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Seven Steps to Overcoming Procrastination

Mastering procrastination is about working out a way of not just undertaking those activities for which there is no clear psychological reward, but doing so with gusto, motivation and to a high standard. There is, however, not always an obvious reward or payoff for what you do.

Examples of activities where there may seem to be no obvious or immediate reward may include:

Working on a very small activity which is part of a bigger task (eg painting beams as part of a house that is being built is a small activity which may seem quite unrewarding to the person carrying it out, but which is nevertheless an important part of the task of building the house);

Undertaking a small task in of itself that just needs to be done: writing that letter, making that phone call, sending that email. The effect of carrying out (or not carrying out) these ‘little’ tasks may be enormous, but the payoff once the task has been done on time may seem small.

Often, when we are proactive there may seem little payoff to what we do: the world does not seem to change that much once the task is done; we may not always feel a huge sense of relief once the task is done; there may be no fanfares at the end of the task.

However, when we think through the consequences of not writing the letter, making the call or sending the email we realise just how important these seemingly ‘small’ tasks are.


Strategies we may want to adopt when dealing with tasks in order to raise their importance in our minds are:

  1. Set a time limit that turns the activity into a race against time exercise. This raises your motivation levels, adds a reward as well as adding an interesting element to carrying out the task. You also over time improve your ability to work to deadlines.
  2. Follow the task up with something you enjoy or even love doing in order that your mind is not focused solely on the activity.
  3. If you are engaged in an undertaking you do not enjoy give yourself a reward for completing it. One reward may be to take the rest of the day off. In this case you simply do not schedule anything in for the rest of the day and allow yourself to do whatever you want to do.
  4. Think through the consequences of not carrying out the task and use this as a reverse incentive to push on with it. Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) specialists say our motivation is either towards something pleasurable or away from pain. This is an example of when you are avoiding the pain of not doing something you know you should
  5. For larger tasks map out exactly what you need to do. If you are building a house create a plan of action you can refer to that goes alongside your architectural plans. This gives you a psychological framework and lets you see where in your plan your beams painting activity comes. It also gives you a sense of progress because you know where you are in your plan at any one time
  6. If there is an activity you really cannot face enlist the help of those around you (your support network) to either assist or motivate you.
  7. Start each day with one main activity you do not enjoy. Do it before you tackle anything else. Set your time limit. Complete the task then continue your day as normal.

The reward is the satisfaction you feel that a job has been done well, quickly and is out of the way

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