11 December 2013

Back To Basics: A Crash Course On Procrastination

One of the most frequently asked questions I received from people during events and workshops was how to beat procrastination. Office workers, parents and the elderly- it seems that no one can escape the ‘head in the clouds’ syndrome.

After all, procrastination is something that comes and goes, which we all suffer from on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean it has to affect your productivity levels, or prevent you from completing your daily tasks.

Below is an interview I did with Tim Lawrence in 2002 for Espy Magazine. The information is over a decade old, but the advice still proves to be useful up to this day (I find the methods covered in the interview below to be more effective than those complex productivity apps).  

For those who need a crash course, here it is- Procrastination 101!

Define procrastination?

The art of putting off until tomorrow that which could, and should, be done today.

Any facts on it?

Lots! But let’s keep it short for this interview. One key point, I believe, is that procrastination is often linked to lack of clarity about what’s important to you. If you’ve got clear and exciting goals, procrastination ceases to be a sexy option. Instead, what’s really exciting to you helps to impel you forward, and into action.

However, not to trivialise the topic, for some people are really challenged by it, there are other reasons, apart from a lack of goal-setting, that I’ve identified.

1. Inability to prioritise

2. Poor self-starter skills.

What are its symptoms?

Ask any procrastinator, and they’ll give you a lengthy list! But seriously, the external symptoms are things not done in a timely fashion. Internally, it’s often a feeling of inadequacy, frustration, stress, and tiredness.

How can you beat it?

  1. The quickest way to answer that (and hey, I’m into saving time, right!) is to give you a summary of the 10 tips in my new book ‘About Time – 120 tips for those with no time’ Chunk big tasks into smaller tasks  – then nothing seems as daunting.
  2. Use a mind map for quick clarity
  3. Eat your vegetables first! Do the hard thing first and the rest is a breeze.
  4. Beware of majoring in minor things
  5. Develop a ‘Do it NOW’ attitude
  6. Start with the end in mind, mentally rehearse it, and the end will be as you picture it
  7. Enjoy and celebrate every small milestone of success – it is a key tool to help you overcome procrastination
  8. No time to work towards a big goal? Use the leftovers
  9. Enjoy creative procrastination. Put off until tomorrow that which won’t advance your life plan by being done today. Give yourself the gift of prime time to do whatever you like, including doing nothing – if that’s your choice.
  10. Indecision is a thief of time – learn to weigh up the balance sheet of each situation quickly and get on with it. Only rarely does it really matter which way you go.

Any experiences you’ve had?

Is this self-confession time! Plenty, but let’s give one.

Some years ago, in the very early days of my time management business, (when I was still in shock that people were asking me for help,) I had two filing cabinets to clean out and integrate into one larger one. Believe it or not, I actually like cleaning up cupboards, drawers and miscellaneous messes. However, with a background in sales, and a pretty new business to get off the ground, I didn’t want to use commercial time for this kind of activity, and used that as an excuse to keep deferring – for months!

Finally, it became such an issue that I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I decided to put some time aside that Easter, only a few weeks away.

However, on the Thursday before Easter, after listening to all my friends talk about the fun things they were off to do, I was sorely tempted to forget the whole idea and go play. I still remember standing at my office door (I have a home -based office), and having one of those conversations with the little inner voice/conscience/strong-minded responsible part of me. Finally, with a mental shake by the scruff of the neck, I stepped into the office, began to pull out files and sort them into piles on the floor. I knew myself well enough to realise I couldn’t ignore a big mess all weekend. The funny thing was, it took only 10 minutes to get past the initial reluctance, and I found I didn’t want to stop. By mid-afternoon the next day the whole thing was done, and I still had plenty of play time, feeling great!

How have you personally beaten it?

I think the example just given probably covers that. The key point in that story is that a beginning task, no matter how small, gets you moving. And once you begin, it really is easy. In fact, it releases such a charge of adrenalin that you wonder why you took so long. And of course, every time you beat it, it’s easier the next time, for the memory of success enters your sub-conscious, becomes part of your cellular memory, and helps to reinforce better habits in the future.

Another very powerful technique I use is to make a commitment to someone else. It might be the dentist, the accountant, or someone to do exercise with. Find an ‘unreasonable’ friend, who won’t let you off the hook, and you’re more than half way.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Are your days too short, workload too large and work-life balance a pipe dream?

