinating to me. That’s 20% of the adult men and women. This is not only in the United States. What I had found in the research that I’ve done with other colleagues is true in Australia, in England, in Peru, Venezuela, in Spain, in Italy, in Turkey, recently in Saudi Arabia. We have found this number in Canada, in the Netherlands, in Austria, in Poland. We’re finding a global tendency of 20% of adults. That’s very high. That’s higher than depression. That’s higher than phobia. And yet those two areas as well as others get national attention and we take those as very serious, very major problems. We don’t take procrastination seriously. We think it is a frivolous light topic and it isn’t for 20%. So to go back to your comment, yeah, there is something you don’t like to do. Sure, they are the tasks you don’t like to do. Time management might work for that. There are lots of techniques and we talked about some of them in my book that based on the science that worked to help people get over the fact that they don’t like to do the laundry. They don’t like to cut the grass. They don’t like to shuffle papers, filing their taxes or something that they don’t like to do. There are things you can do for that. But if you don’t do any of those tasks and you always wait until the third bill comes before you pay it, the third warning, if the gas seems to always go on empty before you get more, the refrigerator empties out before you restock it, people know you’re going to be late for any event, you miss sporting events and concerts because you never bought the ticket, doctor’s appointments are never filled. If this is your lifestyle of course all of these domains then you’re a

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

chronic procrastinator. I think the book will help focus you on to this area but you’re going to need professional help beyond that. You got bigger issues than that, right? Yes. Tell me the impact that procrastination has on decision making? You raise a good point. There is a topic that I talk about in the book and really scientists have not explored too much, indecisiveness or what we call decisional procrastination. There are a number of people, men and women, who are decisional procrastinators. They don’t make a decision on time and that affects on other people. I like to use the example of a situation that occurs near to me. In a town next to me there is an AMC movie theater with 31 movies, 31 options, 31 current movies. I think that’s a pretty high number but imagine going to the movie theaters with that indecisive. I mean, picture this as the scenario, you walk up to the window and you see these 31 movies and you say to the person who is the procrastinator, “What do you want to see?” What do they tell you? That’s a question I’m asking you, what do you think they tell you? I don’t know. I don’t know. And you say, “We’ve got to decide what do you want to see.” Again, what do they say to you? I still don’t know. Okay, and then you say to them, “Well, you know, it’s at 7 o’clock. These six or seven that we’re interested in, they’re all starting in about three to four minutes. We really got to decide. What do you want to see?” What do they tell you again? You pick one. That’s exactly right. They say, “I don’t know. You pick it.” That’s a brilliant move on their part because if you pick it and it’s a dud, then whose fault it is? It’s your fault.

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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

It’s your fault. Why did you make me waste $8, $10, $12? It all depends on where you go, right? If it’s a success, everybody walks out and happy. The moral of the story, the take away is for the indecisive, by letting somebody else make the decision for them, they get off the hook for the responsibility of it. Indecision is an interesting concept for those kinds of reasons. They let other people bail them out. I talk about it in the book, we have to stop bailing them out. We have to stop doing tasks for them. Does that make sense? Absolutely. That happens all the time. Yes, sure. Again, as a culture, as a society, we do it for them. Alright we bail them out and we let them off. That’s why it’s never taken as a serious topic. What I’m saying is maybe and as hard as it is -- you might have to stand and say, “We’ve just missed these three movies that we talked about because you couldn’t make a decision. I’m not going to decide this time.” Again, sometimes people with indecision as well as regular procrastinators, feel well if I wait, the problem will go away or if I wait, and maybe it will resolve itself. Something else will happen. And they will talk about, if you listen to these chronic procrastinators, they will tell you, ‘remember that time when I waited and this and this and this? The problem went away.’ They’re right, it did go away because life is like that. Sometimes waiting, things go away. But the problem is you have to remind them yeah, that was 18 years ago. That was a long time ago. That happened quite awhile ago. Where you delay, the problem went away. You have to remind them the current situation. But look at all the other times in life where the delay didn’t go away and the problem didn’t escalate. They will remember the one or two good times when waiting paid off. You have to remind them the eight or nine times where waiting didn’t pay off. That’s the problem. Again, chronic procrastinators are not stupid people. They’re very people oriented. They just let other people bail. They’re people oriented. I’m asking people to be -- and that’s fine -- be a little more task oriented. Let’s wrap up the set. I’d like to get your perspective on something. If you were a CEO of a company, and you wanted to improve ‘the getting things done’ culture within your organization starting with your management team, where would you start? That’s a good question. In fact, in my presentations I have a slide that I talk about managing meandering, you know, managing the person who is a
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

meanderer, a person who doodles, a person who takes their time. So I’m going to read off the slide. I’m going to go through this with you. First, you set clear limits, deadlines and consequences. You got to let the person know, look this is the deadline, I need this in three weeks. Here’s why, because if you don’t get your part done, the next person won’t get done, blah, blah, blah. Along the lines of those three weeks you should set small interim goals along the way because you just don’t set that goal three weeks or even let’s say four weeks and sit back and say, hope and pray. Some people used to call it; ‘The old hope and pray technique’; It’s not going to work. You got to build in successes. So you say to them, I need this in three weeks but in the next four days, I need this part and the next eight days, we need this part and blah, blah, blah, go that way. Reward them along the way. Another suggestion is, don’t wait until the very end but great, in three days you did it. That’s great. I noticed you didn’t do it all but you got 80% of it done that’s great. Alright, let’s work on the other, take the rest of today to work on the rest of that 20% - but because you did 80% of it, some reward. I don’t know, a praise, take an extra 20 minutes at lunch, you know, something else that they like to do whatever. But if the person doesn’t meet those steps along the way, then you let the person know, the procrastinator know, that you’re angry with them. This is something I highlight because people are so afraid. I can’t let them know. You do, you need to let them know that look, I asked you to do this. We setup these goals. You didn’t do this along the way. You can’t reward them for not meeting the deadline. You need to have some consequences to that. The last step is always let them know they’re still worthy as a person. It’s just that this behavior is what’s upsetting you. That’s a quick synopsis of what I suggest. What I’m hearing you say is that be very clear in anything. Be clear, yes. Be very clear. Be very specific -- clear, specific behavior. In other words, observable, tangible things to see in those goals. If you say in three days, I need you to write the introduction to this issue or four pages of the report or something, then you have a number, you have something quantifiable, something observable. You can see whether they wrote four pages or they wrote four words.
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Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (Unplugged) Joseph R. Ferrari with Moe Abdou

Your book is a terrific resource – ‘Still Procrastinating’. It should be on everybody’s desk. What I had mentioned to somebody the other day, even if you slip through it every now and then it is going to trigger things in your mind that will help you improve your behavior, specifically in this procrastination piece. I’m really grateful for your time this morning. It’s no problem. I’m glad you did this. I’m really hoping that listeners will really find some life changing information or some nuggets, some piece that would really enhance their life. That’s really the point of this.

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