Overcoming Procrastination: Do It Now, Not Later

ProcrastinationProcrastination… What is it? There are exquisite pains and gifts within procrastination. When we procrastinate we are often mentally and emotionally rehearsing our steps and movements and this brings with it a feeling of stuck-ness as things are not seen to be moving forward.

Why wait? Well, believe it or not, there’s a science to procrastination.

According to an article in the Association for Psychological Science (APS), people have struggled with deadlines all the way back to ancient civilizations. The Greek poet Hesiod, writing around 800 B.C., cautioned not to ‘put your work off till tomorrow and the day after.’ The Roman consul Cicero called procrastination ‘hateful’ in the conduct of affairs. (He was looking at you, Marcus Antonius.) And those are just examples from recorded history. For all we know, the dinosaurs saw the meteorite coming and went back to their game of Angry Pterodactyls.

Different Manifestations Of Procrastination

What's Holding You Back

  1. A top reason is, just not liking the task to be performed.
  2. Not having the requisite knowledge and skills can explain the avoidance of the task.
  3. Finding the job mundane, not challenging or uninteresting can be inferred.
  4. Having too many other competing, incomplete jobs.
  5. Poor organizational and time management skills.
  6. Lack of confidence in one’s ability to deliver good work.
  7. Obsessive-compulsive behavior that drives us to be too detailed in planning.

Some of these common signs of procrastination may be familiar to you. You may feel disengaged, distracted, uncommitted with an attitude of half-heartedness and lack of interest. Motivation is just unobtainable as you are unprepared and your level of interest, your focus, is just blurred and planning becomes sabotaged by your perfectionist and inner critic. Not knowing where to start, you may even add thoughts of failure, identifying possible missing or inadequate skills as you add to your sense of stress and helplessness.

This is your ‘inner waiting room,’ where limiting beliefs of laziness and lack of self-discipline enable your inner critic to plant all the darkest messages of judgment and failure, recognizing every problem to delay you from taking action. This is a space of odd limbo where you put off completing a creative dream or an idea and you seem to escape perceived judgment and failure. This perception of failure, or doom and gloom prediction, is derived from past self-revision from a frame of lack and taking on other people’s adverse judgement of you and your work, a judgment that may not be true for you. Then there’s the tried and true “I just have plenty of time… later.”

Which type of procrastinator are you?


Procrastinating Affects Your Health

Research shows that people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and a lower well-being. According to researchers at DePaul University in Chicago, they believe that procrastination and levels of self-esteem may be tied to one another. Their study found that those who had lower self-esteem, participated in self-defeating behavior, and exercised interpersonal dependency were much more likely to be procrastinators. Low self-esteem most often led participants in the study to put off completing tasks and to choose situations that were counterproductive to meeting their long-term goals. This study, among others, demonstrates that procrastination may be much more complicated and deeply rooted in our personalities than many of us realize.

How Does One Overcome Procrastination

Tackling procrastination is tough, as for many people, it’s become a condition of their everyday life. The important thing to remember is that through some guidelines, you can overcome your tendency to put off things. It may greatly improve your life.

Marsha Weinberg, a licensed clinical social worker at Counseling and Psychological Services at San Diego State, recently said procrastination involves a substitution or delaying of one particular activity for another.

Weinberg says in order to overcome procrastination, you must break the habit by learning time-management skills.

“Anytime you’re talking about changing a behavioral habit, it’s going to take commitment, dedication and a lot of practice. Anytime you find yourself saying later is better, that’s typically a red flag to yourself – a clue to yourself that you’re procrastinating.”

Here are some ways to tackle the common forms of procrastination:

Start by putting your procrastinator to work! Tune into the reasons for your resistance, procrastinate over them… then ask yourself, “What is it that I am resisting?” Give yourself time to explore those thoughts and feelings. Having identified the thoughts that limit your action, ask yourself, “Who would I be without that thought about…?”

Procrastinate on that… Having identified your ability and your truth as to who you would be without limited thinking, identify three pieces of evidence that will back up this way of being, three times where you have expressed yourself in this manner of un-restrictedness. Write them down and list who witnessed these scenes. Then ask yourself, “Is this task something I can start now?” Most often the answer is, “Yes,” so start!

Thief Of Time

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” (Napoleon Hill)

Follow up by putting a leash on your inner critic. Your inner critic has the ability to work from a frame of connection or disconnection and that choice is yours. It is easy to identify which frame your critic is functioning from by observing your internal level of comfort. If your critic is putting down your abilities, listing past events from a frame of failures, you will be experiencing inner discomfort. You have developed a destructive mental habit that that will benefit from instant correction.

If you’re inner critic is lifting you up to the level of your true self worth and praising you from a frame of past successes, then you will be experiencing an inner pride and feelings of comfort. Which ever frame you use most in your thinking processes will become unconscious and automatic over time, functioning ten times faster than you can think.

It is crucial that the critic, when being destructive, is caught in the act, stopped, and most importantly, corrected with love, truth and praise. Repetition of this life-changing process over time will develop good mental habits. Just imagine living your life with an unconscious hypnotic tape playing in the background, telling you how wonderful you are, and what a great job you do! These unconscious tapes are yours, and you create them through repetition. Which tape will you choose to listen to now?

