Procrastinators Cannot Afford to Put Off Projects and Deadlines

Article originally published in

By Nancy Keny

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”  Does that sound like you?

Or how about, “I can’t seem to get started or follow-through on some of my projects at work.  I’ve missed deadlines and have had to work late to finish.  I spend more time thinking about it than actually doing it.  I get easily distracted by phone calls, co-workers, paper work, busy work.  I’m overwhelmed and procrastination is my only recourse.”

What could you achieve in your professional or even personal life if procrastination did not exist?  What specific things would you do?  Make more money, have a more fulfilling job or have more free time?

What is procrastination?  It’s simple.  It means to put off doing something until later.

What is the price you pay for procrastination?  What are you giving up in your professional and/or personal life when you procrastinate?  Time with your children or spouse because you have to work late to meet a deadline?  That pay raise or positive review because of missed deadlines or low productivity?

Procrastination is an issue that professional and personal coaches deal with on a regular basis with their clients.  A coach can assist you in overcoming that powerful urge to procrastinate by helping you identify and recognize the many subliminal forms that procrastination comes in and create individualized anti-procrastination strategies.

Here are a few such forms and strategies for dealing with procrastination.

1. Perfectionism

Webster’s defines it as “Being without fault or defect.  Highest degree of excellence.” What constitutes “perfection” varies by person, but all perfectionists set high and often unattainable goals.  Fear of failure and lack of risk taking may occur because they are convinced that their efforts will not meet their expectations.  Thus, they become paralyzed and may do nothing at all or put it off until the last minute.

Anti-Procrastination Strategy 

Perfectionists may need to change their mantra on some tasks or projects from “A job worth doing is worth doing well or not at all” to “Some jobs worth doing are worth doing OK.”  Decide which projects or tasks must be done “with the highest degree of excellence” and which can be done “OK.”  Recognize that your definition of “OK” will still be higher than you think.

2. Not in the mood

Do you ever say to yourself, “I just don’t feel like starting that project today or making those phone calls.  I’ll wait until I have the energy and enthusiasm to really do a good job.”?  If we all waited until we “felt like” doing something that is unpleasant or takes a lot of energy or effort, we would never get anything accomplished let alone in a reasonable amount of time.

Anti-Procrastination Strategy

The first step is realizing that the reason you are not doing it is that you are not in the mood.  You must tell yourself that hell may freeze over before you really “feel like” writing that dreadful review or making those cold calls so do it now, regardless of how you feel.

Because getting started is usually the toughest part, do the unpleasant task for only 20 minutes.  Set your alarm and know that you can do anything for 20 minutes.

The “anticipation of the event is far greater than the actual event,” so tackle the difficult tasks in the morning so that you don’t spend 80% of the day worrying about 20% of the tasks!

Create accountability and deadlines.  We often don’t make progress on things we’re not held accountable for.

Don’t focus on how unpleasant the task at hand is but focus on the negative consequences of not doing it now.  Oftentimes, you will be motivated to do something unpleasant now in order to avoid something more unpleasant later!

3. Overwhelmed

When you have so many projects and things you need to do you may feel overwhelmed and frozen. You don’t know where to begin so you either do nothing at all or play free-cell or reorganize your desk.

Anti-Procrastination Strategy

The first step is to make a list of your projects and tasks. Rank them in order of priority and deadlines. After each item decide if it is something that only you can do, or whether it can be delegated or deleted.

Take one item at a time and break it down into smaller steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  Clear your desk and your mind of any other clutter not related to the project at hand.