Take a look at these Books, E-books, CDs/Teleseminars, Online Courses/Webinars and Tools. They provide practical, effective and easy to implement ways for you to free up your time, improve your productivity and reduce stress from overload.

Webmasters/Ezine Publishers: Would you like to use this article?
You are invited to use any of our articles in your publication or website. The only requirements are that we are included on your mailing list, and that you include the following, after each article you use...

Robyn Pearce CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is the Time Queen. She mastered her own time challenges and now helps people around the world overcome theirs. She can show you how to transform your time challenges into high productivity and the life balance you desire.

Get your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips at gettingagrip.com.

© All Rights Reserved to Robyn Pearce, GettingAGrip.com, R.D.4, Pukekohe, South Auckland 2679, New Zealand Ph. +64 275 846 348

If you'd like Robyn to write something specific for your industry, please email us with your request.

Get Your Free
'How To Master Time'


Plus your FREE Time Resources Pack (Valued at $227)


Client Testimonials

Catalyst For Efficiency ImprovementsIt was great to introduce our two job-share receptionists to Robyn’s Getting a Grip on The Paper War text.  It became a catalyst for us to improve our administration proce..." Marie Collins, Business Manager, The NZ Institute of Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery

Enhanced Efficiency Thank you for all the tips and words of advice you and your team have sent through.I have been constantly reading it and it does wonders to my line of work and also being a wife and mot..." Anaseini Liku, Communication & Media Coordinator, Ministry of Education, Cook Islands

Clear Directions Enhance Use Of TimeI have just finished reading 'Getting a Grip on Time' and 'Getting a Grip on the Paper War'.  Particularly your book on 'Time' got me back on track, and during the day I catc..." Ingrid Geerlings, Owner, www.houseofmilk.com

Leadership Book Helps To find the Real Me‘I’ve just been reading ‘Getting a grip on Leadership’.  It is very good and has had an impact on me.  I realised I’d lost my way a bit re who I am ..." Heather Millar, Manager, Professional Practice, Central North Island Kindergarten Association, New Zealand

Additional $120,000 Billed After Time Management CourseI have personally known Robyn Pearce for around 16 years. From time to time my firm has contracted Robyn on a project basis to work with our professional staff as well as partners in the fi..." John Hackett, Partner, A J Park, New Zealand

The Librarian Who Got Her Life Back!The kick-start that I needed was delivered by a velvet glove, but make no mistake the iron hand within the glove ensured that the message was received and understood. If you are going to spend some..." Heather Jenks, Associate University Librarian (Research and Learning Services), University of Canterbury

Increasing Personal Confidence And Job ManagementHaving worked already very successfully with our NZ Team, Robyn's support of the Australian Team over a 12-month period was fundamental to helping us cope with increased day to day workload - espec..." Julia Braun, General Manager - Marketing, Beiersdorf Australia

A Great Empathy And Affinity With PeopleI have used Robyn as an Executive Coach for key Senior Staff for a number of years now and couldn't recommend her more highly. I've found as people step up in the organisation they often struggle t..." Merilyn Havler, Then General Manager, Beiersdorf New Zealand

An Increase of 30% In Gross Turnover Due To Better SystemsWhen we reviewed the progress made as a result of your concepts, a staggering number of them had become an integral part of our day to day business, collectively making a huge difference to our eff..." Wayne & Lisa Hughes, Occupational Therapy Helping Children, NSW, Australia

Motivational And Thought Provoking SessionI'd like to highlight the benefits felt both by the staff members attending your sessions, and the motivational flow-on effects experienced throughout the Hotel.In the developmental sta..." Human Resources Manager, Wentworth Hotel (part of the Rydges chain)

Successful Paper Management Seminar Thank you for your interesting and indeed challenging speech. I could see all the people who've ..." Australian Institute of Credit Managers, Sydney Branch

Personalised Seminar For Long-term Results On behalf of the team at Strategic Lifestyle Management and our client Lend Lease I would..." SLM Conference and Incentive Manager, for client Lend Lease

Excellent Skilful Presenter "Thank you for the practical and informative Time Management seminar you recently gave to our senior m..." HR Manager, ANA Hotel, Sydney

Improve Your Organisation And Productivity The response to the program was extremely positive, with an average rating of 4.4 out of ..." Noel Cook, GM, Outdoor Network, Australia

Organisational Skills Improve To Lift Productivity Your time management seminars are one of the best things we've ever done. Weeks l..." Centrelink, Dubbo, New South Wales

