Procrastination--how to stop it from ruling your life

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TIME is what you make of it.

Copyright© by Jaye Denman. All rights reserved.



I’ll do it later. I’m just not in the mood today.”


“There’s so much to do, it’s overwhelming! I’ll do something fun today and save the work until tomorrow.”


“You can’t expect me to start a new diet on a weekend! I’ll wait until Monday.”


Most people are occasionally guilty of putting off a chore or project until later, but what if you put off everything until an unspecified “later?” Procrastination is a bad habit, one that gets worse the more you practice it. Too many promises of, “I’ll do it later,” and you’re a serial procrastinator. If you’re always waiting until some other time to do things, chances are you don’t accomplish much of anything.

What causes procrastination?

Why do people delay doing things they know they should go ahead and do? Why are some people more prone to procrastination than others? Let’s look at some of the reasons for procrastination.

~~Perfectionist Procrastinator~~One type of procrastinator is the perfectionist. When the finished product is expected to be perfect, “good enough” results won’t satisfy this individual. The task may be delayed while the person invests too much thought into how to do it to meet unrealistic expectations. Numerous drafts end up in the wastebasket because “…they aren’t good enough.” As the time frame for completing the task becomes smaller, worry sets in, creating another barrier to success and even more delay.

Perfectionists tend to critique their performance before they even get started, with the outcome of inefficiency. Needless to say, the efforts of the Perfectionist Procrastinator rarely meet the standard of “good enough”, much less “perfect.” This mindset creates a huge obstacle.

~~Inadequate Procrastinator~~Another type of procrastinator is the person who feels inadequate to the task at hand or incompetent for the job. This person may be so afraid of failing that he or she is immobilized by fear. It’s scary to contemplate being put to the test if you aren’t sure your skills are good enough to meet expectations. (If you know your skills need brushing up, why wait? Get the training you need now.)

It’s also scary to face the certain failure that occurs from doing nothing at all. While unpleasant to be thought ineffectual, delaying tactics put off more than the task—they postpone the discomfort of living up (or down) to the label of inadequate. Sooner or later, one must face the truth (or the boss). For the Inadequate Procrastinator, that truth will probably be disagreeable.

~~Inertia Procrastinator~~Then, there’s the procrastinator who hates to get started…on anything. The problem may be low energy, inertia or plain laziness. This person is not a self-starter, and if there’s no one to say, “Do it now” and enforce the demand, the starting point of the task keeps being deferred. This type of procrastination reinforces itself. Continuing to avoid a task perpetuates the problem.

It takes more determination and energy to initiate change than to sustain it. The procrastinator demonstrating low energy usually needs direct supervision and to be held accountable.

Seems like the stereotypical teenager with the messy room, doesn’t it? But there are actually adults who function in much the same way on a regular basis. Unless they’re forced into action, they won’t do anything. This kind of procrastination is the result of poor behavioral patterns. Behavioral patterns are learned, so they can be un-learned and redirected. In short, this type of procrastination can be fixed, but only if the Inertia Procrastinator is motivated to do so and has to face consequences if work doesn’t get done.

~~Adrenaline Junkie Procrastinator~~ This is the person who thrives on beating deadlines—often figuratively sliding into base at the last minute. Some journalists and even book authors brag about waiting until their editor is screaming for results before they make a move to do research and write. They’ll say, “I do my best work under the pressure of a deadline.” (Yeah…right! Work produced by last-minute rushing usually looks hurriedly thrown together and often contains errors.)

What the individual who makes that statement actually means is that the editor/boss/client waiting for the results will eventually become angrily insistent for the expected results. At that point, the procrastinator realizes his or her livelihood will be threatened if the work isn’t satisfactorily completed...pronto. Working-by-threat is a bad habit allowed to control this person’s working methods for too long, until it’s become a way of life. The Adrenaline Junkie Procrastinator must either see the need for change, or face the expensive consequences of not meeting deadlines. When the pocketbook is impacted, it usually grabs a person’s attention.

Procrastinators who put off doing their work often let this bad habit creep over into their personal lives. They put off calling family and friends. They postpone paying bills until the utility company turns off the electricity, multiple late payments are owed or they’ve ruined their credit rating. They avoid clearing clutter from their homes while their living abode takes on the paper-stacked-to-the-ceiling look of a hoarder’s house. Taken to extremes, serial procrastinators may even become hoarders.

Unfettered procrastination that is allowed to wreak havoc in a person’s life is like a sickness that must be “cured” if that someone is to break free of its enslavement.

What is the cure?

