IT Employment

10 steps to stop procrastinating

Everyone procrastinates. But when procrastinating starts to interfere with performance at work, it's time to stop putting the task aside and get on with it.

Everyone procrastinates. We usually do it to avoid a task that's unpleasant or daunting. But when procrastinating starts to interfere with performance at work--by causing us to feel worried, fearful, and stressed-out, or by causing others to feel anxious because we're holding up progress--then it's time to stop putting the task aside and get on with it.

Here are ten ways to get out of the quicksand of procrastination and reap numerous benefits, which include improved productivity, enhanced mood, less stress, better coworker relationships, a sense of accomplishment, and restored reputation at work as a "doer."

1. Identify the situation. First, write down the specific task you've been putting off. For example, "I have to convert all of my client contacts and notes into the new file-sharing software system and learn how to navigate its tools and folders." Writing down the task helps you dial in the job at hand. 2. Pinpoint your emotions. What's preventing you from diving in to this task? It's typically one or more of three core emotions. Perhaps, to use the above example, you're intimidated by all the new bells and whistles you'll have to learn (fear). Or you're resentful about having to do this when the old system worked perfectly well (anger). Or you're bummed that you're just not tech savvy (sadness). This step helps you see the act of dragging your heels for what it truly is: an emotional reaction. 3. Deal with those emotions. It's helpful to know that emotions--sadness, anger, and fear--are just pure energy in your body. Look at the word "emotion." It's energy (e) in motion. Take some time in private to express those emotions constructively. By crying to express sadness, punching or yelling into a pillow or stomping around to release the anger, or doing exaggerated shivering for the fear, you give yourself permission to express the emotion. The energy dissipates and you won't feel stuck. It's like letting steam out of a pressure cooker. 4. Do some planning.

Good planning is the foundation of success for most any project. It's helpful to write it down so you have it for ready reference. Start by getting clear on your goal. Your goal is your beacon to keep you on track in treacherous waters. For example, "I want to be facile with this new software so it's a useful tool, not an impediment to my progress." Having a clear and precise idea of your goal will keep you oriented and stay motivated.

5. Find some "truths." Identify sabotaging thoughts that are hanging in the wings, ready to pounce in a weak moment, then come up with a couple of truths to contradict them. For example, if you continually tell yourself "I'll never be able to learn all this," you might say to yourself, "I can do this" or "If others can learn this, so can I." That's a plain and simple truth. To neutralize your frustration at having to do this task, you might say, "I'm doing this because I want to be a team player" or "My boss thinks I'm the best person to do this." 6. Break your goal into a series of small, doable steps. You've envisioned the task, dealt with what's been holding you back, and fixed your destructive thinking. Completing the task requires deciding when you'll get started and figuring out a doable step-by-step game plan. Write it down, schedule it, and commit to it. Then go on a mental journey, plotting out each part of the task, including details such as whom you will talk with and what about, where and when you'll be working, and how long you expect each part to take. 7. Anticipate roadblocks. Once you've created a game plan, step back and imagine challenges and obstacles that are likely to pop up along the way. For example, other projects with shorter deadlines might land on your desk. How will you tackle such challenges in order to keep moving forward with the big task at hand? For every such scenario, have a tactic ready for sticking to your original plan. You may also want to find someone to support your efforts and with whom you can check in on a regular basis. 8. Take the leap. With all this preparation, it's time to tackle the task you've put off. Before you do, acknowledge your emotions--whether it's anger, fear, or sadness. Take just a minute or two and release the pent-up emotion in a physical and constructive way. Without the emotional energy dragging you down, you'll feel prepared to take the leap and be amazed how easy it is as you just focus on one step at a time. 9. Battle resistance. As you move through the task, you're likely to meet with resistance in the form of excuses, bad moods, and discouragement. Meet resistance with tenacity and stubbornness, and continue to deal with any emotions that surface. Say to yourself, "I can do this. I'll feel better when I handle this." Say it over and over until it's set in your mind. Any time you feel discouraged or are tempted to procrastinate, refocus on the goal. 10. Focus on the upside. Getting through a daunting task is incredibly satisfying. Praise each little step along the way. Remind yourself at every step that you'll feel incredibly virtuous when you get the task off your plate once and for all. Accomplishing what you're avoiding will simplify your work life. You'll feel more energetic. You'll sleep better at night.

Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at http://www.attitudereconstruction.com/.

37 comments
Zorched
Zorched

...that it took me 9 days to get around to reading this article? Thought so.

andrew232006
andrew232006

Right after I read one more techrepublic article.

watkinsrn
watkinsrn

I liked the point about assessing your emotional state to determine why you have the urge to procrastinate. I've read before that four important addiction triggers can be represented by the acronym H.A.L.T. -- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I think these states are also useful in tracking procrastination. If you can determine that one of them is true for you at the moment of procrastination, then a break to remedy whatever it is may help.

