Tips To Topple Procrastination

By Karen Susman, President Karen Susman and Associates

We procrastinate for several reasons. We dread the action to be taken. We don’t have the information, authority or support to complete the action. We are perfectionists who can’t start a project because we might not do it perfectly. Perhaps we are addicted to the adrenaline rush of doing things last minute. Some procrastinators feel proud that they can do a good job in a small amount of time. They ask people and themselves to imagine what an even greater job they could have done if they’d started sooner.

Perhaps procrastination is positive. In fact, creative procrastinators state that many times a problem untended has gone away on its own. Procrastinators argue that if they finish an assignment early that it will just sit in someone’s in-box or get lost in another procrastinator’s mess.

So, what’s the big deal? Procrastination is a problem for several reasons. First, tasks that are unpleasant, like correcting an employee, tend to fester and grow faster than fescue. An issue that could take a few minutes to resolve can require a committee, grievance process and lawsuit if left unhandled long enough. Secondly, with everyone trying to do more with less, delayed tasks can balloon into an unmanageable work load. Third, the fast pace of our lives causes important details to fall through the cracks. Procrastination induced pressure exacerbates mistakes. Fourth, procrastination takes a lot of psychic energy. Every time you tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow and go through all your rationalizations for not doing it immediately, you mentally deal with the issue today as well as tomorrow. Fifth, since perfectionism rides shotgun with procrastination, procrastinators avoid trying new things or making important decisions for fear that they won’t be perfect. One sure way to stay mistake free is to never do anything. Procrastinators play it safe even though procrastination is risky.

Getting started on any project is usually the biggest obstacle. Try these suggestions NOW!

  1. Break your project down into itsy-bitsy projects.Write down all the steps. Your task will feel more manageable. Research reveals that big projects, ideas, changes, etc. can cause fear which then causes us to shut down as a survival mode. Thus, small doses of anything are easier to adjust to and accomplish.

  2. Reward yourself for accomplishing each small project or for reaching a benchmark. Don’t wait until a project is finished. Rewards reinforce action.

  3. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When the bell rings, get started.

  4. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Work for only fifteen minutes. You’ll probably want to continue once you get started.

  5. Have a procrastination pal. Commit to a friend that you’re starting a project and ask him to call you at an allotted time to check on your progress.

  6. Throw your coat over the fence. Then you’ll have to go after it. Make a commitment to someone that you’ll have to keep. Then work like crazy to deliver.

  7. If you need pressure to accomplish, forget your actual deadline and mark your calendar with an imminent deadline.

  8. Start anywhere in the project. Just dive in. Not knowing where to begin can keep you from starting. By doing something, you break the suction. Once you’re into the project, you can see what needs to be done.

  9. Ask for help. If you don’t know what to do or how to do it, find someone who does. Pay him/her if you have to. It’s worth it.

  10. Lower your standards. Perfectionism and procrastination are connected at the hip.

  11. Don’t make promises you know you won’t keep or are unrealistic based on your time and resources. If you volunteer yearly to circulate a charity envelope in your neighborhood only to find the envelope sitting on your desk for months, say "No" the next time you get the call. You’ll be relieved and the charity will have a more successful fund drive.

  12. Change the messages you give yourself. When that internal voice says, "I always procrastinate. That’s just the way I am." Say a loud, "Balderdash!"

  13. Have a compulsion to complete. Get in the habit of finishing one project before you set it down. Remember, getting started is a deal breaker for procrastinators. So, avoid starting, stopping, starting, stopping, starting.

If you have a project that weighing you down, don’t dally, delay or dawdle. As Ben Franklin said, "One today is worth two tomorrows."


Karen Susman is a national speaker, author and presentation skills coach who works with organizations and individuals who want to maximize their performance and quality of life. Her guidebooks on 101 Top Dog Tricks of Time and Activity Management, 102 Top Dog Networking Secrets, 55 Ways to Improve Your Laugh Life, and 201 Secrets for Building Community Involvement are just $5 each. Don’t put off ordering them today. For information, go to www.karensusman.com or karen@karensusman.com.

Karen Susman (karen@karensusman.com)
President, Karen Susman and Associates
3352 S. Magnolia Street
Denver, CO 80224
Phone : 1-888-678-8818
Fax : 303-756-2687

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