What’s getting in the way of your progress?
Thank you to Dr. Elspeth N. Bell, Ph.D. for this week’s article.

Procrastination infiltrates many aspects of our daily life. As procrastination is something that most (if not all) people fall prey to, I’ll share some of the challenges that I’ve encountered with it.

Distractability: In the course of a single afternoon of “dedicated” action I’ve been pulled away by phone calls and e-mails. I’m also guilty of wanting to check something on Facebook quickly and then getting sucked into a series of articles.

Perfectionism: I thought about how I wanted to do something 100 times, but I didn’t put a single idea into action. I postponed the actual task until I felt I could do it the “right” way. The result was delaying action until tomorrow because I wasn’t confident that I could do it perfectly today.

Finality: As long as I’m working on this project there’s a chance I’ll figure out the right way to do it. Once it’s finished, I can’t go back and fix things. (This closely relates to perfectionism and the fear of mistakes.)

If you think there might be elements of procrastination interfering with your plans, rest assured there are ways to challenge them. Just be warned that you might be tempted to put off these challenges instead of embracing them.

  1. Recognize that you’re procrastinating. It’s not bad to put things off; it just isn’t helpful in your efforts to reach your goal. Awareness is not always easy. Sometimes the distractions and lures around us sound really important. They don’t come with a warning of how they’re going to eat into our time.
  2. Once you know you’re procrastinating, ask yourself “Why?” This question is not as simplistic as it seems. Here are some ways to probe deeper.
    Do I want to be doing this activity?
    • Am I scared to do this? Am I scared to finish it?
    • Do I think I have more wiggle room with this activity?
    • Am I having a hard time paying attention to the task at hand?
    • What is my inner-voice saying when I try to do this?
  3. Adopt a non-judgmental attitude. Be matter-of-fact about the situation and the consequences of your procrastination but don’t beat yourself up about it. What’s done is done and you can’t change it, but you can change what you do next.
  4. What actions can you take that will move you closer to your goal and away from procrastination?
    • Schedule specific times for working toward your goal.
    • Make these times short and regularly scheduled (1hr/day).
    • Find the fun in each activity.
    • Delegate where possible. Don’t take on (and put off doing) tasks that belong to other people. If someone else can do it in a timely manner, let them.
    • Create external accountability. While not a guarantee, you may be more likely to stay on-task when someone else is dependent upon your efforts.
    • Set a deadline. While this is sometimes artificial and may have some wiggle room, knowing that there’s a due date can help get you focused and moving. I know I would have continued to put off writing this article for “just one more day” without the structure of a deadline.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” While I generally agree with this sentiment, remember that not everything is important. Not everything has to be done. Not everything CAN be done today. Prioritize what is meaningful to you and work on those activities. Just make sure that you’re okay with the things that are being left undone.

Elspeth N. Bell, Ph.D.
5850 Waterloo Road, Suite 140
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: (410) 480-8052
Twitter: ElspethBellPhD
Organizing Tool Kit
Dr. Bell’s Website

Organizing Tool Kit

Dr. Bell’s Website