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How to Handle Procrastination

Updated on July 29, 2013

There's a strange sort of community mentality in procrastinators. It's something most of us have in common, but instead of realizing that it's a real problem and working on a way to solve it, we spend time thinking about how we're all procrastinators and how nice it is to feel like we belong to something.

I imagine that if there were an official slogan or call to action for the procrastinating community, it would be something like – ‘Procrastinators of the world unite! Tomorrow.’

But it is a real problem and you've probably stumbled onto this article in an effort to avoid doing what you're supposed to be doing. I know, I did the same thing this morning (we'll unite tomorrow).

Luckily for you this just might be the most productive and hopefully, the last bit of procrastination you ever do.

In trying to figure out how to stop procrastinating, it's important to procrastinate by thinking about the thought process and what we tell ourselves when we do it.

Once we realise what we're doing wrong we can start to work out how to make it right.

There are 6 stages to the thought process of procrastination:

- False security "This isn't due till later, I'll relax for now".

- Laziness "Maybe I should get a head start? Maybe later".

- Excuses "I'm so busy right now with this ham sandwich.....I'm so full, I'll just take a short break".

- Denial "I still have time, I don't need help".

- Crisis "I'll never procrastinate again!”.

- Repeat.

Lev Yilmaz sums it up perfectly in Tales of Mere Existence “Procrastination”

I've found that there are 3 ways to stop that relentless cycle and switch from putting the 'pro' in procrastination, to putting the 'pro' in productive:

1. Don't eat an Elephant

Maybe your boss has dumped a month’s worth of work on your desk, or you've left the washing to pile up so high that your kids have taken to climbing it in an epic quest to conquer their household Mount Everest?

Instead of being overwhelmed by trying to tackle a seemingly impossible task (or trying to eat an elephant), and driving yourself to distraction - I'm looking at you Facebookers! Break the job down into smaller, more manageable tasks and reward yourself each time you finish one. Our brains are hard wired to handle and process little bits of information at a time and we all respond positively to constant reward.

By doing it this way you ultimately get through the entire task faster, with the bonus of smaller rewards more often - self high five!

2. Mom's not always right

Remember how she used to tell you to eat your vegetables first, and then you'll get dessert? She was being a good parent, but you're an adult now so you can do what you want - cake first please! Use the same principle when dealing with procrastination. Sometimes it's a better idea to start with the bits of the job that you like best.

By enjoying it from the beginning, you get yourself thinking positively about the work so that when you come to the parts you'd rather not be doing, you're already too far along to let procrastination stop you - take that procrastination!

Facts Around Procrastination

40% of people have experienced financial loss due to procrastination (Gura, 2008)

In 1978 5% population chronic procrastinators, compared to 26% population today (Steele, 2007)

Self-doubt is one of the major causes of procrastination Prof. Timothy A. Pychyl, PHD. Carleton University of Psychology

Procrastination is closely linked to "avoidant coping styles". A tendency to neglect problems that cause anxiety rather than confront them.

College students who procrastinate in their academic work are also likely to have unhealthy sleep, diet and exercise patterns, study at the American Psychological Association

3. Distract the distractions

So you've managed to avoid eating an elephant by dividing the washing pile into smaller ones (colours, blacks and whites), you've disobeyed Mom by doing the bit you like best first (playing with the squishy detergent ball), and are just about to put the first load on when you realise you should probably update Twitter about how much fun the squishy detergent ball is - people need to know!

But before you give in to the urge to enlighten the Twitter-sphere with your 140 character philosophy on detergent balls, STOP! Realise that you're trying to distract yourself. By consciously acknowledging the fact that updating Twitter right now would be a distraction leading to more distractions, you can avoid taking yourself down the slippery slope of procrastination.

So the next time you start putting off replying to that endless stream of boring emails, are dreading the date you made to meet your mother- in- law and start contemplating ways of telling her you may need to reschedule, “Sorry Mom, I’m so busy washing my hair that day”, or just can't bare the thought of actually using your time during working hours to work when bathroom naps look so much more appealing…..take a second to think: I was going to procrastinate right now, but I'll do it tomorrow.

If you’re still procrastinating by floating around in a cloud of denial about your procrastination - take the quiz and find out: Are you a procrastinator?

How do you procrastinate?

See results

Five Steps to really Conquer Procratination by Robin Sharma

1. A Magnificent Obsession Statement and a Dream Collage

2. The 30 Day Procrastination Diet

3. Second Wind Workout (Exercise)

4. Create an Ordered Environment

5. Conquer your Fear

- Robin Sharma

To discover more and go further on the topic of beating Procrastination, take a look into Robin Sharma's online program, Your Productivity Unleashed.


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