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Updated on March 11, 2010

Bernard Meltzer very well reflects the essence of procrastination in this quote:

"Hard work is often the easy work you did not do at the proper time."

If you have found yourself putting off important tasks repeatedly, you are not alone. In fact, most people procrastinate to some degree - but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it disrupts their careers and thwarts even their best efforts.

The key to controlling and ultimately combating this destructive habit is to understand how and why it happens (even to the best of us) and to take a few simple steps to better manage your time and outcomes.

Causes of procrastination

What are the typical reasons why people procrastinate? Here are a few of the most common situations to consider in your anti procrastination efforts.
It can be as simple as

       i.            Waiting for the right mood

    ii.            Waiting for the right time

Then as you look at the way, you organize your work you may notice other reasons for procrastination such as:

       i.            Lack of clear goals

    ii.            Underestimating the difficulty of the tasks

 iii.            Underestimating the time required to complete the tasks

 iv.            Unclear standards for the task outcomes

    v.            Feeling as the tasks are imposed on you from outside

 vi.            Too ambiguous tasks

vii.            Underdeveloped decision making skills

viii.            Fear of failure or fear of success

 ix.            Perfectionism

Briefly, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favour of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you are more comfortable doing.

This happens to me often. I get caught up in the trap of sitting behind my computer for 8 to 12 hours at a time at the expense of my academic work, saying to myself I will find another time to do my studies. Only to realize most often, too late, that I have busted that precious time I should have used for my studies.

Sometimes this happens when someone does not understand the difference between urgency and importance. We all have the same amount of time in every day and procrastinators spend this time fully, but do not invest it wisely. Instead, they focus so much on urgent issues that they have little or no time left for the important tasks, despite the unpleasant outcomes this may bring about.

How to Combat Procrastination

Whatever the reason behind procrastination, it must be recognized, dealt with and controlled before you miss opportunities or your career is derailed.

Part of the solution is to develop good organizational and personal effectiveness habits, such as those described in Mind Tools’ “Make Time for Success!” This helps you establish the right priorities, and manage your time in such a way that you make the most of the opportunities open to you.

The other part of the solution can be as simple as applying this rule of thumb: If you are not working (whether directly of indirectly) to progress your top priority projects, you are probably procrastinating.

Moreover, when you are doing something important, such as working on your top-priority project or task, and something urgent comes up; recognize that this will take time away from this important work. To do this, it is imperative to understand the difference between urgency and importance. On one hand, let us say that your boss comes to your office, says he or she has called a meeting, and wants you to join other team members in the conference room now. This is clearly urgent.

On the other hand, your sales manager calls in from the field and explains that your biggest customer just received the wrong shipment and is in dire need of the correct shipment. This will require tracking down the original shipment, working through the placed orders, even the salesperson’s paperwork, etc. Again, this is urgent.

However, while immediate action is needed here, these things only tangentially affect the truly important things in your life. Important things are likely to be the actions that serve to broaden you, build your career, or achieve something of real human significance to you. These important actions are often easy to pinpoint, for they are the ones that help you achieve your goals.

This is not to say that you do not have to take care of the urgent things. Instead, you will need to take care of these things as efficiently as possible, while also staying on top of the important demands of the day. You will need to minimize the time spent on these urgent tasks, while still ensuring that they are successfully and efficiently resolved.

With proper planning and some self-discipline, many urgent matters disappear altogether or, when they do surface, your planning and discipline makes them less urgent and easier to deal with. This means that you waste less of the valuable time that should be spent on the important things. Keep in mind that you probably do not have to handle every urgent matter yourself. Delegate as far as possible, so that you are not caught up in remedying every urgent situation. To spend life "fire fighting" is a misuse of your “important” time.

Quotes on Procrastination

1.    "One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half-a-hundred, half-finished tasks."

Malcolm S. Forbes

2.    "To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing."

Eva Young

3.    "A year from now you will wish you had started today."

Karen Lamb

4.    “The surest way to be late is to have plenty of time.”

Leo Kennedy

5.    “It is not how fast you run in life that determines your destination, but where you are headed towards.”

John K. Akotia

6.    “One key to becoming an outstanding success in life is the secret of the beneficial use of ones spare time.”

John K. Akotia

7.    “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

King Solomon (Eccles. 11:4)

8.    “Think goal setting is too laborious and time wasting? Try goalless life and your regret will be unpardonably regrettable

John K. Akotia


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