Tricks for beating the procrastination habit

Is conquering procrastination as simple as enrolling in “Self-Help 101”?

Those who identify procrastination as an impulse control problem, similar to drug addiction, would argue “no.”

“If you give a procrastinator a new time management tool, he will just play with the new time management tool as a way to procrastinate,” the founder of Procrastinators Anonymous writes on “Procrastination is a form of addictive escapism that must be dealt with directly or there will be no recovery.”

The organization hosts a weekly online 12-step meeting to help procrastinators break the cycle.

Psychologist Heather Noble sees many students with procrastination issues at the UMKC Counseling Center.

“It’s a hard habit to break,” she says. “It takes a lot of energy and effort to reverse. But people can make choices, and they can be very thoughtful.”

A good place to start is with personal reflection to identify the function that procrastination serves, she says. Some procrastinators would rather blow off a task completely than fail at it; others feel they need complete mastery and confidence before they can possibly start. Others delay until they have a big block of time to focus on the project, then run into trouble when an empty afternoon proves elusive. Counseling may be needed to help uncover the reasons for such self-defeating behaviors.

Next, take a hard look at the people around you, including colleagues, friends and roommates, suggests Will Self, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Bloch School of Management. Are they effective workers? Or are they modeling better ways to procrastinate?

“It’s hard for individuals to deviate too far from the group, so surround yourself with productive people,” he advises.

The next steps may sound familiar. Be aware that although making lists, setting goals, prioritizing, etc., can be helpful, they also can be used to avoid the job at hand.
The ultimate list

• Set a long-range goal, such as getting a promotion (or avoiding being fired).
• Sketch a timetable for the project that breaks it into realistic chunks. It’s OK to allow time for procrastination, Noble says, as long as you also allow adequate wiggle room.
• Estimate how long the task will take, then increase that figure by 100 percent.
• Build in small rewards, as long as they are not distractions in themselves.
• Involve other people in an effort to build accountability. If you tell your office mates you’re engrossed in a project, chances are greater they won’t pester you to go out for coffee, Noble says.
• Begin working. “Get started with something,” Self says. “Get a victory right away, because they build on each other.”
• Forgive yourself when you fall short. “Getting things perfect is such a high bar,” Self says.

In their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney suggest that one way to curb procrastination is to make doing nothing the only alternative. When you can’t check email or do laundry, but can only sit and “be,” you may get so bored that the project begins to look attractive.

Practice makes perfect
Amped up

Pages: 1 2