Procrastination: Why We Do It and How to Change

Andrew E. Schwartz

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PROCRASTINATION: You’ve known about it since high school or college, when everybody boasted about it. Everyone put off papers for a basketball game or a night on the town. It was OK—you only go through college once, right? You left college, but did you leave procrastination? You are now accountable for procedures and personnel responsibilities more complicated and more consequential than any you shouldered in college. Have your habits and attitudes evolved to handle them?

TACKLING PROCRASTINATION: 1) Recognition. Be aware of the costs of procrastination and the benefits of reform. 2) Insight. Discover procrastination patterns in our work. 3) Enlightenment. Learn the ways other people have successfully changed their habits. 4) Action. Begin to use those methods to change our own habits.

THE COST OF PROCRASTINATION: Procrastination is a choice. Faced with some distasteful obligation, large or small, professional or personal, we choose to do anything but carry it out. At first, its deadline is comfortably distant. There is no need to act because we have so much time. After some time passes, we realize that we are letting valuable moments slip by. Yet we dread the task, disparage the goal, and continue to opt for more pleasing work. By this time, however, we cannot ignore the impending moment of accountability. We begin to think That Job is more difficult and more momentous than anyone realizes. We begin to make excuses to ourselves or others, knowing well are only trying to gloss over a worsening situation. Eventually, we begin to lose confidence in our ability to make decisions, control our performance at work, and even lead worthwhile lives.

REASONS: FEARS AND FEELINGS BEHIND PROCRASTINATION: If the risks of procrastination are so high and the results so grim, why do we do it in the first place? Often because, as we anticipate meeting a particular obligation, we are struck by fear and its corollaries: 1) Performance anxiety: fear of doing a poor job. 2) Dreading the outcome: fear of what will follow. 3) Disliking the task: fear of specific steps. 4) Boredom: fear of monotony. You can start to control your time by controlling these fears. Face them honestly, define them. ask yourself whether they are rational—are they directly related to the obligation at hand, or are they rooted in anxieties about other aspects of your life? Once you have reflected on them, focus on changing the circumstances that give rise to them. Take steps to overcome your fears and work towards your real objectives instead.

Copyright AE Schwartz & Associates All rights reserved. For additional presentation materials and resources: ReadySetPresent and for a Free listing as a Trainer, Consultant, Speaker, Vendor/Organization: TrainingConsortium

CEO, A. E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA. , a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.


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