The Causes and Cures of Procrastination

istock_000006036127xsmall.jpgDo you live by the old adage of putting off doing today what you can do tomorrow? Do you find yourself doing the easy things on your list first, and then running out of time and energy to do the tougher, and usually more important things? If so, you’re part of a large segment of the population who suffer from procrastination. There is a cause and there are cures for this highly prevalent “disease.”

Causes

1. You prefer to do the fun things first.
2. You’re not organized and do things at random.
3. You don’t know how to prioritize.
4. You don’t have all the information.
5. You need help but either don’t know who to ask or are reluctant to ask.
6. You REALLY don’t want to do the thing you’re putting off.
7. You’re afraid of failure.
8. You believe the task is too difficult and you’re overwhelmed.
9. You’re never in the “mood” to tackle the project.
10. You say you’ll do it, then break agreements with yourself.
11. You are a perfectionist.
12. You think you have to do it all yourself.
13. You’re not honest about the consequences of not doing the task.

Cures

1. Create a fun reward after you complete a task that doesn’t seem like fun.
2. Use a planner like Outlook or some sort of calendar system where you can look at all you have to do and figure out what to do when.
3. Read Stephen Covey’s book First Things First and learn how to distinguish between urgent and important tasks.
4. Look on the Internet or ask someone who’s done this before. All the information you need is most likely available somewhere.
5. Get over your fear of asking, and get the help you need.
6. Ultimately you have to decide if you REALLY want to do the thing you’re putting off.
7. When you don’t even attempt something, you’ve already failed. If you do it and you “fail,” learn from the experience as to what to do differently next time.
8. Look for ways to break large tasks down into bite size pieces.
9. The right mood may never come; just decide if you really want to do this and get any help you need.
10. Find someone to be accountable to. We tend to keep our commitments to others more than to ourselves.
11. Get over it. The need to do it “right” is a myth. There are degrees of rightness and you will have to accept less than perfect to get anything done. How about excellence?
12. Delegate what you don’t like to do or don’t have the skills for. That’s why there are experts out there. Do what you do best and delegate the rest.
13. Get clear about the consequences of not doing the task and determine whether it’s worth letting go.

When procrastination starts becoming a big enough problem, you will do something about it. And remember there’s lots of help available. Consider working with a life coach to get to the root of the problem and get ongoing support.

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6 Comments on “The Causes and Cures of Procrastination”

  • Nice stuff, I prefer to think of it in these terms:

    Causes: Thoughts and feelings
    Cures:
    - Know exactly what you need to do and why
    - Break free of thoughts and feelings

  • This is a great list. It deserves to be printed into a pamphlet and given to chronic procrastinators.

  • Good list. Splitting a long task (home decorating? homework?) into 55 minute stretches with a “reward” break at the end – cup of tea and a cookie? Look at the paper? for 5-10 minutes works well. I say this as someone who once borrowed a book from the library called “How to Stop Procrastinating” and was fined for taking it back late!

  • Thanks! I’ve got the right answer: I DON’T WANT TO DO IT!! Always is easier than we expect :-)

  • Everyone procrastinates to a certain extent, but some people procrastinate more than others. Why? Either through learned behaviour or an unconscious fear of success. Both reasons are deeply seated in the subconscious, and can be tackled through willpower – with great difficulty – or can be attacked at the root – at the level of the subconscious mind.

    I’ve written an article that goes into depth into both of these ways. Read it here – http://tinyurl.com/626dx7

  • Very Good Post. I think your tip No. 8 (Look for ways to break large tasks down into bite size pieces) is a great piece of advice. Often people put off doing something because they simply feel overwhelmed by the size of the task. Doing small tasks seems much more manageable to them and lets them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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