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Procrastination Is the Enemy — 7 Questions to Help You Stop

Procrastination Can Be Deadly!

Image by Credit:fizkes@iStock

If you continue with your habit of procrastinating, you will create a life you don’t want.

You’ve promised yourself you’d stop, but you don’t.

Heck! You even procrastinate about that.

You planned to work on your report last night but spent a couple of hours gaming instead.

You need to lose those 15 pounds, but sweets are impossible to resist.

You know you need to be more productive, and there are so many things you want to do (even plan to do), but you never seem to get around to them.

You’re driving yourself and everyone around you crazy.

Why can’t you stop?

Is Procrastination a Mental Disorder?

NO! It is not, but it is a battle between two opposing forces in your brain — reason vs. emotion; cognitive vs visceral.

In short, it’s choosing instant gratification over long-term gain.

Think of it as two friends pulling you in opposite directions. One is thoughtful and focused; the other is impatient and impulsive.

Don’t despair. This is a battle that you can fight and win.

You can stop procrastinating.

Make the Hard Choices

It is so easy to succumb to temptation — to choose all those delicious bites of life that surround you, rather than doing the “hard stuff” when it needs to be done.

The choices you make between instant gratification or doing what must be done for long-term gain is an important factor in how your life plays out.

…the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification — at least occasionally, if not consistently — can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.  James Clear (Atomic Habits)


Use the seven questions below to analyze your choices and how they are affecting your life. For the questions to help, you must be honest with yourself. . .

1. How Deep Does My Procrastination Run?

Take this test  to find out how much of a hold it has on you.

Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but if the behavior interferes with your life, it is time to do what is necessary to break the habit.


2. What Are the Lies I’m Telling Myself?

What are the stories you tell yourself to justify procrastination? Every procrastinator has favorites. Do any of the following sound familiar?

1) I’ll do this tomorrow/later because I don’t have time right now (or I’m too busy, or I don’t have everything I need). This is a one-size-fits-all lie and sounds so reasonable. Be careful. Dreams get lost with this one because tomorrow never comes. If you delay once, chances are you will delay again….and again.

2) I work better under pressure; I am more efficient/creative. This is such a pile of s***. No one works better under pressure. It creates unnecessary anxiety, a greater chance for errors, no time to double-check your work, no buffer for unexpected emergencies. The finished product is usually less than what you can deliver — highest quality results are impossible.

3) Delaying this for an hour/day/week won’t make any difference. In the long run, one day may not make a difference, but when the “one day” snowballs into many, it can mean the difference between a passable result and an extraordinary one.

4) I need a block of time (X Hours) to do this. This may sound legitimate but is often unrealistic. If you wait for “enough” time before working on your goals, there is a good chance you will never find it. Use the time you have right now, however limited.

5) I was born a procrastinator — that’s just who I am. If you believe and accept this, it will be impossible to change, and you will waste a huge portion of your life; probably falling short of your goals. But — it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change if you want to.

Those five, plus variations, are among the most common lies, but there are many more. People can be extremely creative when rationalizing their choice to procrastinate.

What are your favorites?

Make a list, study them, and keep them in mind. They are excellent red flags for potential procrastination.

When they pop into your mind — STOP yourself and choose to get it done, whatever it is.


3. What Is My Procrastination Costing Me?

You tell yourself, “I’ll do it later/tomorrow/next week” and many times you get to it. But what happens if you don’t, or if you procrastinate too long?

What has it cost you over the years for the things you never got around to?

It is easy to convince yourself that there is little or no-cost for procrastination but take a closer look. The costs can be enormous — some tangible, others more subtle.

This is the underbelly of procrastination that very few people consider, but it is real.

It’s Time to Tally-up the Cost

Below is a list of the areas of life where people tend to procrastinate.

You may procrastinate in a few, some, or all of them.

Take your time; be honest with yourself and find out what procrastination is costing you — or could cost you in the future if you continue to procrastinate in the following areas:

1) Education and Skill Development

    • Cost if you don’t pursue it: Steady income, self-respect, financial worries, status, security, professional accomplishments, inability to support yourself and your family.

