Overcoming Procrastination

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. This can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt. Procrastination has a high potential for painful consequences. It interferes with professional and personal success.

How to Overcome Procrastination

First, study yourself over a period of time. Reflect on your experiences related to procrastination independently and by talking with a trusted friend. Some find it helpful to collect data about the procrastination habit in a journal.

Identify the reasons you procrastinate. Here are some common reasons:

  • Poor time management.
  • Poorly defined priorities, goals, and objectives.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the task itself.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Poorly organized materials, work space, or noisy environment.
  • Fear and anxiety related to receiving criticism.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Negative beliefs such as  I cannot succeed.
  • Personal problems unrelated to the task.
  • Finding the task boring.
  • Fear of failure.

Second, clarify how each pattern is destructive. Be honest with yourself. Look at past experiences as well as present and future. Are your actions consistent with your values, goals, and priorities? Are you achieving your goals?

Third, decide on a plan of action. When making any change, set yourself up for success by choosing realistic goals. Choose one or two of the self-destructive patterns to address first.

Here are some ideas of where to start:

  • Get clear about your priorities. Write a mission statement, list out priorities and objectives. Post these, or carry around in your wallet to refer to as needed.
  • Eliminate low priority projects. Sometimes, we procrastinate because we know that a task is really not a high priority. Be realistic about how much you can really take on and do well.
  • Use visualization to get clear about the goals you set. Visualize the experience you will have when you achieve your goal.
  • Get organized.  Are you running around locating materials? Do you have to back track your thoughts and plans every time you sit down to work on your project?  Are there hundreds of sticky notes on and around your desk? Consider attending a workshop on organization. Browse the calendar/organizer binder section of the office supply store.
  • Break down work sessions into short intervals interspersed with rewards.  For example, after I work for a solid 40 minutes, I will have a cup of tea.
  • Set and commit to self-imposed deadlines.
  • Keep your environment supportive of success. Eliminate unnecessary clutter and noise. Add items that evoke confidence, clarity, inspiration, relaxation. Post your goals, objectives, and deadlines clearly.
  • Are personal problems or concerns interfering with your concentration? Address these directly by talking with a supportive person, journaling, or investing time in an activity that will help you de-stress or recharge.
  • Recognize and challenge faulty beliefs about perfectionism. Let go of all unrealistic thinking.
  • Set yourself up for a positive experience with task completion by identifying what you really want in return for doing this task. Make sure that it is a realistic expectation. A pattern of unfulfilling task completion experiences can lead to a procrastination habit.
  • Are you running on empty?  Recognize if your procrastination is related to a pattern of having significant unmet needs. Consider all areas such as the need for fun, inspiration, sleep, healthy food, healthy relationships.
  • Finally, take note of your successful task completion experiences. Take time to bask in the feeling of satisfaction at having achieved a goal. Over time, your confidence in overcoming procrastination will develop and support lasting change in your behavior pattern.

Information provided by Carol Benoit
Counselor for University Counseling Center

Jizette Heims,M.A.,LPC,LMFT,NCC,CAMF
University Counseling Center