Procrastination is your Friend


We held a session on procrastination at the Brighton Summit last week and had over 40 people all taking steps to over come procrastination.

By imagining circles on the floor representing Comfort Zone, Growth Zone and the Procrastination Zone we were able to get a feel of what lies in each. By stepping out of the circles we could then ask the question “what is that doing for me? what is its positive intention?” in relation to procrastination and get insights from a different perspective. If we are to move on from procrastination, it is important to understand this “positive intent” of putting off an activity, how it is being a friend to us.  If we identify another way of meeting that need, rather than suppressing it then we will be freed of the desire to delay action.

Procrastination has many sources but can often be a result of feelings of anxiety, based on a perceived threat to your self esteem resulting from you doing a task.

Avoiding these possibilities by putting off doing the task works in the short term, but obviously leaves you with the longer term consequence of dissatisfaction.

In order to tackle procrastination it is therefore important to look at both practical and psychological aspects.

Adjusting you attitude

It is as important to recognise how you create the feelings that lead to procrastination in the first place.

You subconsciously chose to give certain meanings to events and actions. For example:

“If I am no good at this task it means I am not cut out for this.” Result = you don’t apply effort to give a get out clause.
“ I have to make this job perfect” Result = you never compete it.

Key points

· Start noticing if you are thinking like this whilst procrastinating. Think about where these beliefs come from and how they are trying to help.

· Challenge the meanings you give to the events and actions and see if there could be a more useful belief.

e.g. “ I have to make this perfect” Ask yourself “What is perfect? Is that realistic? Could it be better to do something 80% well and in good time rather than getting it in too late?”

Practical Steps

It helps to have am action plan, written down. Begin by breaking tasks down into bite sized chunks with short deadlines for completion.

Key points:

· Ensure the tasks are made smaller and therefore less daunting and there is a pace to the completion of them to give momentum.The deadlines need to be tight as this creates urgency.

· There should be a consequence for not completing to give some motivation. Make a public commitment to your plan of action. Going through your planned actions with someone else and agreeing to meet up again to review how you got on is often a strong motivator.

· Celebrate when you have completed a task, even if it’s just by making yourself a nice cup of tea and patting yourself on the back.

What next?

If you find yourself in the situation where you have been putting things off, make sure you take some time out to make friends with the procrastination and find out what its trying to achieve. That in itself is a very useful first step.