Beat Procrastination With These 3 Tips

Last Updated Oct 1, 2008 12:02 PM EDT

2737955817_b4156978b0_m.jpgThose of you who read me regularly know that I've admitted to being a world-class procrastinator. I'm not proud of this fact, but I've accepted it and have been serious about finding strategies to deal with my penchant for putting off today anything that theoretically could be done tomorrow.

So I was very interested to read a recent blog post by Timothy A. Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University who specializes in the study of procrastination. Pychyl points out that procrastination isn't so much a matter of poor organization as it is a psychological block:

Trust me, procrastination is not a time-management problem. It's a complex problem involving personality, situations and motivation.
And he goes on to offer three psychologically sound tips to help us procrastinators overcome this problem.

1. Just get started. Don't waste time overplanning and overthinking; research shows that once you actually begin a task, your perceptions of that task change. And making even a little progress boosts your well-being, which in turn gives you more motivation to work.

2. Suck it up. It is a distastesful task? It is difficult? Would you rather be doing something -- anything! -- else? Tough. You need to just plunge in and deal with it. It's a hard-nosed approach but necessary with procrastinators, who tend to avoid dealing with the negative emotions associated with unpleasant tasks. Says Pychyl,

Don't "give in to feeling good" such that you focus on short-term mood repair. Keep your focus on long-term progress on your goal.
3. Be honest with yourself. Stop the self-deception. You might argue that you'll feel more like doing it tomorrow, that you work better under pressure, or that it can wait. As Pychyl notes, you won't, you don't, and it can't. Instead of giving in, recognize these thoughts as red flags that signal your desire to procrastinate and go back to tips 1 and 2.

In a separate post, Pychyl likens procrastinators to 3-year-olds who don't want to do something, arguing, "I don't feel like it. I need to feel better in order to act. First, I need to feel better." Wrong, he says; in fact, your feelings will follow your behaviors, so progress on that task will actually improve your mood.

While tips aren't a sure-fire recipe for success -- after all, tips are only useful if you follow them -- I think these three could really make a dent in my procrastination habit. Maybe they'll help with yours, too.

(image by auburnxc via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.