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打破拖延症的恶性循环!

2021-05-10

阅读与作文(英语初中版) 2021年4期
关键词:工作效率期限心情

When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m.

So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one)… and written absolutely nothing.

Whats the matter with me? Nothing, according to research that conveniently justifies this sort of behavior to my editors. Or, at least, nothing out of the ordinary for writers. Im just a terrible procrastinator.

Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful (“Ill respond to this email when I have more time to write it”). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I should respond to this email right now, and I have time, and my fingers are on the keys, and the Internet connection is perfectly strong, and nobody is asking me to do anything else, but I just…dont…feel like it.”).

When scientists have studied procrastination, theyve typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. For example, everybody recognizes, in the abstract, that its important to go to the dentist every few months. The pain is upfront and obvious—dental work is torture—and the rewards of cleaner teeth are often remote, so we allow the appointment to slip through our minds and off our calendars. Across several categories including dieting, saving money, and sending important emails, we constantly choose short and small rewards (whose benefits are dubious, but immediate) over longer and larger payouts(whose benefits are obvious, but distant).

In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination “really has nothing to do with timemanagement,” 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.”

Instead, Ferrari and others think procrastination happens for two basic reasons: We delay action because we feel like were in the wrong mood to complete a task, and we assume that our mood will change in the near future. See if you recognize any of these excuses…

If I take a nap now, Ill have more focus later.

If I eat this cake now, thatll be my cheat for the month, and Ill have more willpower.

If I send a few Tweets now, my fingers will be used to typing sentences, which will make this article easier to write.

If I watch TV now, Ill feel relaxed and more likely to call the doctors office tomorrow morning.

This approach isnt merely self-defeating. It also creates a procrastination doom loop. Putting off an important task makes us feel anxious, guilty, and even ashamed, Eric Jaffe wrote. Anxiety, guilt, and shame make us less likely to have the emotional and cognitive energy to be productive. That makes us even less likely to begin the task, in the first place. Which makes us feel guilty. Which makes us less productive. And around we go.

One thing that can cut through the doom loop is the inescapable pressure of an impending deadline. So whats the best way to design deadlines to make us more productive?

People often schedule reminders to complete a project significantly before the deadline, so they have time to complete it. But this strategy often backfires. Some practiced procrastinators are both “present-biased” (they choose ESPN.com or BuzzFeed over work every time) and overconfident about their ability to remember important tasks, according to a new paper by Keith M. Marzilli Ericson. As a result, they often put off assignments, only to forget about it until long after the deadline. Procrastination and forgetfulness are bad, independently. Together, theyre a double-headed meteor hammer smashing your productivity to tiny little bits.

To hack your way to productivity, you could schedule one-shot reminders as late as possible—even slightly after you were supposed to start the project. Not only will the last-second reminder and looming deadline break the doom loop and shock you into action, but also it wont give you time to put off—and, potentially, forget about—the task.

For pathological procrastinators, recognizing that we need deadlines to bind ourselves to our responsibilities is the first step. The second step is recognizing that our own deadlines are less effective than other peoples deadlines.

In one famous experiment, Dan Ariely hired 60 students to proofread three passages. One group got a weekly deadline for each passage, and a second group got one deadline for all three readings. The third group chose their own deadlines and readers were rewarded for the errors they found and penalized a dollar for each day they were late. Group II performed the worst. The group with external deadlines performed the best. “People strategically try to curb procrastination by using costly self-imposed deadlines,” Ariely and his co-author Klaus Wertenbroch concluded, “and they are not always as effective as some external deadlines.”

A more theoretical approach, from Yanping Tu and Dilip Soman writing in the new Journal of Consumer Research, aims to change “the way consumers think about the future.” Tu and Soman point out that people have a habit of managing goals and tasks in specific time categories—we plan activities by the day, expenses by the month, and resolutions by the year. This way of thinking can separate us from future selves. When we say “Ill start that project next week,” or “Im starting my diet next month,” what were really saying is “I hope that after an arbitrary amount of time, I will be in a better mood to bind myself to this task.”

One study in their paper asked consumers to open a savings account within six months. One group was given a December deadline in June and a second group was given a January deadline in July. Although each group presumably contained a similar number of procrastinators, significantly more people in the first group chose to open their account immediately. When the deadline was a calendar year away, people were more likely to rationalize that they could put it off.

Finally, procrastinators are more likely to complete a piece of work if theyre persuaded that its not actually work. In one study reviewed by Jaffe, students were asked to complete a puzzle, but first they were given a few minutes to play Tetris. “Chronic procrastinators only delayed practice on the puzzle when it was described as a cognitive evaluation,” he wrote. When scientists described the puzzle as a game, they were just as likely to practice as anybody else.

