Active procrastinators: just get going

“Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.” — Mark Twain

Seriously, procrastination is a frustrating habit. Since it’s a learned one it can be overcome but only if you become conscious when you’re doing it.

If you’re a professional procrastinator you need to acknowledge when you say “later” you really don’t mean it. Thousands of “laters” create thousands of opportunities lost. To stay conscious, when you say “later” follow up with, “Later to me means never. Do I really want to get this done or not?”

Also become very cognizant of your avoidance habits, which you’ve probably perfected to the point that you engage in them automatically and unconsciously whenever you face an unpleasant task. Keep a journal of your thoughts and emotions when you’re delaying. Follow these steps:
· Choose something you procrastinate on regularly.
· Describe the activity you put off. Is it unpleasant, confusing, uncomfortable or threatening?
· Write what you’re thinking and feeling when you begin to delay. For instance, “I can’t concentrate enough right now.” Continue to record what you say and/or what you do to prolong your postponement.
· Ask yourself why you’re avoiding action. Is it a legitimate reason or just an excuse? Also answer, “What discomfort am I evading?” Usually your answer is based on some unfounded fear.
· What’s your outcome?

To get going try these ideas:
· Timothy A. Pychyl, of Ottawa’s Carlton University, runs a procrastination research group and suggests, “Follow the 10-minute rule.” Acknowledge your desire to procrastinate then do the task for 10 minutes anyway. Initiating is the hardest step for chronic procrastinators. After working on it for 10 minutes decide whether to continue. Once you’re involved, it’s easy to stay with the task.
· If you have something to do, do it now or schedule it. If it’s not worth the amount of time it takes to schedule, it’s not going to get done later.
· For larger projects write out your goal and list each step you have to take to accomplish it. Schedule each step in your calendar.
· Invest your energy on the important and ignore the trivial.
· Don’t demean yourself when you dally because it makes more likely you’ll continue procrastinating.
· Keep a next steps list for all projects with an estimate of how long it’ll take to accomplish each one. If you have 15 minutes, look over your lists for something you can get done in less than 15 minutes. This furthers your progress in bits and pieces, which is great for those who procrastinate.
· Put the task right in front of you to avoid “out of sight out of mind.”
· Public commitment: Tell someone what you’re working on and when you’ll have it finished.
· Reward yourself when you’ve completed it. Do something just for fun. Give yourself a mental complement.

For chronic procrastinators remember the most important thing to do is just start! So get going!

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at

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