How can the procrastinator learn to stop putting things off and do everything on time, or even early? It can be done, but, as with changing any bad habit—particularly if it’s long-standing—strong motivation is required, plus practicing good habits to replace the bad ones.



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Take the Cure!



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Break the bad habit of procrastination

When trying to change behaviors, it helps to see in writing what is needed. This is when the two-column method can come to the rescue. In the first column, write “advantages of not procrastinating”, and in the second column, write “disadvantages of procrastinating.” Then list everything you can think of that should go in the appropriate columns.

When you write something down, your brain is more likely to remember it. Use a pen and paper, not the computer, for this task, and write in cursive. The act of handwriting programs your brain to store the information in two ways: visually and kinesthetically.

By writing the advantages of new, positive behaviors to eradicate procrastination, you’re, in effect, rehearsing these new behaviors. It’s similar to the way athletes visualize performing a skill so the process actually improves the skill. The brain is an amazing tool! Why not make good use of it?

In the column headed “disadvantages of procrastinating”, be very aware of what you’re thinking when you write and later, reading, this list. Do not allow yourself to make excuses for your bad habit. If you start to make an excuse, challenge it as unrealistic and change it to rational thought. Rational thinking will usually shoot down all of your tired excuses.

For example, you might write: I’m tired after lunch, so I can’t get started on a big task then. This is unrealistic. No one forces you to eat a big carb-laden lunch that will make you sleepy.

Here’s the rational thought: I’ll eat a light lunch of protein and complex carbs that won’t make me lethargic, so I can make a good start on my work this afternoon. If I don’t finish it by the end of the day, I’ll get back to it as soon as possible tomorrow morning.

Another tip: Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting it. Realize that negative predictions can be self-fulfilling, but so can positive ones. Set realistic goals in writing for completion of your task or project. If you need additional resources, do what is necessary to get them. Then, objective in sight, get started and focus.

The perfectionist should set priorities for all steps of the work, in order of urgency. Self-talk is important. Tell yourself that the work only has to be “good enough” to meet the standard already established. Of course, you should strive to do better, but don't set the bar so high you trip and fall over it. Also, be aware that waiting for inspiration wastes time. Get to work, and perhaps inspiration will strike mid-task. Be prepared to stop yourself from throwing away more than one draft. Hide the wastebasket in a closet, if necessary.

If the thought of a big project overwhelms you, break it down into more manageable parts. Do one part and finish it, then begin on the next. By reducing a huge job into one with multiple smaller parts, you’re able to see yourself reach success, one part at a time. Success breeds success. Soon you’ll have the whole thing completed.

Don’t forget to reward yourself when you avoid procrastination and complete a task on time. Give yourself a verbal pat on the back. Treat yourself to a special cup of tea…something to make you feel good about yourself and your accomplishment. Remember—completed tasks build on themselves. Keep going, and one day you’ll look back at your old procrastination habit and find it hard to believe you ever put things off.



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Don't put it off...do it NOW.

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Comments 37 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for reading, Glenda. I'll check out your article as well. Regards, Jaye

P.S. I couldn't find your article on HP or your blog. Have you posted it yet? I'll watch for it soon.


Glenda Motsavage profile image

Glenda Motsavage 2 years ago from The Sunshine State

Oh my, this sure hit home. I'm part of group #1 — the Perfectionist Procrastinator. In fact, just yesterday, I wrote a blog post called "Perfectionism and Procrastination are Kissing Cousins!" I do like the solutions that were outlined in your article. Very helpful!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Marie - I'm familiar with the 'bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew' tendency, having done that more than once myself (and working all night long to finish)!

Regards, Jaye


MarieLB profile image

MarieLB 2 years ago from Yamba

Hi Jaye,

Beautifully written and so much good information in this article. You must have done a lot of research!

I would not consider myself a procrastinator; in fact I am a highly motivated person. However . . .and here come the big "but". . . .I tend to want to do too many things, and of course one project impinges on the other. Sometimes one project becomes very much like the mythical Lernaean Hydra; it grows more and more heads that need to be fed.

So I feed this or that, and eventually realise I am running late with the original project. Sometimes it is even too late to revive!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

After lunch, you say? Perhaps you should just set your columns up in a Word document and type, John. If you're like most of us who work with words, you've probably forgotten how to write in cursive script. (U.S. schools stopped teaching cursive, so young students won't have any choice but to type all their lives.)

Jaye


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 2 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

I'm a procrastaholic of the 'not good enough variety'. The two column system sounds like a sensible idea, and I may just start it, after lunch of course, and if I can remember how to write cursively.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, motherofnations, and I appreciate your sharing this hub. Procrastination causes a lot of accomplishments to either not get done or to be completed late. We have power over procrastination in our lives, but must exercise that power.

