Do You Procrastinate? I Do! Here’s How to Break The Habit!

MOST OF US procrastinate at least occasionally and some of us do it consistently and problematically. So procrastination may be human but beneficial or rewarding in the long run. It will ultimately lead to a leadership or business setback or even disaster.

 So Why Do We Procrastinate?

According to The Procrastination Equation: How To Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done by Piers Steel – a procrastinator himself at one time – suggest there are three types of procrastination.

  1. Expecting Too Little

When we have low expectations about the outcome- either getting rejected or not doing well – we tend to put off the experience. Then a vicious cycle ensues: we don’t do it – we feel bad about it – our confidence goes down and we keep saying I’ll do it later.

What are you postponing because of fear of rejection or low performance? What would be the benefit to do them today instead of waiting until tomorrow?

  1. Devaluing the Task:

When we fail to value a routine or un-engaging task properly, we allow ourselves to defer necessary crucial chores that are important but routine-and reinforce a dangerous tendency to ignore the basics – like paying your bills, doing expense reports, getting the car serviced, etc.

 Everyone has routine tasks that need to get done but are put off until later? What are yours?

  1. The Deferred Gratification Problem:

The rewards and goals that can be achieved right now often seem far more appealing than those that require us to wait. It seems most of us are wired for short-term satisfaction. For example, responding to emails immediately, clearing every minor item off our to-do lists, checking the news, watching the funny video on You Tube, etc.

What things do you do impulsively that give you short term gratification, but hinder your long term goals?

Break the Procrastination Habit!

  • Identify what you put off.
    When you find yourself ignoring or delaying task, ask yourself why. Knowing what you tend to delay can help break the cycle and prevent future procrastination.
  • Build your confidence.
    Practice “success spirals,” small steps of achievement that take you outside your comfort zone-such as trying an adventure sport, or learning a new skill through a course
  • Complete little things before moving on to big things.
    For a particularly daunting project, start with a mini-goal or easily doable or enjoyable task to ease into the difficult terrain. By completing it, you will be warmed up for the more complicated or demanding aspects.
  • Avoid boredom and get the juices flowing.
    Make tasks more challenging through competition. ‘When you are competing against your colleagues, almost any task can become a race to finish first or to get the most work done.
  • Use blatant bribery.
    Kids get stickers for going to the dentist. Why shouldn’t you get a reward for doing something you don’t want to do? When you knock off your dreaded task by the set deadline, treat yourself to a coffee break, have ice cream for lunch or even a long walk outside. Whatever will give you a positive feeling? For me it’s the ice cream.

Smart Moves Tip:

For some situations procrastination may be okay. For example, when starting a big project, take the time to plan it out or work out potential solutions. But if procrastination is hindering your performance, causing relationship problems (boss, colleague, spouse, etc.) or affecting your personal satisfaction, then it’s time to stop, examine possible causes and potential solutions. If you don’t deal with it now, then when?

Are you a procrastinator? What can you do right now to break the procrastination habit?  What have you found helpful to get you moving?


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. I find a lot of people procrastinate because of some big indecisiveness is going on. It can occur in their own lives or at the company they work at. Often this indecisiveness is unrelated to what people are doing, but it still nudges people to procrastinate.

    If you rationally and emotional walk through the connection between that indecision and what you’re doing, you’ll stop procrastinating.

    I find that I tend to procrastinate when I need to work with difficulty people. They tend to take a lot of wind out of my sails. To fix that, I do something I enjoy doing — like developing a model or posting on articles written by smart people. Lifting weights helps too.

  2. Guilty! Or at least I think I’m guilty. I’m still trying to decide if I’m procrastinating or if I have too many interests and say yes to more things than I should which means I’m on overload all the time. This brings up a good point. Am I procrastinating or am I just unproductive. I hope it’s not considered procrastinating to think this through then use your advice to make a change.

    • Jane,

      Thank you for your comments. Your questions about your behavior is the first step to determining what’s behind procrastination. There’s a difference between thinking it through and then making a decision vs thinking it through again and again and again. Let me know if you would like to chat offline about this.