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Can people overcome procrastination?

Updated on August 29, 2011

Searching for a category to place this Hub was probably as difficult for me to do as it is for some procrastinators to start completing what needs to be done. There is no category for psychology listed on Hubpages, but there should be.

I grew up having a father who was a big procrastinator, but I believe it was because it was the only area of his life he felt he could control. And this is the way most procrastinators feel, even if unconsciously. The downside to waiting to complete a project, or even start one is that it manifests the saboteur archetype within us all that is responsible for disrupting our own good.

Caroline Myss talks at great length about this archetype in her book "Sacred Contracts" and I believe we all have a bit of this archetype built into our psyche that manifests in different areas of our lives dependent upon that which foils our own particular good. Procrastinators like to appear late with urgency and try to make the rest of us feel responsible in some way if their project is late and or impossible to complete. This removes the guilt of putting off the duty by making it appear as if someone else is responsible.

Case in point. Each year as the end of income tax season approaches, the number of procrastinators come out of the woodwork and into the tax preparation offices with piles of papers, most of which have nothing to do with filing taxes. They come in expecting to get a person who is "waiting for them" immediately and insist upon completing the task as soon as possible. This year I prepared over 10 clients 2008 tax returns, most of which expected refunds because the deadline to file for a refund is three years from the due date, or April 15, 2009. Each time I have assisted these people they do not even want to think about their current filing or their 2009 return for that matter as it is "too stressful" and I can wait another 365 days to finish it.

Many procrastinators also are the people who show up late to every event due to poor planning and make an entrance that seems to make others focus on them entirely. They often state they do not wish to be noticed, but their behavior creates the opposite effect and many end up having everyone take notice of their entrance. Procrastinators also appear to think that they can explain their behavior away by stating that they have "always been this way" as if that takes the onus of responsibility away from the need for them to be different.

Taxes are not the only area of which these people do not attend to their timely completion. Last term a student of mine e-mailed me three days AFTER an assignment was due to tell me he did not understand the assignment as I had not really explained it thoroughly. I wrote him back reminding him that I had posted the assignment six weeks before it was due admonishing anyone to ask questions early and had followed up by three e-mails asking if everyone was on task and understood the assignment. He followed up by dropping the course after deciding that it was my fault he did the assignment incorrectly. Of course this means that according to him, I was the one who was in the wrong and his impression of me will always be remembered as the professor who "gave him a C" on an assignment he did not understand.

So what kind of tips are available for procrastinators who fail to take responsibility for their own lack of preparation and deadlines? The key is to WANT to change and to realize that your failure to prepare and complete a project impacts everyone involved. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who need help and actually want it, here are a few tips.

1- Start early. Do not put off anything that can be done today. When your bills come in pay them immediately! If you cannot, put them in a pile and when payday comes sit down that day and pay them all at one time. Buy stamps and be ready or if you pay online set up your billpay so it is easily accessible for you to go to. Never handle this kind of paperwork more than once. Something will fall through the cracks.

2- Keep a log of business expenses each week if you are self employed. Or contact a person who can do your books for you each month or quarter. If you know you will not be able to do it, have an envelope to put receipts in and give it to a professional. I do books for several people and only charge $25 a month, this is not an astronomical price!

3- Keep a daytimer available and write when things are due and keep a "tickler file". Know if something is due within a week and act on it accordingly.

4- Students! Do not wait on getting started on papers! Remember once you start something many times synchronistically you will hear of things on your topic because it is in your awareness. Spend a few hours a week (at least) working on a paper for the best quality work. Get the research done EARLY and then you only need work on the production of the paper with all sources already at hand.

5- Tax you realize the IRS scrutinizes your hand filed returns more than e-filed ones? And when you send in late they might even think you are hiding something? Further, you show up as a deadbeat because you did not file on time for YEARS! When filing late you always must file a paper return as only the current year can be e-filed, so yes you need to wait 4 months to get the money...if you wanted it faster why did you wait 3 years?

6- finally, people who procrastinate about their health, teeth, eyesight, etc need to take a reality check. It is pretty obvious if you get to any of these professionals EARLY the cost to your health will be appropriately proportionate to your attention to it. Waiting for "fear" or other reasons has shown to be deadly in many cases. NEVER procrastinate in getting your health checked. some diseases, if caught early, can be eradicated.

The best piece of advice I have ever seen for procrastinators is posted above my department secretary's chair:

"Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

Amen sister. 'Nuf said.


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