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Do you often put off things until the last minute? Do you have items that you keep moving from day to day on your to-do list, and never get done? Do you wait until you have no underwear left (or even a little after) to do your laundry? In other words, are you a procrastinator?  

Welcome to the human race! Most of us procrastinate on certain things, and sometimes it is actually beneficial: it allows us to stew on some things and start working on them once the mental groundwork is done; or to avoid doing certain things that just bring no value to our work or life, but that others want us to do.  

However, when procrastination becomes chronic, it also makes us rush to meet a deadline – if we meet it at all -, and creates a lot of stress, both emotional ("I still have to do this... Why am I not doing it? What's wrong with me?") and physical (lack of sleep, rush to make things happen at the last minute.)

So how can you bring procrastination back under control? In all my research and years of dealing with clients who procrastinate, I found that procrastination come from only one of four sources:  

Bad timing: You have other priorities when the task gets on your radar, or it simply comes in late in the day, when you're already tired.  

Fear: something in the task is scary. It can be the task itself, such as calling people you don't know to ask for something, or it can be that it feels overwhelming, too big, too difficult, not enough time.

Distaste:  You simply don't like this task - or even hate it.  

Lack of information: sometimes, we procrastinate because we know, at a subconscious level, that we're missing a piece of information, or we don't know what to do, and without further information we won't be able to do it.  

Bad timing is an easy one to resolve: just reschedule the task for a better moment, and it'll happen easily. Lack of information is just as easily cured: in most cases, sitting down and taking the time to write everything you know about the task and how to perform it, as well as the things you know you'll need but don't have, or don't know, at this point, will make your procrastination disappear.  

Things become more difficult when the source of the procrastination is emotional, i.e. fear or dislike. You can choose to face the emotion head on, and for instance work on your fear of cold calling. Or you can develop strategies to completely sidestep the whole issue by using the following strategies:  

*Decompose the task you hate or fear in bite-size pieces*. For instance, finding books on decoration is a much less overwhelming goal than redecorating the whole house. Write down and schedule only those bite-size pieces, and your project will happen almost by itself.  

Allow yourself to work on it for a limited time: you can most likely force yourself to do something for 15 minutes, right? Then set a timer for 15 minutes, do what you need to do for this time (filing is a frequently hated task, and one that is very suited to this method.) When the timer rings, give yourself permission to stop. Chances are that you will actually want to continue now that you've started.  

Give yourself a reward: Decide on something you would love to do, or a treat to yourself that makes you smile just to think about it, then use that treat as a motivator do you your task – but make sure that you give yourself this special moment or thing only after your have finished your task... If it helps you, put a picture of your reward right next to your desk, or wherever you see it while engaging in the activity you dislike or fear, so that you have a reminder in front of you whenever you are tempted to just procrastinate again.  

By using those strategies, independently or together, you'll see your procrastinating tendencies go down quite drastically, and you'll discover a wonderful side effect: suddenly, you will have much more time available to do the things you love doing.  

Yours in Daily Mastery,

PS: One note to add to this article: Sometimes, procrastination really is a disguise for perfectionism. To learn more about this aspect, go to [Link Removed] or email me and I'll send it to you.

Karin, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.


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