The aftershocks of procrastination can be quite painful, especially when it becomes the norm rather than the exception. Studies show that 20 percent of the adult population frequently put off or avoid doing certain tasks. Reports are late, birthdays are missed, and bills become overdue.
Procrastinators can change their behavior by developing pro-active routines to help them achieve their goals. Routines (or habits) let us unconsciously know when it’s time to do something so that we automatically do it.
One habit may be something as simple as drinking your coffee and listening to the radio on the drive to work. Instead of waiting until you get to work to catch up on current news and events on the Internet and getting sucked in to the cyber vortex, use the time while you’re in the car to listen to a news channel. Then when you get to the office you’ll be ready to dive right into work.
Identify Problem Areas
Think about the areas that cause you drag your feet. Is it getting to work on time? Working on a time-sensitive report or homework? Paying the bills? Cleaning the house? Responding to emails? Once you’ve identified the problem areas, you can then start working on a plan or routine to conquer procrastination.
Manage Your Time
Make a to-do list of things you need to take care of or goals you want to accomplish. This can be for your personal or professional life. Then assign a deadline (make it realistic) so that you won’t keep putting it off indefinitely. If you have a lot on your plate, you will want to give certain tasks a high or low level of priority.
Break Up Large Tasks
Working on a big project can be daunting. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, think about how things can be broken into smaller chunks Start by making a list of everything that needs to be done and then assign practical deadlines.
Control Your Fears
Fear can be paralyzing – whether its fear of failure or success. First, identify what you are afraid of by completing a project or task. Then, visualize how you will feel or what the ramifications will be if you do not meet the intended goal. Often, this process will inspire individuals to move forward and get the job done.
When focusing on a specific task give it your full attention by turning off the TV, music, phone or anything else that may cause you to become sidetracked. During this time, do not check your emails or Facebook status updates. If necessary, assign yourself a certain amount of time to work on your project and stick with it.
Once you’ve completed a task, reward yourself by indulging in something fun. It could be something simple like interacting on Twitter, checking your emails, or playing a video game. Bigger accomplished goals call for bigger rewards like attending a sporting event or having dinner with friends.
While many of us tend to put off things because we’re too busy, too broke, too bored, or too stressed, some individuals may have more serious issues that cause them to procrastinate such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or trauma. In this event, a mental health professional can work with them using cognitive behavioral therapy to help develop productive life skills.