Procrastination – harder habit to kick than booze?

I was doing some research for my upcoming workshop on how to Prohibit Procrastination in London on June 24th and even I was surprised that in the views of at least one psychologist it’s apparently harder to quit booze than procrastinating. Now I don’t agree, because I know that it’s possible to control one’s tendency to procrastinate. How? Because I have done so myself.

At School and University I used to procrastinate often, putting off studying for the exams in favour of more interesting past-times (pass-times?) like watching Cricket or reading or just hanging out with friends. Unsurprisingly, over 70% of University students admit to procrastinating and over 20% of “grown-ups” procrastinate regularly. This has an enormous impact on self-esteem, relationships and of course on their results at work. There is also a large and uncountable opportunity cost – not getting in the job application on time, paying penalties for late tax-returns, extra charges for unpaid parking tickets, not getting the girl because you delayed asking her out and the other guy did… the list goes on and on.

I found that there is not only one way to beat procrastinating because there are many reasons why I procrastinate. Some of the reasons are truly shocking and deep-rooted, not something getting an electronic diary or PDA will fix.

Some of the more obvious reasons are that sometime, we just don’t want to do something because the task itself is not appealing; sometimes we don’t like the person who is requesting it, so we feel less inclined to do it and sometimes (wait for it) we are “not in the mood”! Other reasons are less obvious and go deeper into our beliefs such as not knowing how to do something but not wanting to own up to it because we believe it’s not OK to not know. Sometimes we just don’t believe we can do what’s required and cannot face up to that perceived inadequacy.

Often procrastination is an old habit that refuses to go even when we want it to – it’s something we practice for so long it becomes first nature and is hard to overcome because our brains have become wired that way.

the good news is that procrastination is a learned habit and can be unlearned and replaced with more helpful behaviours.

How??? Like I said, there is no “one magic solution”. Depending on the cause or reason why we procrastinate, the solution may be different. If the task appears too big or overwhelming, one solution may be to break it down into bite-sized chunks. Another may be to examine the underlying beliefs of the individual to modify them if needed and make them more empowering and helpful.

Another very powerful technique is to get someone to hold you accountable, like a Coach or a friend – a good example is a gym-buddy.

There are at least 10 reasons why people procrastinate and as many if not more strategies to overcome them.

Just don’t put off figuring out what makes you procrastinate and do something about it!!!

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One Response to Procrastination – harder habit to kick than booze?
  1. Sab
    August 24, 2010 | 4:28 pm

    One thing i’ve found that can help with procrastination is to set yourself a very tight deadline, get someone to hold you accountable to it, and dive in. For me, the longer i have to do a task, and the more optional it appears to be, the less likely it is i will do it. This is moreso for big projects rather than day to day tasks. So maybe if you’ve been eg saying ‘i want to live in china for 3 months’ and keep putting it off year after year, with lots of research but no action, the best thing to do can be to book a flight there say 4 weeks away and just get on with it! The more we plan and give vague future deadlines the harder it can be to take action

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