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Stop Procrastinating…Now

| November 15, 2011

by Jim Bruce

It’s easy for me to imagine that I don’t procrastinate.  But that would really be stretching the truth, stretching it a lot.  The reality is that no one of us is immune to procratination.

Today’s reading is “Stop Procrastinating…Now”by Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review.

There are lots of reasons why we procrastinate:

   – because we have too much to do

   – because we fear the difficulty and drudgery of the task

   – because we don’t like the task, etc.

But, putting it off doesn’t make it go away.  What we really need to do is build a practice to guide us away from the act of procrastination.  Gallo suggests five principles:

1.  Figure out what’s stopping you.  When you find yourself ignoring a task, ask why.  Ned Hallowel, psychiatrist and author of Driven to Distraction notes that there are two types of tasks that we most often defer – something you don’t like to do and something you don’t know how to do.  Once you identify you are procrastinating, you can do something about it.

2.  Set deadlines for yourself.  Break large tasks into manageable chunks, put appointments to work on the task on your calendar so you can complete the work before the due date.  Treat these times as real appointments and don’t let people interrupt you.  (If necessary find a location other than your office where you can work without interruptions.)  And, create reminders as necessary so you don’t avoid the project.

3.  Increase the reward.  We sometimes put the next segment of work off because the reward from finishing is so far away.  So, create a short-term reward for yourself.  Perhaps a coffee break or time with a friend or even a short walk or doing some other thing you’d really enjoy.

4.  Involve others.  Don’t work in isolation.  Having someone to regularly discuss your work and your progress with can keep you on track.

5.  Get in the habit!  You can control your procrastination by developing a new practice.  To help you monitor your progress, Teresa Amabile, Edsel Ford Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School suggests you track your progress.  Keep a journal – what progress did you make today, what, if any, setbacks did you encounter, what will you do next, etc.  Making progress is a strong motivator for making more progress and ultimately getting results.

The next time you are inclined to delay, start building your practice.


Have a great week.  .  .  .    jim