Procrastination is becoming a chronic problem in America according to research published in the Psychological Bulletin (January, 2007).
Defined as the avoidance or postponing of tasks perceived as unpleasant, fully 26% of the American population now think of themselves as procrastinators compared with just 5% in 1978. While we tend to equate procrastination with laziness, the actual reasons are typically fear of failure or a paralytic indecision on how to tackle a task that seems daunting or complex.
The researchers did, however, cite five strategies that many have found extremely useful in overcoming procrastination:
- Tackle unpleasant tasks early in the day when you have the most creative energy. Your success will contribute to a sense of exhilaration that will boost your confidence to take on more challenges.
- Break complex tasks down into smaller “mini tasks” that are easy to complete and will simplify the overall challenge.
- Invoke the “5 minute rule.” Commit to focusing on a threatening task for just five minutes. At the end of five minutes, either commit to another five minutes or take a break.
- Minimize and unplug all distractions that can reinforce your tendency to procrastinate, including Internet access, cell phones, television or iPods.
- Honestly examine your true reasons for postponing action. Do you need training or assistance with time management skills? Or might you be a catastrophizer; i.e., someone who chronically and automatically falls into a depression imagining how awful the impending task will be?
Writing in Psychology Today (August, 2003), Hara Estroff Marano observes, “There are many ways to avoid success in life, but the most sure-fire just might be procrastination. Procrastinators sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their paths. They actually choose paths that hurt their performance.”
If procrastination is a problem for you at home or at work, your employee assistance program might be one resource to help you address and overcome this common problem. If you need help in this area, call your EAP today!