Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.  Author Unknown

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.  Robert Benchley

Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.  M. Scott Peck

Procrastination…we all do it, some more than others.  Perhaps, you wait until the laundry basket is overflowing, the pantry is bare, or the electric company threatens to turn off your lights. It doesn’t matter, putting things off is human.  The only time to be concerned is if it’s preventing you from having what you want: a clean house, a balanced check book, food in the fridge, etc.

People procrastinate for a wide variety of reasons, including: anger, depression, anxiety, grief, and feelings of worthlessness, just to name a few.  The good news is that whatever its etiology, procrastination can be tackled with some simple techniques.  By doing things in a more timely manner, and actually accomplishing them, you may find some of your emotional issues improving.  For example, if you have the habit of self-downing, tackling a task and following it through to completion will help your self-confidence and actually boost your mood. (See post on Self-Confidence.)

This may be hard to believe, but much procrastination comes from perfectionism.  If you think only perfection will do you may delay tasks for fear of not reaching your lofty, unrealistic goals.  Practice compassion for yourself as you acknowledge your fallibility.  Try welcoming mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.  Then, having adopted a new attitude, watch yourself delve into previously daunting projects.

The problem with procrastination, aside from the fact that it delays doing things you might actually want accomplished, is how it often results in self-criticism and /or guilt. If this is your pattern, it is crucial to stop the self-downing and shower yourself with some kindness.  Recognize how challenging it is to make good habits and forgive yourself for any lapses.  Paradoxically, the sooner you treat yourself more gently, the sooner you will clean out that garage.

Here are a few of my favorite methods for overcoming procrastination:

The Five Minute Rule.  Set a timer for five minutes and do whatever task you have been avoiding.  When the timer goes off, if you are so inclined, set it for another five minutes. You’ll find this technique helps you over the hardest part of procrastination: getting started.

Break up your task into small, manageable parts. This is especially good for those times when you have procrastinated so long that the thought of tackling your project is overwhelming and has stopped you in your tracks numerous times already.  It’s an easy tactic.  Just divide your task into smaller parts and do only one.  You may choose to do one a day, or one a week.  Either way, you’ll be achieving your goal in a fairly painless way.

Rewards and punishments. This is the most creative technique because you get to decide what the reward or punishment might be.  Albert Ellis used to suggest that people burn a twenty dollar bill if they failed to follow through on something they professed to want. Personally, I think you catch more flies with honey.  Fugure out some treat you can give yourself, and indulge in it once you have completed your task.

The most crucial aspect of overcoming procrastination is to be patient with yourself. Cracking the whip and criticizing yourself for not doing something just insures you’ll keep putting it off.

Acknowledge that change comes slowly.  Be happy with any little achievements you make. Repeat the mantra: “Progress not perfection” until it becomes your creed.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.