Regards, Jaye


mothersofnations profile image

mothersofnations 2 years ago

Great article and very useful. Not only am I going to be mindful, but I'm going to share this with others as well. God bless you.

Voted up and shared!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Shyron - Thanks for sharing. Your comment about 'Hubby' procrastinating before reading the article made me chuckle! Sounds as though he may need it.

Hope you're having a great weekend....JAYE

Lisa - You are fortunate to have the type of temperament that doesn't tend toward procrastination. You don't have to fight against the thought, "I'll do it later."

However, since you know other people who do procrastinate, you may want to share this article with them. Thank you for your kind words.

Regards, JAYE


lisavanvorst profile image

lisavanvorst 2 years ago from New Jersey

I am not a procrastinator, quite the opposite. However I do know many who fall into the different levels you mentioned. I personally want to get things done and often wake up with agenda. There is a sense of satisfaction for me when I accomplish what is on my agenda. Great Article.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Jaye, wonderful tips and I will following at least one. Hubby needs to read this also but he would procrastinate about that too.

Thumb-up, UAI and shared.

Have a blessed night.

Shyron


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Au fait....Good luck with the project you're starting. Sometimes I'll start writing something too late at night to finish it. Reading it the next morning helps me pick up my thought thread and carry on.

Jaye


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

I am a terrible procrastinator for some things. Just getting the chore/task done, whatever it is, would be reward enough, believe me. Getting a dreaded chore done lifts such a weight from one's shoulders and feels so good. I think it would be as good or better than the adrenaline rush some people must get by sliding in with their work at the last minute.

Some good ideas here. I'm going to start one of mine either tonight or tomorrow. Just can't put it off any longer. Going to do a small part of it and hopefully just getting started and seeing what a huge difference that small start is already making will do the trick.

Voted up, UI.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for reading and your comments. I'll check out your hub on this topic, too.

The only problem with waiting until the last minute to do (or finish doing) something is that an emergency may arise then to prevent you from doing what could already be completed. How do I know that? Ah-ha! First-hand knowledge (aka "learning the hard way") always makes a stronger impression on one than reading a warning....

Jaye


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

HI, JayeWisdom....new hubber/old writer here....I really like your hub! I came upon it when it appeared on my screen after I published a hub on...what else? Procrastination. Mine is not a "serious" hub.....but I must admit, after reading yours...I must admit to being the dreaded "adrenalin rush junkie." OH....but I swear, I really DO do my best under pressure. Ask any of my friends who want to SCREAM because I wait til the last minute. Great Hub Jaye! Up and interesting


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for stopping by, JS, and for your comments. Jaye


JSParker profile image

JSParker 5 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

Voted useful! As a former manager, this comes with the study of time management, but it's never done, and continual review and reinforcement are necessary...at least for me. Now, I shall apply some of your ideas -- especially about letting go of perfectionism -- to writing my hubs. Best wishes!


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

:) Maybe so, but I have to hit it every day if I want to survive!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Suzanne! I think procrastination under those circumstances is probably just your brain telling you to, "Relax and recharge!"

JAYE


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Thanks! Great info! Voted up and useful! I tend to procrastinate in a sort of cyclical way. I work very hard for about 4 days, and then I stop and dither around for a day or two before getting started again. I have so many ideas for things I want to do, but everything seems to take so much time and effort...


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

I must confess, Rodney, that I used that Ostrich maneuver a few times myself when younger. Sooner or later, however, the head must come back out of the sand and face whatever is there!

JAYE


Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 5 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

I find that the best way to procastinate, is what we in South Africa are very good at.

It is called the Ostrich, this is the flightless bird that stands a good six foot tall with a long flexible neck

It has buitifull feathers, that are "harvested" and exported to mainly the fashion houses, as they are very sought after items.

Secondly, they have become a very fashionable meat source as the are high in protein and very low in fats.

So now you are wondering what that this has to do with procatination bear with me.

The other feature of an ostrich is its long and powerful legs, which makes the very good runners. A tourist amusement is to have an ostrich race around a circuit, invariablythe ride is deposited on the ground, much to the delight of the crowds.

The power in their kick makes a mule kick feel like a love tap.

Now when it comes to danger, it has the best defence .... it turns around and buries its head in the sand.

As if I cannot see you, you cannot see me.