2) Professional Life — Putting things off at work can be catastrophic for a career.

    • Cost: Missed opportunities, loss of sales/customers/commissions, poor performance reviews for low-quality work, loss of your job, loss of income.

3) Relationships — Procrastinating on promises to loved ones.

    • Cost: Loss of trust — damaged or lost relationships.

4) Healthcare — Seeing your doctor for regular screening and preventative medicine (annual checkups, immunizations, mammograms, etc.)

    • Cost if you avoid it: Poor health, massive medical bills, and early/unnecessary death.

5) Home/Car Repairs — When small issues are not fixed quickly, they can become big problems.

    • Cost: Money, major repairs, and safety.

6) Wills/Living Trusts — 60% of Americans die without wills. Save your family the trauma of dealing with your financial affairs while they are grieving.

    • Cost: Time, money, and heartache for those left behind.

7) Organization — Having everything in its place and easily accessible makes everyone’s life easier (especially yours).

    • Cost: Time, stress, and money

8) Financial Planning for Retirement

    • Cost without it: Serious financial problems when you can no longer work; losing your home, living on welfare, etc.

9) Taxes and Insurance — Preparing tax forms is a pain, but a necessary one to protect the family and your assets.

    • Cost if you procrastinate: Liability issues, potential lawsuits, and loss of all assets.

These are not particularly pleasurable things to think about and letting them slide is often much easier than “getting it done.” But it feels so good when things are in order — and you have so much more time to enjoy life without all the stress.


4. How Can I Stop Procrastinating and Get Where I Want to Go?

The first step is to create a clear picture of how you want your life to look in 20/30 years. With that picture in mind, it will be easier to make choices that will take you there.

There will be temptations to pull you off the path. The desire for instant gratification is powerful. It clouds the brain and makes rational choices difficult.

It feels like satisfying pleasurable impulses is the only way to be happy and enjoy life. But that is a delusion. It only leads to continual procrastination and loss of opportunities.

It is easier to make rational choices if you understand what the long-term gain is for you — when you know where you want to be in 20/30 years?

Living life with “an unknown destination” is risky.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know if you get there?

To reach a destination of choice, it is important to be clear on two things:

1) Where are you now?

2) Where do you want to be in the future?

You don’t need a detailed life plan, but you need a plan.

Having a clear route to follow with road signs along the way will continually pull you forward to your desired destination, make the trip more enjoyable — and make rational choices easier.

Procrastination will become a thing of the past.

Map It Out

Create a Big Picture of Your Life

    • Where are you today (current reality)? What’s good? What’s missing?
    • What do you want your life to be in 20/30 years? What are your most important goals?
    • What are the stepping-stones (intermittent goals) required to make that future a reality?

Use the “big picture” as your inspiration. Post it in your home office where you can see it every day; use it as your computer’s screen saver; or make it the background image on your smartphone.

Map Out the Next Two to Five Years (Minimum of two)

    • What are the steps that will move you toward your life goals?

Use the Road Map as your guide. When an opportunity arises, look at your map and ask:

    • How does this fit into my plan?
    • Will it take me toward my goal?
    • Will it be a distraction that should be avoided?
    • Is it a completely new path that I want to follow?

When you have a clear picture of your desired future and follow a well-developed road map, life is more focused, less stressful, and highly enjoyable.

With clear goals to pull you forward, you are less likely to procrastinate. Even if you slip and procrastinate occasionally, you will quickly recognize what you are doing. Refocusing will become more automatic.

Be sure to celebrate the wins along the way.


5. How Can I Make Every Day Count?

Plan your days in advance. A well-planned day locks out procrastination because the choices are already made.

Use a Daily Schedule Planner to make sure that happens.

The following routine has been useful to me as a professional woman/single mom. Hopefully, it will be useful to you, as well.

1) Use the last 30 minutes of each day (before you leave work or before you go to sleep) to plan the following day.

