When Procrastination Strikes

I had a bad procrastination day yesterday. I am a habitual goal setter and most of the time I do a pretty good job of getting on with things. I generally achieve the daily tasks I've set myself and do exactly what I need to do.

But, every so often, my procrastinating impulse kicks in and I have a completely unproductive day. What is frustrating is that when it happens, I know exactly what I am doing. I can clearly see that I am allowing myself to be overtaken by laziness, but I still allow it to happen.

The result is that I waste a whole day in mindless, non-goal oriented, non-activity and I wind up feeling useless and consumed by guilt at my own lethargy.

I am getting better, though and I have developed a few useful techniques to nip procrastination in the bud.

  1. Spot it coming. Procrastination can be very crafty and will sneak up on you if you're not vigilant. Suddenly you find that you have whiled away a couple of hours doing something preparatory that was supposed to take you five minutes. I usually find that my procrastination starts when I am getting near the end of a project and the finishing line is in sight. I think it is because I am afraid that now I will have to show my pet creation to the world and that scares me, so my procrastination reflex kicks in to protect me. When does yours usually start? What are the triggers?
  2. Make an immediate plan. My only defense is to get right down to action basics. Step one is to remind myself what today's task is. Step two is to break it down into small chunks and when procrastination is looming, I find those chunks need to be even smaller than usual. I usually segment right down to 'Ten minute chunks'; tiny actions that can be completed in ten minutes or less. Step three is to choose the first 'ten minute chunk' to be completed.
  3. Do it, do it, do it. I find I almost have to scream at myself, like a crazed drill sergeant, in order to get myself to take the first step. I have chosen the ten minute approach, to give myself a carrot as well as the stick. My mental yelling and threats of dire consequences are the stick but this is balanced by the comforting, carroty thought that I am only going to have to work for ten minutes. Then, I simply knuckle down and carry out my ten minute action. As soon as I do, I suddenly find myself in the groove. I am absorbed in the task, procrastination is retreating and I am getting myself back on track. The relief is enormous.

After ten minutes I either take a short break before picking up the next short chunk, or I often find myself so re-energized that I just keep going. Problem solved. Procrastination beaten once again.

  • About

    headshot: David Beroff in St. ThomasDavid Beroff started writing software at the age of 11, and was teaching Computer Science at Rutgers University by the time he was 18. After designing software for two decades, he started his own Internet marketing firm in '95; one of his company's earliest successes was Freedback.com, a free feedback-form service that was later sold to Wondermill.

    Beroff had bought and sold four million voluntary, opt-in email leads generated with properties like LeadFactory and SuperTAF before the business failed in '07. He is the author of the book, Turn Funny Email into CASH!, and is currently developing a new social media site, AboutTh.is.

    He has two grown children, and now lives outside of Scranton with his girlfriend and five cats.

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