Hope research can help procrastinators

New research from the University of Otago has found that if you want someone to help you out with...
New research from the University of Otago has found that if you want someone to help you out with something, it is best not to set a deadline. Photo: Getty Images
If you want to know the best way to avoid procrastination, read on.

Otherwise, you can read it later.

New research from the University of Otago has found that if you want someone to help you out with something, it is best not to set a deadline.

But if you do set a deadline, make it short.

Otago Business School Department of Economics Prof Stephen Knowles said he and his co-authors tested the effect of deadline length on task completion, by inviting participants to complete an online survey in which a donation goes to charity.

They were given either one week, one month, or no deadline to respond.

The research was inspired by his research team who were interested in helping charities raise more money and the results were applicable to any situation where one person asked another for help.

The study found responses to the survey were lowest for the one-month deadline, and highest when no deadline was specified.

Professor Stephen Knowles
Professor Stephen Knowles

No deadline and the one-week deadline led to many early responses, while a long deadline appeared to give people permission to procrastinate, and then forget, he said.

Professor Knowles was not surprised that a shorter deadline increased the chances of receiving a response, but he was surprised they received the most responses when no deadline was specified.

‘‘We interpret this as evidence that specifying a longer deadline, as opposed to a short deadline or no deadline at all, removes the urgency to act, which is often perceived by people when asked to help.

‘‘People therefore put off undertaking the task, and since they are inattentive or forget, postponing it results in lower response rates.’’

He said it was possible that not specifying a deadline might still have led participants to assume there was an implicit deadline.

Professor Knowles hoped his research would help reduce the amount of procrastinating people do.

‘‘Many people procrastinate. They have the best intentions of helping someone out, but just do not get around to doing it.’’

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Comments

This is the flaw in means recently introduced with the intention of making elections easier so more people will vote.
It used to be (with a few exceptions) to it NOW or you miss your opportunity. It was an occasion, seeing people you hadn't seen for months, everyone greeting each other with "Have you voted yet?"
Now it is on digital device at home with weeks to get around to it - no sense of occasion, no hurry. Put it off till ... there's still no hurry, is there. No sense of community involvement in what SHOULD be full of excitement, anticipation, hope/dread for what the next three years will bring.
Online voting should be an option available to people who genuinely cannot get to a polling booth, not to the rest of us. Something that important is worth having to make an effort for, especially since it repays us with a sense of communal responsibility on a rare occasion we can all affect NZ Government's priorities for the next three years.

 

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