The most crucial decision you make everyday is what you choose to do right now versus what you will do later. One of the most vital, yet most challenging self-management strategies is the ability to do the hardest or most difficult task first. If you can resist the temptation to start each day with the easiest task you are well on your way to a more productive self.

You may benefit from applying the 80/20 rule known as the Pareto Principle – named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who applied mathematics to economics and determined that 80% of a nation’s wealth is typically controlled by 20% of its population.

The 80/20 rule has proved valid across a number of areas, including business and time-management strategies:

  • 20% of meeting time is spent making 80% of the decisions
  • 20% of staff initiate 80% of problems
  • 20% of your advertising will contribute to 80% of the campaign’s results
  • 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results

This means that on a to-do list of 10 items, two items will be considerably more important than the other eight. If you can discipline yourself to start your day with the most important item on your to-do list you can be sure that you will accomplish vastly more than the average person.

Tip: Focus on the items that will account for the major share of your results and do them first. These are often the items that are most complicated and time-consuming. Avoid procrastinating and accomplish them at the start of the day. You can do it!

Signs of motivation include being energetic, enthusiastic, appropriately self confident, committed, being deliberate and purposeful in your actions. Social-psychological situations created by others can have an impact on your level of motivation via ‘personal issues’ (e.g. your aspirations, goals and expectations), ‘environmental issues’ (e.g. selection, training, competitive environment, competition) and ‘team issues’ (e.g. the coach’s aspirations and coaching styles).

These issues may all represent potential sources of stress in you. Thus, the environment created by the coach, the family and your peers (i.e., the motivational climate) as perceived by you could affect you adversely, provoking anxiety and possibly influence your self-confidence and your level of motivation.

A way around these issues is through self modelling, where you watch a “video” of yourself in your mind and only view your successful behaviours. Self modelling is designed to increase your self efficacy as it provides clear information on how best to perform skills and it strengthens beliefs in you capability (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).

Start by asking yourself these two “Miracle Question”:

  1. “Who would I be without that thought?”
  2. “What evidence do I have of having been this way?”

Because past behavior is believed to be the strongest predictor of your current self efficacy judgements, by observing yourself executing successful moves, you are more motivated to continue progressing. Self modelling falls in line with the assumptions of Self Efficacy Theory, proposing that there are three mediating factors that influence your response to modelling and these are the indicators of self efficacy expectancy.

These include:

  1. your perceptions of how capable you feel you are to actually carry out the behavior
  2. whether there is a high probability that the behavior will result in the specific outcome
  3. whether there is a greater chance that you will adopt and/or engage in the behavior

If the outcome of the behavior is desirable then there is a greater likelihood of the behavior being undertaken.

The next step includes “Miracle Question” number two:

“If I live my life being who I am without destructive thinking, what will be the likely outcome for me?”

List these likely outcomes and then feed them forward. A specific mode of self modelling known as feed forward has also been said to have a potential of positively influencing motivation and performance.

Feed forward modelling provides you with information about possible future behavior rather than your past or current behavior. This strategy is similar to self modelling in that you view yourself performing successfully, but it differs in that the performance shown to you is the skill or behavior that you are yet to accomplish.

“It appears that through this technique, your perceptions are transformed so that what was previously viewed as beyond your capabilities soon becomes part of your repertoire.” (Walker, Foster, Daubert & Nathan, 2005).

Download FREE No Idling, 30 inspiring stories of individuals who “Do the Work”.

Staying On Track

A day only has 24 hours and if we take out time for sleeping, commuting, breaks for meals, then most of us are left with 8-10 hours for productive work. Depending on the type of job that you have, you may not even be fully in control of your day. Meetings, interviews and family interruptions can further erode the time to complete core task and assignments. Effective individuals have shared that they get the most challenging task out of the way first.

Decide on the top three (3) tasks each day. A planner will help you to stay on track but review as often as necessary to re-prioritize.

Or perhaps the solution is to engage your love ones for help who will nag persistently but sweetly until you get the job done!

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** Still procrastinating and not getting things done? Try this hypnosis download to help you increase your productivity, get more done and get better results from your daily efforts.

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  1. says

    “The best way to finish an unpleasant task is to get started” – I love this, because it is so true, and most of the time, once you actually get started on that, ‘unpleasant task’, it’s not actually as bad as what you originally thought. I always find the challenging part is the ‘starting’ and that the best way to get started is to just not think about it and just do it.

    I love running, but a lot of the time I just cannot get motivated to take the first steps, put my runners on and actually leave the house. This usually happens to me at the end of the day, after thinking about the ‘task’ of running for several hours… so now I try and run first thing in the morning, before I have a chance to actually think about it, and make excuses why I shouldn’t go.

    I am definitely a ‘list maker’ procrastinator, though I have to admit it never occurred to me that this could be a type of procrastinator. I think I also fall into the ‘side-tracker’, as usually my ‘best ideas’ come to me while I’m supposed to be doing something else… it’s like my mind is searching for the distraction.

    I will definitely be more aware of when I’m procrastinating and what I can do to prevent this in future. Thanks for the article!

  2. Amy Satori says

    This is so great. Haven’t we all been there? It’s easiest for me if I just create baby steps then schedule that first step in my calendar. Often times, it gets the ball rolling and I end up doing all the steps just to get it over with!

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