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Why do you procrastinate?  No need to rush to answer…. it’s a blog on procrastinating after all.  Most of us do from time to time… or all the time.  Unfortunately I did getting this blog written.  Understanding why you do will help you develop strategies to reduce your procrastination, feel less stressed and feel more control in your life.  According to Maria Lamia in her book “What Motivates Getting Things Done,” the main difference between procrastinators and non-procrastinators is what activates their emotional response and when these responses are activated.

  • Procrastinators are deadline driven. Their motivation to get things done occurs when their emotions are activated by an imminent deadline.
  • Non-Procrastinators are task driven. Their motivation is triggered by the task itself when it is assigned to them or when it enters their awareness.
There are two types of procrastinators as outlined in research by Jin Choi and Angela Chu:
  • Active – motivated by imminent deadlines and feel challenged by those circumstances. These people procrastinate, but they complete the tasks.
  • Passive – lack confidence in their ability to reach goals or complete tasks. They often have difficulty making decisions or taking action.  These procrastinators often fail or give up on completing tasks.
What to Do: How Procrastinators can help themselves
  • Find ways to create absolute deadlines when one isn’t provided or the deadline is too distant to active the emotional response. If you have three weeks to complete a task, give yourself two.
  • Insert other tasks into that timeline to create a sense of urgency.
  • Create a daily to-do list that you commit to completing each day. This helps create smaller, more manageable deadlines and a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Leverage other concerns/factors to increase urgency/motivation – this can be helpful if someone’s income is commission based or tied to project completion. For example, I need to make 20 calls each day to make 3 sales this week to cover my rent next month.
  • Develop outside accountability – Would it motivate you sooner if you made a commitment to a family member or your boss to complete a project early? Maybe hiring a coach or working with a therapist would help you feel more accountable.  Making explicit commitments with important people in our lives has been shown to increase motivation/consistency.  This approach has been used in smoking cessation programs for years.

Many procrastinators complete tasks and are successful in their life.  However, they often create a lot of stress for themselves and people in their lives that could be reduced or eliminated with some small behavioral changes. Retraining your mind and reframing situations can bring additional motivation to complete tasks.

Other underlying issues can get in the way of making positive progress in procrastination. Do you or someone you know fall under the “passive procrastinator” category or have tried unsuccessfully tried for years to change?  It may be time to engage professional help to deal with these issues if that’s the case.

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