How to Beat Procrastination

Postponing tasks we don't like is normal and most often harmless. Some of us try to fool ourselves by setting clocks ahead or concluding that we work best under pressure. Problems arise when we let tasks become so overwhelming that we do nothing at all. These tips are to help prevent you from getting to that point.

Pinpoint the Fear

What is preventing you from action? Fear of pain as in going to a dentist? Fear of rejection, embarrassment or disapproval as in a class assignment or social interaction? Sometimes even fear of discovery as in going to a doctor or realizing success in an area can prevent us from proceeding.

Stop Trying to Be So Perfect

Doing something is better than not doing it at all. You can refine it later.

Think Progressively

By the time procrastination has gotten us into trouble, the tasks may seem insurmountable. Beating procrastination is a gradual process.

Slice the Project Into Smaller, More Manageable Pieces

It doesn't have to be done at once. Start with a piece of the task so simple that you cannot possibly justify not doing it.

Be Specific About Each Piece

"I will read three pages of chapter 6 on Saturday before lunch," rather than "read chapter 6 this week."

Make Lists of Things to Be Done

And check them off as you complete each one. Being able to cross something off often inspires us to do another.

Use Odd Time as an Ally

Ten minutes while waiting for a friend or a ride can be used to jot notes about a paper or sketch a plan for a project. Don't expect to get it all done in one sitting.

Try a Buddy System

Arrange with someone to exchange and give feedback on each other's plans and progress.

Avoid Distractions

They'll only give you excuses to delay further.

List the Pros and Cons of Procrastinating

Make note of the positive results completion will bring and of the negative factors that will go away once the task is done.

Stop Threatening Yourself

Positive reinforcement is more effective.

Reward Your Non-Procrastinating Behavior

Make it tangible and personal so that it has significance for you and doesn't require anyone else's participation. Make it appropriate; e.g., more than a jelly bean for finishing a term paper, but not a trip to Florida because you made it to class.

Avoid Time-Consuming Rewards

They defeat the purpose, an afternoon uptown after you read two chapters hampers progress. Read two chapters, take a brisk walk alone and have a cold drink. Read two more chapters, phone a friend. Remember that you want to keep working.

Envision Completion

How did you get there? What are you free to do now? Consider bartering with the mechanics of completion. Offer to do someone's laundry or wash their car if they'll type your paper, or exchange papers with another typist.

Don't Expect Miracles

Procrastination, like any other habit formed over time, takes many new experiences to make a permanent change. Notice improvement.