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21 Dec, 2011

Ditch your procrastination habits – 10 quick fixes

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coaching Articles|Life Coaching Articles|NLP Articles

Ditch your procrastination habits - 10 quick fixes

Your procrastination habits may seem to be very deep rooted and, indeed, they probably are. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed.

Forget everything you have ever been told about laziness, tardiness, lack of application and short attention span; procrastination is about how we think. More specifically, it is about how we allow certain thoughts to morph into beliefs.

If we are serial procrastinators then we will have some underlying beliefs that are getting in the way of action.

Changing our beliefs is essential if we want to procrastinate less but it isn’t easy. So here are 10 quick fixes. They won’t mend the engine but they are good for a jump-start.

The 10 quick procrastination fixes

1. More Challenge

To be motivating, a goal needs to be challenging enough to stimulate our interest but not so difficult as to be demoralising.

Too little challenge and we can’t be bothered to start, too much and we don’t know where to.

2. A Suitable Reward

A stroll in the park, a shopping trip to New York, or a room with a view in Florence – choose a reward to fit the challenge and that’s worth the extra effort.

3. Penalty Points

For some of us the idea of losing something is more compelling than the idea of gaining it. Write a cheque to an organisation you can’t bear. If you don’t get the task done, post it. Ouch.

4. Double, Not Quit

Procrastinators tend to be super-optimistic when assessing how long a task will take – so there’s no need to start just yet. We imagine no traffic, a full tank and perfect directions.

Double your estimate for how long the task will take. Better get going.

5. Dive In

Tackle the tough stuff first. After that, it will be downhill all the way.

6. Move

Stand up, change position, go outside; do something to change your mood and your perspective.

7. The Fast Set

We adapt our behaviour to fit in with the people around us.

If we mix with a crowd of action heroes and heroines, we are much more likely to kick into action ourselves.

8. Bite Size is Right Size

You can’t eat an elephant in one mouthful. Break the task into small chunks and identify the end for each bit.

Concentrate on one chunk at a time and congratulate yourself each time you finish an element.

9. Time Fragments

Do you feel you need to have an uninterrupted slug of time – say, between 2 and 3 pm – to complete a task? This doesn’t need to be the case.

Try using four 15-minute slots instead.

10. Five Minute Start

Do it just for five minutes. No more, no less. When the time is up to decide whether you want to continue. If you do, commit another five minutes to it. Review and then, if you want, another. And another.

If you got this far, you’ll be motoring.

*This is an edited version of the Mañana chapter in the MindGym’s Give Me Time book (TimeWarner Books, 2006).

6 Responses to "Ditch your procrastination habits – 10 quick fixes"

1 | Xander Griffiths

December 24th, 2011 at 5:49 pm

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Very helpful post indeed, these 10 simple and easy to do steps are so effective. Procrastination really is a difficult enemy to defeat and once defeated, sometimes it may comeback if we don’t maintain these tips. Thanks for sharing it.

2 | John Aspden

January 4th, 2012 at 6:46 pm

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Interesting article. Procrastination is a state, not a label, so I discourage clients from calling themselves procrastinators.

Often there are good reasons for procrastination and therefore it’s not procrastination – people who procrastinate tend to label all behaviour as procrastination. All or nothing thinking.

I like Fix 1 and Fix 10 and use them all the time. Reward and the Expectation of Reward stimulate the focussed release of dopamine in the pre-frontal cortex (where a lot of new learning happens). Lots of research on this with fMRI scans to show it.

Fix 10 is all about stepping stones and this sort of approach, again backed up by research appears to be more effective, deeper and durable in terms of new behaviours.

So many of us beat ourselves up about procrastination and often it is the metaphorical ‘elephant in the room’.

3 | Mike Lawson

January 11th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

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I’ll get round to reading this article later………

4 | Merete Langler

January 11th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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As they say ‘Manana is the busiest day of the week’. Some really useful tips and techiniques here. Some of these I already use, others I have already made a start with. Thank you!

5 | Clare Manning

January 12th, 2012 at 11:21 am

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I like your analogy of jump starting your car and think these are very useful quick fixes.
I also think it’s essential that clients consider the root cause of their procrastination so that they can make the fundamental changes to their beliefs and unlock a proactive approach.
Every client is different but I have often found it to be perfectionism and/or a fear of failure that feeds procrastination. Unfortunately these two lock together in a loop keeping you stuck in an inactive state. Once these beliefs are explored and changed, the client gets a new sense of energy, motivation and confidence and procrastination can be replaced with choice, action and the occassional jump start!

6 | Suzy Pool

January 18th, 2012 at 1:15 pm

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I love these 10 points on procrastination -for me number 4 is a gig one… Double your estimate for how long the task will take. Better get going.

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