Productivity Increased 50% Now several months later and my productivity has increased between 30% and 50%. I'm seeing more and bette..." Senior financial planner, IPAC, Australia

Timesaving Techniques Learned A wonderful surprise to learn how much I had improved since the first programme with you nine months a..." National Sales Manager, Personal Insurance, GIO Australia

Control Gained In Managing Time Feedback from the staff was very positive... all felt they had gained a great deal of control and di..." MD, C.Y. O'Connor College of TAFE, Northam, WA

Immediate Action For Change A lot of great new ideas and some very good new tools that I shall start implementing immediately. Group Services Trainer, Adecco

Increased Efficiency Saves 20-25 Minutes A Day "Many practical hints which helped me reorganise my office, to operate efficiently." ..." Senior Partner, Baldwins (Patent Attorneys)

Invaluable Resources In Time Management Books I would like to take this opportunity to commend you on the flexibility of your approach, and..." Human Resources Manager, Professional Services Review, Canberra

Self Management Crucial In Time Management You presented a most informative and challenging training session. Your ability to gain q..." Human Resources Manager, Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal of NSW

'Time Management Guru'! Once again you combine an enthusiastic presentation style with useful tips and techniques. Succinct and fun ..." Manager - Training & Development, Real Estate Institute of NSW

Beneficial Time Management Ideas Your presentation was brilliant, and your thoughts on how to make time management beneficial to eve..." Barbara McCarthy, President, Chatswood Chamber of Commerce, Sydney

Informative And Energising Speech We could not have chosen better. Your contribution was just what we wanted and needed, and I was t..." Raewyn James, Tamaki Teachers' Conference

Positive Feedback For Speech Robyn, you gave a fantastic speech, and I am still having positive feedback about your talk to this day..." Sales and Marketing Co-ordinator, Swiss Grand Hotel, Bondi, and co-ordinator of Eastern Suburbs Women's Breakfast

Work Life Balance Put Into Practice I know everyone who attended was fascinated by all your planning tips and I know many have put t..." Solo Home Business Network, Sydney

IT Company Gains Insight Into Effective Time Management We were very impressed... everyone gained considerable insight to effective ..." MD, IT software company, Auckland

Professional Approach Reinforces Time Management Principles Following a number of very positive reference checks we invited Robyn Pe..." Godfrey Pembroke National Conference, Hobart, Tasmania

Staff Queue For Time Management Tips! "Thank you! I'm sure you could tell from everyone's enthusiasm that they enjoyed your presenta..." Programme Director, Pioneer SWAP

Specific Personalised Advice Benefits Group Robyn gave much more than the professional information imparted in this kind of session...." Principal Heritage Officer, Heritage Council NSW

They're 'screaming for more'! Thanks for your wonderful presentation. I've had a lot of positive feedback from our staff, and they c..." GM's assistant, Austereo, Australia

L.J. Hooker Predicts Great Success In Using Their Time Your down-to-earth common sense certainly hit home to a lot of people, and the feedba..." Lyn McDermott, Ass. Director, Marketing and Communication, L.J. Hooker Ltd

5 Stars For Time Management Course Robyn, in light of this morning's session (and comments about short emails!) I could leave it the..." Wilf Marley, Principal, Marley Loft Systems (Accountants)

Simple Practical Action Steps For Work Life Balance We've had great feedback since your last session with the NZ Institute of Charte..." Denise Bovaird, Past President, New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants

Improved Focus And Concentration After Time Management Course Since your time management course our managers have found that they ca..." John Moore, Then-HR Manager, International Cricket Council, Dubai

Jam-packed Personalised Seminar Very Effective   Robyn spoke to four of my Academy groups in the space of 11 days. I wa..." Barrie Barrett, Chairman, Academy for Chief Executives, United Kingdom

Awesome says Law Clerk, Bell Gully I just thought I'd spend a few minutes in the Proactive/Value-adding quadrant and let you know ho..." Law Clerk, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Excellent 'Management' Course, As Well As 'Time Management' I would like to extend a huge thank you for making your valuable time av..." David Greenslade, Managing Director, Strategi, New Zealand

We've Regained 30% Of The Time We Used to Lose! Since we worked with Robyn 5 months ago our team of 12 underwriters and support staf..." Senior Underwriter, QBE Insurance, New Zealand

Fantastic Course - Team Feedback Extremely Positive! Thanks very much for the Time Management programme you have conducted over the ..." Gareth McCulloch, National Sales Manager, Southern Hospitality Limited

View More