7 Tips to Break the Procrastination Habit



Featured Column in Whistler Question newspaper – March 24, 2015 ~ 7 Tips to Break the Procrastination Habit

With a glut of pulls on our time, maximizing productivity can go a long way to manage the stress of competing priorities and tight deadlines.  But as much as checking items off a ‘to do’ list can make us feel productive, we often get caught in a counterproductive spin cycle that leaves us not accomplishing the most important work.

There are many reasons that we can hit a productivity slump and one of those may simply be procrastination.

What exactly is procrastination?

Procrastination is defined as ‘to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.”

Sounds dire but before sharing the dark side of procrastination, it can in fact sometimes be a blessing.  Have you ever postponed completing something and it turned out to be for the best?  Perhaps the situation and factors changed, demanding a different solution.  Good thing you didn’t waste your time, right?

But procrastination is a very real paradox.  In ‘The Procrastination Equation’, author Dr. Piers Steels surveyed more than 24,000 people globally and discovered 95 percent confessed to at least ‘occasional’ procrastination.  About 25 percent of those surveyed are chronic procrastinators; five times the rate in the 1970s.

Procrastination undoubtedly becomes a problem when it reaches a chronic state and the same survey shows that workers now typically spend a quarter of the day procrastinating.

Although sometimes considered a weakness of will, a recent INC magazine article postulated that procrastination is actually an ‘emotion-centered coping strategy’ and suggested that if you can understand what’s demotivating you, you could then address it because many of these emotions are not conscious.

So recognizing when it starts, understanding why you procrastinate and taking steps to move forward are paramount to breaking the cycle.

The Reasons for Procrastinating

Procrastination can occur for reasons such as:

  • Postponing in favor of doing something that you would rather be doing.
  • Waiting for ‘enough’ time to tackle certain tasks.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Poor organizational, time management or decision making skills.
  • Reacting too quickly to urgent tasks that might in fact not be jobs that need to be handled immediately.
  • The need to do it ‘perfectly’.

But nobody likes being stuck so here are

7 Tips to Break the Procrastination Barrier – CLICK TO TWEET

  1. Create a list of tasks and projects, along with action items.
  2. Prioritize each action item so that you have a guide of what is most urgent.
  3. Schedule the most urgent action items into your calendar and stick to it.  A common trait of procrastination is being late to start and figuring that you don’t have enough time to get it done so you opt to postpone again.
  4. Avoid distractions, such as emails, phone calls and interruptions.
  5. Taking breaks is a common procrastination tactic so avoid them to keep momentum going.
  6. Create a reward for yourself when you complete the task.
  7. Use peer pressure.  Ask someone to check up on you.

So are you an occasional procrastinator or is your constant dilly-dallying a more serious problem?  To find out, take Dr. Steel’s survey here for a detailed diagnosis of your procrastination profile.

For what it’s worth, the survey reveals that I’m an Average Procrastinator.  One of the telltale descriptors was that I “likely get the work done but could probably do it sooner and experience less stress.”  Yes, I know!


Now it’s your turn:  Take the survey here then come back and tell us — what is your procrastination profile?


At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Open Forum speaker series.  She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for a Small Business BC Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015.  Cathy writes this column for the Whistler Question newspaper.




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