JoJoline
JoJoline

This 10-step anti-procrastination marathon is bigger and more complex than any project I've been given in a long time. It's so daunting, I'll definitely have to put off starting it and do some work instead.

333239
333239

Sorry, I didn't get round to reading it.

mharris672
mharris672

I"m just Burnt Out. I still know everything... I can still do it all... I just don't care any more... just don't give a _ _ _ _ ... Not suicidal, but just don't give a _ _ _ _... I'd rather joke around and slam people... Gotta have a sense of humor, your know... Take pills to stay awake... Take pills for pain... Coffee, Energy Drinks, Sodas, etc. Work-out in early A.M.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

unless there's plenty of work to be done" ---Mark Twain

kelskye
kelskye

Do our "emotions" really work like is described in step 3? Sounds more like folk psychology than actual psychology. Indeed, the actual research onto things like this is that they do more harm than good if it is these "emotions" we are trying to get rid of.

Omnray
Omnray

Absolutely useless article - zero really working technics listed. Just maybe googgle first the term at list, or what, serp really filed by quality articles.

gwc
gwc

I've used procrastination effectively for almost 70 years. The adrenalin rush I receive by waiting until the last possible minute has rarely failed to push me over the top to meet work deadlines or personal obligations. For those who want their lives to be a perpetual roller-coaster ride ... :-) One more point in defense of procrastination: One's mind need not be idle during the period of delay. In my case, I'm considering how to do 'x' most effectively, efficiently, parsimoniously, etc.,while attempting to anticipate as many contingencies as possible so that I may truly hit the proverbial ground running. Fools rush in, where angels wisely procrastinate ...

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

long enough, that they had to publish the article without his name. :-)

j357757
j357757

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” Einstein - Think of the problems we prevent because we procrastinate!

luenib
luenib

Could you please reduce it to 3 or 2?

whw57
whw57

There is nothing that a man can't do tomorrow....

Alelanza
Alelanza

I was a bit disappointed not to see the boredom factor mentioned in the article. So, what emotion is that? I procastrinate because i'm afraid to be bored by the task at hand?

Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

If it wasn't for procrastination, a lot of things would never get done. Think about it. How many things, useful things, have you worked on and finished, because it was a good way to justify putting off that BIG thing that you didn't want to do? Another problem is the occasional positive reinforcement you get when you put off (e.g.) writing that report, only to find out that the project has changed direction and the report isn't needed after all. Look at all the time you saved by procrastinating!

bhaven23
bhaven23

Can some one read this to me?

jerederd67
jerederd67

Once the cycle of procrastination has begun, the guilt factor bites like a bitter wind. I find physical exercise to be a helpful tool. Also, I try to bargain with myself. If I can withstand 60 minutes of a difficult task, then I get 10 minutes of something I enjoy. Lastly, it all boils down to self-control, whether mind, body, or spirit.

igv_ignacio
igv_ignacio

I came here while procastinating, and reading it is making me procastinate more... Quite interesting article as usual, by the way.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

Sometimes it's a health issue. I did not know it, but I had sleep apnea. As a manager, I couldn't function. I was always tired, even after 13 hours of sleep a night. I felt terrible, the world was gray. I nearly died, falling asleep on the freeway on a bright sunny day on the way to the doctor to be examined. I started the treatment Friday night. By morning I was seeing in color again. I could think. It was the best rest I had in a decade. Monday morning, it took me just the morning to go from 590 emails down to the 109 I needed to work with. My memory improved immensely. Life started to be good. This cautionary tale is to get all of you to consider that a source of procrastination may be a health issue which causes you to be unable to cope with your daily life: Your get up and go has gotten up and gone. If you really don't know what to do, procrastination is your first line of defense, but most problems need solutions that cannot be put off. And procrastinating about medical issues can be deadly.

Flat_Stanley
Flat_Stanley

You published this, therefore you are not a procrastinator.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...is because of procrastination.

hometoy
hometoy

Is just taking the leap. The rest of it is logical thinking but when it is time to put the rubber to the road that's the hard part.

Fireboss
Fireboss

But we can talk about that later. . .

greg.dargiewicz
greg.dargiewicz

I'm procrastinating by reading and responding to this article.

sbanerjee
sbanerjee

Very well put and composed. The takeaway here is the concept of e-motion. Recognizing the emotions and then releasing them so that we can focus on the goal. I will try to practise this as I procrastinate again...thank you!

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

At the end of the day, put it first on the list of things to do tomorrow. Then do it.

ettusnape
ettusnape

It took an hour but I got through writing this post. I'll reward myself by doing that other report tomorrow. Maybe

jerederd67
jerederd67

I also have sleep apnea and find it to be a point very well taken. I'm glad you brought it up. In these cases of physical or mental health, you're right, help must be sought!

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

it was supposed to be published yesterday...

greg.dargiewicz
greg.dargiewicz

...human beings are emotional creatures who believe they are logical creatures!

naresh_sn
naresh_sn

I hope you are not procastinating

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