How to Get Rid of the Procrastination Habit

Now or Later

by Julie Plenty

How many of us rush around doing things at the last minute? How many times have we mentioned something that we felt we ought to do and said "yes, I'll get round to it" - but "it" never happens. Procrastination means to "defer action" and is a great delaying tactic - but it rarely serves us well, unless we know what's behind it and what to do about it.

Procrastination isn't only about deciding not to do or to delay something - it also means that we have chosen to do something else instead. So, it's going out to lunch with a friend when there's a report to be completed.

It's watching TV, instead of having a relaxing swim. As adults we have the responsibility and freedom of making our own choices. Habitually making choices which don't serve us well will continually create challenges and drama in our lives.

Procrastination causes stress. Yes, most of us have too much on our plates but leaving things until they really have to be done, just ensures that we are put even more pressure on ourselves. It also means that we have adopted the ostrich position and are letting changes make us and living our lives by default.

Delaying things takes up a lot of energy - because when you know that something needs to be done and you're not doing it - it stays in the back of your mind and subconsciously drains you.

Procrastination is only a habit and habits can be changed. The first thing for you to ask yourself is whether procrastination is a sign that you need to change something fundamental in your life (ie job, environment, relationships) or if it's masking fear, lack of confidence, self-esteem etc.

There are a number of ways to tackle procrastination and you may want to use different strategies for different situations.

1. Conversion - many of us live a "have to", rather than a "want to" life. Our lives are full of obligations and things that we don't really want to do. But with some creative and imaginative thinking we can convert the "have tos" into the "want tos". How can we do this? By thinking beyond the immediate task and focusing on the wider benefits of completion.

For instance, if we don't want to do the books or open our bank statements, we can try asking ourselves what the benefits are of greater financial control. Will we have much more money in the long run as we learn to save, spend and invest it wisely? How will our lives improve in the long run? How much freer will we feel now that we've taken back control and our energy isn't being drained by the nagging, insistent worry that we ought to be doing something about it - because we already are!

2.Prioritisation - By which I mean do the thing you least want to do when you have the most energy to do it. We can always find the energy to do things that we enjoy doing, but we need our energy level to be highest when tackling things that we don't care for. So, if you're best in the morning - then tackle the administration then, clear out your clutter and vice versa if you're an afternoon or evening person.

3. Delegation - We all have things that we're good at and things that we prefer to do. Ask yourself: (a) does it have to be done at all and (b) does it have to be done by you? Is there someone else who could do the job? You may decide that you don't want to concentrate your energies on bookkeeping, but you can hire a bookkeeper to free you from this. Or someone else at work may like administration and keeping papers in order; ask for their - or more - assistance.

4.Do it in pieces. The difficulty with procrastination is that the task may seem overwhelming because it has been avoided so long - it has grown in size and taken on a life of its own! Bring it back down to earth and start tackling it in bite sized pieces (when you're at your best! - see no ii)

5. Develop a system. Procrastination, paradoxically, takes up time and energy. You may always find yourself on the defensive as things catch up with you. Developing a system means that you nip procrastination in the bud.

If you want to take more exercise, then exercise with a buddy, hire a personal trainer (either at the gym or to your house), join a walking club, sports club - somewhere where you are committed to being and encourage others to commit with you. Set up structures which ensure that procrastination doesn't get the chance to put its feet under your table.

And remember to reward yourself when you've broken through and achieved something. Dealing with procrastination is only a way of taking back control of your life and the ultimate reward is having more time to enjoy life.

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AuthorJulie Plenty is a Personal and Business Coach has techniques to build her own self-esteem and confidence and now helps others do the same. Julie Plenty may be contacted at