Personal Development

Ask The Coach 8 – Overcoming Procrastination

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This is the 8th session of Ask The Coach. The main aim of this weekly session is to ask you, the reader, to ask a question to the coach by posting a comment on this post and each week myself and Ayo Olaniyan will attempt to help you by answering your questions.

This weeks coach is Steven Aitchison, owner of this blog.   Next week Ayo Olaniyan will be asnwering the Ask The Coach question.

Overcoming Procrastination

Question from bretthimself answered by coach Steven Aitchison

life coach steven aitchison


Here's my question:

I've found that my biggest sticking point in all of this is acting quickly. I have always been a micromanager of decisions and deliberate before taking action. However, as I procrastinate and weigh the decisions of what to do next or when to do my project, my mind drifts off to different places (like dark corners of the Internet), resulting in exponentially more time lost. The only time I can seem to pull myself together and not procrastinate (especially when finishing one project and moving on to the next) is when there's a deadline to be met. But the pressure of the deadline seems to suck the life out of me and my work.

The question is: how can I do the things I want to do without procrastinating or deliberating when there is not the stress of a deadline?

Hi Brett

Thanks for your question on Ask The Coach

I recognise what you are saying here and believe there is a lot of things you can do to help yourself with this.

Is procrastination bad?

I would first like to say that procrastination is not always a bad thing.   That might sound counterintuitive, especially after everybody seems to tell us that procrastination is bad and all the self help gurus tell us exactly how to overcome it.

For some, procrastination works and it can be a great motivator for getting things done, albeit at the last minute, like you describe above, when there's a deadline.   This only works when there are a few deadlines throughout the year.   In the real world, there are deadlines to be met every single day, so you can't run on the adrenaline of leaving everything to the last minute as you will quickly burn out.

Know what type of procrastinator you are

You will see from the following six descriptions what type of procrastinator you are.   It's hard hitting, but it is good to know which type you are in order to overcome procrastination problems.

According to Linda Sapadin (author of The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How Students Can Overcome Them © (Penguin, 1999) with Jack Maguire) procrastinators fall into one of 6 styles:

The six types of procrastinators

Dreamers – This type of procrastinator want to have an easy, laid back life and not have to worry about the real things in life.   They have had many jobs and live in the world of the unconscious where everything is magical and assume they are special in some way.   They make promises they cannot keep and love the pleasure of buying something new, but hate the pain of paying for it.

Worriers – This type has a very small comfort zone and doesn't like to stray too far out of the comfort zone.   They love the security of their world and constantly fret when faced with fear or change.   They suffer from 'what if' syndrome and everything might have a negative consequence.   They put off a lot of things in their life in case something bad happens to them and hate facing a task head on.

Defiers – This procrastinator hates authority and cannot stick to a task given by a manager or someone else higher in authority.   They promise the world but deliver an island.   They tend to withhold on tasks given to them and delay them stating how busy they are and how important their other tasks are.   This strategy gives a feeling of power and can even spill over into relationships.

Crisis Makers – This usually starts at school when the crisis maker has one night to prepare for an exam and they are all traumatised as they haven't prepared however they are secretly boosting that they can get the work it takes other s 3 months to do in one night.   The pressure and adrenaline spurs them on.   They carry this on to the real world, and quickly find that running on adrenaline every day doesn't work so they burn out quickly.

Perfectionists – It all or nothing for this type of procrastinator.   It will take ages to get them going but once they do the job will be perfect, only trouble is, what should have taken 20 minutes takes 2 days.   Their self esteem is on the line on every single task they do, because of this they avoid tasks they don't think they can do perfectly so they miss out.   Again this spills over into their life as well.

Overdoers – The overdoers will take on the world and make your dinner at the same time.   They constantly aim to please and pride themselves on being able to do lots of jobs at the one time.   However they cannot deliver on all their promises simply because they have too much to do and cannot concentrate on one task long enough to do it well.

The 6 steps of overcoming procrastination

Write it down

OMG not another person telling me to write it down.   Yes, I am afraid so, ever wondered why so many people advise this? because it works.   Write down your to do tasks for the day and realistically assign a time value to each one of them.

Start at the top and work your way through them until all your tasks for the day are finished.   Do not reward yourself with the Internet, reading, TV, or anything else until all tasks have been done.

Pretty soon, if you practice this every day, you will develop a new habit and you will soon be known as the person who gets things done.

Remember do not reward yourself at all until all tasks are completed.

Stop making it a drama

If you get into the mode of thinking this is terrible, it's never going to work, I am going to look foolish, what's the point anyway – STOP! literally stop your mind from chattering and focus on the positive outcomes of what the task will achieve.

Do it now

Brett, you said you tend to consider things before you start them which leads you to drift off to other things.   Whenever you have a task do anything that will start the project off and I really do mean anything.   As soon as you get a task to do, don't think just take the first thing in your mind that needs to be done and get going with it.   It's easier to roll a snowball down a hill when you have already made the snowball, it's the starting of making the snowball that's the problem.   So do anything at all to get going and pretty soon things will start to snowball and the task will be complete.

Let go of the adrenaline rush

People who do things at the last minute actually thrive on the adrenaline rush.   However, you cannot expect to live like this every day of your life.   It's good to recognise that you like this adrenaline rush and it's quite exciting but it's time to try another way.

Get your adrenaline rush elsewhere.   Go jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet (with a parachute of course!).   Leave the adrenaline rush where it should be and start to work a different way to get your tasks complete.

You can get smaller adrenaline rushes by assigning deadlines for yourself.   For example when you have been given two weeks to do something, give yourself a week to do it and create your won deadline.   This way you will get finished a week early.   If you do this religiously with every task you will, again, develop, a new habit of completing things early.   However, a note of caution here: if you are going to do this for a boss, make sure you finish the task within the week but hand it in to your boss 2 days before the deadline, this way the boss will not start to pile things on you as they see you are someone who can get things done quick.

Stop trying to perfect the world

You cannot be perfect, it is literally impossible.   Your perception of perfect is someone else's perception of imperfect.

If you are a perfectionist, you might be proud of it, but it stops you doing things in life, you might not try new things as you are not able to perfect them.

To overcome being perfect try doing things the wrong way, try being late for an appointment, try dropping a cup onto the floor so it breaks – get out of the mold of being perfect, your life will change forever.

When you take on new tasks do so with an open mind, but take them on, don't think that you might not be able to make it perfect just take it on and start straight away.   It's all about developing a new thinking pattern toward your tasks.

Learn to say NO!

Stop taking on too much work.   You will learn in life that there are times when you have to hold up a hand and say NO!

You can't do everything and to do something to a satisfactory level you have to be realistic about the amount of work you can take on.   When you have taken on a certain number of tasks it's time to stop any more work from being piled on you and gently remind the people who are trying to pile the work on you that you've got enough for now.

Saying No will also empower you and give you much more satisfaction and confidence in yourself.

Well Brett, I know this was a bit long winded, I got an idea and went with it, but I hope it has helped you in some way.   Let me know your thoughts on this.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.