      • Make a to-do list for tomorrow and prioritize the tasks (hardest things first)
      • Set an estimated time allocation for the day’s top three priorities.
      • Using a Daily Schedule Planner — be sure to allow 15 minutes between activities as a buffer.
      • Make a list of materials and information you need for each task. If you need to gather materials or collect information — schedule that for first thing in the morning.

2) Get to the office 15 minutes early and set up your day, get your coffee, and be ready to start on time. Be sure you have everything you need to eliminate unnecessary interruptions.

It may be challenging at first to follow the schedule and avoid distractions, but it gets easier with practice. Getting through the day without the constant companionship of stress and anxiety will feel amazing.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard Click To Tweet


6. How Can I Deal with Distractions?

This is a tough one because procrastinators actively look for distractions. They are especially fond of those that don’t take a lot of commitment but do a magnificent job in keeping you busy and away from what you know you should be doing.

The primary distraction everyone faces is TECHNOLOGY.

Technology has made procrastination a bigger problem than it has ever been. It creates a gigantic pleasure gap between what needs to be done and what you would rather do.

The technology of choice seems to be generational.

For those of us who are older, we love watching television. It’s the ideal way to zone out and forget about everything else waiting for us.

The only solution for those who love TV is to schedule specific times to watch your favorite shows. With streaming, Netflix, etc., TV time can be scheduled day or night so it won’t interfere with doing the things that must be done.

Gaming is the procrastinating tool for many millennials. Hours fly by unnoticed when caught in this technology trap.

Let’s not forget the smartphone — the electronic leash — which affects every generation. The easiest solution to avoid this distraction is to turn it off and leave it in another room; otherwise, it will distract you.

At first, you may suffer from separation anxiety. But you will survive and be more productive when it is no longer continually by your side.

Is there a stop procrastination app? Yes, of course. Isn’t there an app for everything?

If you work at home, Remote Bliss can help you. They have compiled a list of 25 anti-procrastination apps, which work well if you use them as instructed. Find the one that best fits your needs.

At work, you may be on your own because companies do not allow installation of apps on their machines. Your only recourse may be to simply to say NO when temptation arises.

You are probably already aware that most companies track employees’ use of the internet, which is a deterrent for some, but not all.

Winning the battle against distractions will be a major factor in overcoming procrastination.


7. Is There a Silver Bullet that Will Stop Procrastination in Its Tracks?

The simple answer is there is no silver bullet; but you can only stop if you choose to and are willing to do the work!

There is no single reason why people procrastinate. It depends on a multitude of factors — primarily their life experiences and deeply seated habits.

But there is one defining characteristic among all procrastinators. They frequently choose to do something pleasurable instead of doing what needs to be done.

Is there a silver bullet that can change a person from a procrastinator to a non-procrastinator? No! But there is a simple solution — not easy, but simple,

It breaks down into 4 steps:

  1. Become aware of how frequently you procrastinate and own that fact.
  2. Recognize the excuses (lies) you tell yourself about why you can’t do what needs to be done right now.
  3. When those excuses appear in your mind — STOP YOURSELF immediately before you take any action!
  4. Say NO to the excuse and CHOOSE to do whatever needs to be done immediately.

The silver bullet that will stop procrastination in its tracks is the ability to use the following sentence: “NO(to the temptationI’m doing what needs to be done right now!”

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. - Pablo Picasso Click To Tweet

There You Have It — How to Stop Procrastinating!

It’s a lot! Your inclination may be to “think about it tomorrow,” but ignore that thought and go for it.

It’s all doable!

You don’t have to eat the elephant all at once — just a bite at a time.

We all know a big change of any kind requires a personal commitment, which you are ready to make or you wouldn’t still be reading.

Once you have absorbed all the information and started putting it into practice, you will begin to notice that you don’t procrastinate as often.

Over time, it will become easier and easier to recognize the “lies” when they appear, and you will quickly respond with a clear NO to procrastination.

When you are no longer a slave to procrastination, you will enjoy peace of mind, less stress, personal satisfaction, and a joyful life well-lived. All of which come from choosing to do the important, difficult things without delay.

You will have kept your promise to yourself to stop procrastinating.

Whooee! What a relief!


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