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November 21, 2014 | Productivity | Posted by Craig Baldwin Craig Baldwin

Solving The Procrastination Problem

Many of us procrastinate, but how many of us are chronic procrastinators? Negatively affecting not only our own performance but the people we work with.
 

If you guessed 1 in 5, you’d be right, and it appears that procrastination is even taking a heavy toll on company profits.
 

Dr. Joseph Ferrari, an expert in the field, stated in an interview with the American Psychological Association (APA) that chronic procrastination affects 1/5 U.S. adults. To put that into perspective, it is more prevalent than all anxiety disorders combined, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, and all other phobias.
 

And procrastination consumes over 25% of an employee’s average workday, costing employers nearly $10,000 per employee every year, according to a study published in 2013.
 

Chronic procrastination is not just poor time management.

 

Putting off tasks does not indicate that an individual is necessarily a “procrastinator.” According to Dr. Ferrari, chronic procrastinators have made it a part of their lives, delaying at home, work, relationships, even filing their income taxes.
 

Understanding key differences between chronic procrastination and an isolated event of bad time management is a critical first step in diagnosing and subsequently finding a solution.
 

Types of procrastination.

 

There are many different opinions, definitions, and studies on the so-called types of procrastination. But my favorite comes from Paul Graham, it’s short, concise, and to-the-point.
 

“There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination”
 

Simple enough, right? Clearly “nothing” is the worst form, with “something less important” probably being the majority of procrastination.
 

As they say, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you have recognized yourself committing (a) or (b) on a frequent or even daily basis, the experts just might call you a chronic procrastinator.
 

You’re a chronic procrastinator, now what?

 

Well, just wait a minute and it might pass.

 

Kidding, of course!

 

Follow a few simple steps to get yourself back on the right path.

 

It’s important to remember that you didn’t come out of the womb as a procrastinator. It’s habitual and increases (or decreases) overtime according to your own actions, environment, and interruptions.

 

Control your own actions.

 

Social scientist, David Niven (from our own University of Cincinnati), suggests taking on the easiest slice of the most difficult task. This is viewed as a good way to create positive momentum and get satisfaction from completing work or tasks.

 

Procrastinators tend to focus on the cost of action rather than the benefit of completion, perpetuating the avoidance. So small wins of completion are imperative to enforcing the idea that the feeling of completion can rival the anxiety of trying in the first place.

 

Put yourself in the right environment.

 

You’ve heard the saying that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time around. It’s funny how cliches are often true.

 

This is especially true for procrastinators. The environment you’ve put yourself in has a direct impact on your actions. Not only should you put yourself around other action-oriented people to create good habits, but you should limit interruptions as often as possible.

 

Limit the opportunity for interruptions.

 

As we’ve talked about before, a big key to increasing productivity is limiting multitasking and interruptions. Utilize the “do not disturb” function on your phone, or our favorite, Rescue Time, to alert you when you’ve been on your favorite gossip site for too long.

 

I’m a chronic procrastinator myself, and have learned that when anxiety starts to set in and I want to waste time – I take a 5 minute walk to re-focus myself.

 

I know what you’re thinking, you just wasted 5 minutes, what did you achieve? But compared to the 10, 15 and 20 minute increments I used to waste, I’m saving loads of time.

 

On that 5 minute walk I relax and remind myself of exactly what I need to get done, how important it is to me and my team, and how happy I’ll be once it’s completed. That gets me in the mood to take action every time!

 

Have some secrets, methods, or apps you used to stop chronic procrastination? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below!

 

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  • http://www.blakeoliver.com/ Blake Oliver

    Great post, Craig! As a fellow procrastinator, the thing that helps me the most is one of the tips you mentioned, which is to start with the easiest part of the most difficult task. Getting started and seeing some progress is often all it takes. Also, making sure that tasks on my list are really tasks and not projects is important. I’m a big fan of the GTD method for this reason.