What happens when you procrastinate? Procrastination is an automatic problem habit where you put off a timely and relevant activity until another day or time. This process normally starts with a perception that an upcoming activity is going to be boring, threatening, difficult, complicated, worrisome or other. You experience an emotional or visceral reaction ranging from a light whisper of negative affect to full-blown dread. When you procrastinate, you always find something safer or more pleasurable to do. You may nap, read, or watch gold fish in a bowl. You keep going with these distractions until you can delay no longer, or it's too late to start.

Procrastination can be  a simple default habit. You face something uncomfortable or complicated. You switch over to another task. Your boss asks you to write a report. Rather than start now, you do something different; you talk to colleagues about the weather. You have a leaky faucet. You need to go to a hardware store to get supplies. Instead you surf TV channels. Even this simple default procrastination reaction has complications.

Procrastination can be elaborate. A client John agreed to read a two page article I wrote on procrastination. He had two weeks between sessions to go over the material. Believing that he needed to perfectly understand the material, and uncertain that he'd grasp it right away, John put off the reading. Thus, heis perfectionism triggered this procrastination.

John told himself he'd read the material on a flight. He found other things to do, including chatting. He swore he'd read the materials in his hotel room. That didn't pan out. Next he promised himself he read it before dinner, then before breakfast, then on his way to the airport, then on the flight home, then in the morning before his next session. That morning, he decided to play a computer game first.

While in the waiting room, John hurried through the pages. He discovered that the article described what he was likely to do when he procrastinated. We jointly calculated that he spent about 40 hours sidetracking himself. That opened John's eyes to the price he paid when he procrastinated. 

You may think of procrastination as putting off actions to meet deadlines until the last possible moment. You may delay on paying bills, show up late for a luncheon with friends, or join the mid-night crowd on April 15th with an extension form for your taxes in hand. However, procrastination covers more ground than running up to the last minute on deadlines. Self-help and self-development areas are hotbeds for procrastination. Suppose you want to lose weight. Instead, you delay starting a healthy lifestyle change by binging on pizza and ice-cream first. Feeling discouraged, you delay again.

Procrastination goes on until you intentionally change course and put teeth into that intention. Start your antiprocrastination campaign with your most pressing procrastination concern. How do you know what this is? What would you be doing now if you were not procrastinating because you were doing something else. Pick a deadline goal, such as reading a report. Pick an open-ended self-help goal, such as losing weight. These are your priority goals. Log them. Pick a specific date and time, and make it soon. Announce your intent. Refuse to defer. You are now on your way to build a new automatic productive habit.

For tips and methods to use your time productively that you ordinarily fritting procrastinatingly, click on End Procrastination Now

(C) Dr. Bill Knaus

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