Applied to all those tasks and dairy management skills, prority arrangements project planning type of ways of "delaying", the Ostrich one is a difficult one to breakdown and crack.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Good advice, Rog....Thanks! I like your attitude about age and being good to one's self. I tend to treat myself pretty well.

JAYE


Rog 5 years ago

I'm semi-retired, being that I'm working at my own pace with the internet. Don't worry about age - from my standpoint age is a matter of mind. I guess at 17 I conquered that ediom - I was in a store and there were these aged couples all compalining and I just told myself that 'don't be like that'.

Remember your not in any race - so be good to yourself.

Rog


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

It seems you've got it all under control now. Good for you!

My problem these days is that age has made me slower, so I don't get as much done in the same amount of time as I did even 10 years ago. It sometimes seems as though I must work twice as hard to get half as much accomplished! But, hey! I'm not grumbling. It's good to be able to do that much even if not as fast. Fortunately, I'm retired so I make my own schedule.

JAYE


TheSenior profile image

TheSenior 5 years ago

It took me some years to realize that getting any project done and on time was far more important than those looks, although those looks are still etched in my memory.

Being that I'm tackling the internet I accomplish my tasks in the order that benefits me and have 2 sites up and running with more creativity running thru the grey matter. Rog


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi,TheSenior...Thanks for reading and for your comment.

I imagine the satisfaction received in that scenario reinforces the bahavior...right? You use the past tense when describing yourself as an adrenaline junkie, so you must have overcome waiting until the last minute to get things completed. Do you miss those astonished looks, or do you now get satisfaction from accomplishing something without the last-minute rush? JAYE


TheSenior profile image

TheSenior 5 years ago

Jaye - with the adrenaline junkie - there is another reason - being that they know that they can do it with no problem - they waite for the last minute to see the astonished looks on the faces of those that said that they wouldn't get it done - and this is a reward that actually can be much more satisfying than getting the project done itself - I was one of these.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

It's ironic, but I keep getting up from the computer today to do laundry, load the dishwasher, etc. Computer = brain work. Household chores = mindless work. : )

Thanks for the comment, and you're welcome for the nudge! Jaye


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I think that I'm a cross between born lazy and an adrenaline junky.

However, as a first step (for today) I will make this my last look at the computer and get on with the laundry.

Thanks for the nudge.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I think that I'm a cross between born lazy and an adrenaline junky.

However, as a first step (for today) I will make this my last look at the computer and get on with the laundry.

Thanks for the nudge.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Stephanie...I use to-do lists and notes to myself even more since I retired. Just writing things on paper helps me remember them, which is good because I sometimes forget where I put the list or note! I'm the type who must prioritize tasks so I won't get started doing something just because I'll enjoy it (such as writing) when a job that needs my attention (such as organizing my closet) awaits.

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. JAYE


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

I will stop procrastinating about writing my next hub — I just need to read all these great articles by my favorite Hubbers, first. :)

Yes, I'm a procrastinator. I put things off that I don't like doing and I believe that I work well under pressure...really!

What can I say? There are no real excuses, and I have to work on it. I do think your tip for writing things down with pencil and paper is a good one. Somehow the act of picking up the pencil and writing something down makes a better connection to my brain than writing on the computer. Before I retired, I used lists extensively and kept a notebook of to-do lists as well as a list of things that got finished each day. It helped me a lot to see what I had accomplished as well as what needed to be done.

Good Hub, Jaye! Now, that hub...


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Cari Jean...I think everyone must experience that feeling of being overwhelmed at times. I know I do. When that happens, it's okay to look away from the big picture and concentrate on smaller parts of it. Works for me better than agonizing over a too-big job.

I understand procrastination because of the very fact that I have to fight against it. Believe me--I've identified with that tee shirt message many times in my life! Thanks for stopping by....JAYE


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

I'm guilty of being a procrastinator. Sometimes it's because of my perfectionism but sometimes it's because I'm overwhelmed. I love that t-shirt that says, "procrastinators unite...tomorrow!"


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Susan...I think that most people who procrastinate till the last minute when it comes to filing taxes do so because it's a chore they dislike. The people who file their taxes early usually are motivated because they expect a refund (in the U.S., anyway). The remainder are somewhere in the middle! (I'm not saying where I am, you'll notice!) Thanks for reading and commenting. JAYE


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Loved this...I am procrastinating about getting my taxes done. I need about two weeks to get everything in order. Taxes in Canada are due at the end of April. So I figure if I start Monday and work about 2 hours a day I will have it done by the end of April...I do this every year as I hate filing. Just thought that I would share that with you. Normally I am not a procrastinator just when it comes to taxes.

Up useful and awesome!

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