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Overcoming Procrastination

Many people suffer from procrastination. There are a lot of reasons why we procrastinate. The most common is that a task feels overwhelming, scary, or unpleasant.

Procrastination can also have a physical cause such as fatigue or depression.

Sometimes we aren’t really procrastinating, we are just living with unrealistic expectations of thinking we can do it all!

Regardless of your particular reason for procrastinating, you can help yourself stop. Try one or more of the following tips:

• If you are overwhelmed by a project, you need to break it down into manageable tasks. Ask yourself, “What one small thing can I do to get started?” Write that down. Then continue to ask, “What is the next small thing I could do?”

• Another way to help you see the individual tasks involved is to create a reverse calendar. Start with the deadline and work backward to help you decide what steps you need to take to finish.

• Combat feelings of overwhelm by verbalizing how to attack this project as if you were giving instructions to someone else. That helps you think clearly about all the details.

• Is fear part of the cause of your procrastination? Write down your fear. Is it rational? What is the true reality? Also, ask yourself the following questions:
    What is the worst that can happen if I do this task?
    What is the worst that can happen if I don’t?
    If the worst happened, what would I do?
    What can I do now to lessen the probability of the worst happening?

• If a task that you are procrastinating about is unpleasant, look for ways to delegate it or make it more pleasant. Can you ask someone to do it with you? Can you change the environment (such as listen to music while doing it) to make it more pleasant? Can you do it faster? Would some additional training make it more tolerable? Experiment with doing the dreaded task first thing in the morning.

• Sometimes, we just have problems getting started on a task. You may need to “prime the pump” to get started. Tell yourself that you need to work on your task for five minutes and you can stop after that. You may find that you get into the task and then want to continue after the five minutes. Action often produces momentum.

• Weigh the costs and benefits of your procrastination. Do the benefits of action outweigh the benefits of procrastination? Imagine yourself being successful at taking action on important tasks. How do you feel? Now, imagine the results of procrastinating on the same tasks. How do you feel? Visualizing the consequences of your actions may help lead you into action.

We often laugh and make jokes about procrastination. However, it can be a very painful condition for those who suffer chronically with it. If you are really ready to make some changes around your procrastinating, start small. Choose one task or habit to work on. Don’t delay, get started today!

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