我今天早上起床时有一个目标:在11点前完成这篇文章。

那么,可以预见地,10点前,我已经泡好并喝掉了两杯咖啡,扔了垃圾,打扫了房间,还故意慢吞吞地叠衣服,到外面散了个步,清醒清醒头脑,吃了一碗水果酸奶以犒劳自己做了运动,给我阿姨和姐姐发了一封电子邮件,看了100条推特微博(收藏了3条;写了1条,删了1条)……却一个字也没落笔。

我这是怎么了?没什么,有研究可以向我的编辑证明,这种行为是合理的。至少,对作家来说,这是很正常的。我只不过是个严重的拖延症患者。

工作量大的人有时候会混淆合理的延迟与真正的拖延。前者可能是有益的(“等有更充裕的时间我再回复这封电子邮件”),而后者,据其定义,则是具破坏性的(“我应该现在就回复这封邮件,我有时间,我的手指就放在键盘上,网络连接完全没有问题,也没有人要我去做其他事,但我就是……不……想回。”)。

科学家在研究拖延症时,他们的关注点通常会集中在人们是多么不会衡量时间对成本与收益的影响。比如说,在理论上,大家都知道每隔幾个月去看一次牙医很重要。其中的痛苦是近在眼前、显而易见的——看牙是个折磨——而拥有一口干净整洁的牙齿的好处通常很遥远,所以我们把预约牙医这件事抛在脑后,从我们的日程表中剔除掉。在控制饮食、存钱以及发送重要邮件这几类事情中,我们总是选择在短时间内就小有成效的事情(回报不明确,却触手可及),而非需要投入大量时间与精力的事情(回报很明确,却遥不可及)。

然而,在过去几年间,科学家开始认为,与时间相比,拖延症也许与情绪的关系更大。拖延症“真的跟时间管理没有一点关系,”约瑟夫·费拉里对《心理科学》这样说道,他是德保罗大学的心理学教授。“要长期的拖延症患者马上行动,无异于要抑郁症患者开心起来。”

相反,费拉里和其他一些人认为拖延症的发生主要有两大理由:我们迟迟不行动是因为我们觉得现在心情不好,无法很好地完成任务,并且设想我们的心情在不久的将来就能变好。看看你是否觉得这些借口似曾相识……

·如果我现在打个盹,那我等会儿就更能集中精神。

·如果我现在吃了这个蛋糕,今天就是我这个月的“偷腥日”,那么我的意志力就会增强。

·如果我现在发几条推特微博,就能让我的手指习惯打字,这会对我写这篇文章有所帮助。·如果我现在看电视,我就能放松心情,也许明天早上就会打电话到医生的办公室。

这种方式不仅仅是自拆台脚,还会造成拖延症的恶性循环。推迟一项重要的任务会让我们感到忧虑、内疚、甚至羞愧,埃里克·贾菲写道。忧虑、内疚和羞耻感让我们更不可能有心情和精神全力投入工作。这甚至可能让我们不会在一开始就着手工作。这让我们有罪恶感,降低我们的工作效率。我们就陷入了这样的恶性循环当中。

能够打破这个恶性循环的就是最后期限迫近时无可避免的压力。那么,怎样设定最后期限才能让我们的工作更有效率呢?

为了能在最后期限前完成任务,人们经常会郑重其事地设置提示。但这个方法经常会产生反效果。基思·M·马智利·埃里克森的一份新报告显示,一些长期的拖延症患者只顾享受眼前的事物(他们每次都选择上ESPN. com或BuzzFeed网站,而非开始工作),并且对自己过于自信,认为自己能记住重要的任务。结果,他们经常推迟任务,直到最后期限过了很久才想起来。无论是拖延症还是健忘都不是一件好事。二者合一,它们就会如双头流星锤一般把你的工作效率毁于一旦。

为了提高你的工作效率,你可以设置一个比较迟的提示——甚至比你应该开始工作的时间要晚一点。最后一秒的提示和最后期限的来临能让你打破这个恶性循环,惊得立马行动,你也没有时间再推迟,也没机会忘记任务。

对于病态的拖延症患者而言,第一步,我们得认识到,我们需要最后期限来让自己负起责任。第二步,我们得认识到,自设的最后期限没有其他人给我们设定的来得有效。

在一个著名的实验里,丹·艾瑞里雇了60名学生校对三段文字。第一组的人校对每段文字的最后期限为一周。第二组的人校对三段文字有一个确定的最后期限。第三组的人可以自己选择最后期限,但未在最后期限内完成工作的人则每迟一天就罚一美元,而发现错误的人则可以获得奖励。第二组的人表现最差,而最后期限受到外部影响的那组则表现最好。“人们想方设法地通过自我设立的最后期限控制拖延症。”艾瑞里和他的同事克劳斯·沃坦布洛克总结道,“但自设的最后期限并不如受到外部影响的最后期限有效。”

為了改变“消费者对未来的看法”,屠阳平和迪利普·索曼以更具理论性的方法进行了研究,报告发布在新一期的《消费者调查研究》上。屠和索曼指出,人们习惯把目标和任务按照不同的实现期限分类——我们按日计划活动,按月计算开支,按年下定决心。这种思考模式会把我们与未来的自己分割开来。当我们说“我下周会开始进行那个计划,”或者“我下个月开始节食,”时,我们其实是在说“我希望过一段时间后,我会有心情做这个任务。”

他们报告中的一项研究要求消费者在6个月内开一个储蓄帐户。第一组的起始时间是6月,最后期限是12月。第二组的起始时间是7月,最后期限是来年1月。虽然两组拥有相当人数的拖延症患者,但明显更多第一组的人选择即时开账户。当最后期限在下一年时,人们更有理由认为自己可以把事情推迟。

最后,拖延症患者若信服某项任务其实不是工作,则更有可能完成。在贾菲审视过的一个研究中,学生被要求完成一块拼图,但首先他们获得几分钟时间玩俄罗斯方块。“长期的拖延症患者只有在拼图被描述为一项认知评估时才会推迟拼图,”他写道。当科学家把拼图描述为一个游戏时,他们则可能愿意和其他人一样拼图。

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