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Don’t put off kicking that procrastination habit

By Joni Emmerling

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So why do you procrastinate?

I posed this question to my favorite procrastinator (who declines to be named) and got a cool reception. We all sometimes put off tasks we dread, but she makes prolonging the inevitable her life style.  She thought a moment about denying it. She squirmed but in the interest of Her... readers decided to reveal what she could about it. She pretty much nailed what the experts say, but understanding the why had not yet made an impact on her behaviors.   

We know that procrastination is the putting off or delaying of a task until later. This differs from using good time management in that it makes our life harder rather than easier. The reason we procrastinate can be simple or complicated. It could come from our childhood habits. It could be the child within that just doesn’t want to, so she digs in her heels. Maybe we think that if we shove the chore aside it will magically disappear. Perhaps we are trying to punish those who put work on our list. Do we fear that we will be judged badly by others for how we do the job? Do we strive for that elusive perfection? We can scratch to the bottom of our psyche for the root cause but it doesn’t really matter for making a change.

Because procrastination is a set of behaviors rather than a character flaw, we can just call it a bad habit. We prolong getting started and that results in making the task even more unpleasant by adding dread to the mix. Some say they like the rush that comes with working with a deadline but we all know that is just an excuse. We increase our own stress and irritate others. Like all habits, new ones can be made to replace those that don’t work well.

Want to change?  Start a new habit. When you see yourself shoving a task to the bottom of the pile, stop yourself. Would it really take that long to just take care of it now?

Another strategy is to ask yourself what would motivate you to get this done. Use a trick that any desperate parent knows: bribery. In psychology, it is called the Premack principle. For every disliked task, attach a preferred task. This translates to: when you eat your spinach, you may have a cookie. Think in terms of what nice treat you may have when you complete or make headway on your less liked chore. 

Being held accountable is often motivating, so tell a friend or coworker that that you intend to do this task and will have it completed by Thursday. You will be checking in with them then to report that it is done. Block out time on your calendar for seeing it through and then stick to it without debate. 

Often these procrastinated items are important or they would not be on the list. They tend to not be urgent until they start to pose a problem. By choosing a personal due date and getting it to the front of the list we can see some progress.  

Imagine how nice it will feel to have completed this task. Imagine yourself at each stage of the task and then think about a small reward for each step. Often just getting started is the hardest part and our work flows from there. 

Whether you are the queen of procrastination or just an occasional user, why not deal with this source of stress? Goodness knows you have enough. My friend might not be willing to deal just yet, but I have faith she will come around! 

– Joni Emmerling, MA, CMC, ACC is a Greenville certified life and wellness coach. She can be reached at joni@jbecoaching.com.


Bless your heart
Bless your heart