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Don't delay, get procrastination problem under control

Heidi Grant Halvorson, social psychologist and associate director of The Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School, joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss how to stop procrastinating
Why we procrastinate and how we can stop it 03:58

Recent research found putting tasks on the back-burner can be more than just a bad habit. For people who suffer from chronic procrastination, their health, career and relationships take a hit.

But for everyday procrastinators, social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson said there are simple ways to get the problem under control.

First, set a date with yourself.

The science behind stress eating 03:08

"So instead of saying, 'I'm going to call my mother later,' say 'I'm going to call my mother after dinner, like around 7 o'clock,'" she said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

That simple change makes it three to four times more likely a person will actually get it done, according to Halvorson.

It also helps to be specific about goals and tackle one task at a time.

"Don't say 'I'm going to clean the garage,' say 'I'm going to work on the garage for an hour," she said. "Don't say 'I'm going to do my taxes' -- that's a huge thing. Say, 'Today I'm going to download all the forms for my taxes, and maybe tomorrow I'll do the receipts.'"

Halvorson said procrastinators can also exhibit "moral compensation" -- doing something else to avoid the task that really needs to get done, like going to the gym instead of cleaning the garage.

"For most people, garden-variety procrastination is really about just the simple desire to want to do something pleasurable over wanting to do something difficult or strenuous," she said.

Persistent procrastinators, unlike every-day procrastinators, she said, regularly deal with stress in a way that leads them to put off important tasks, like going to the doctor.

"Those are people that have procrastinated to the point where their lives are essentially falling apart," she said.

Halvorson said they are more impulsive by nature and have a hard time controlling their emotions.

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