One of the biggest barriers on our journey to success in any endeavour must surely be procrastination, the destructive habit of putting off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday. It has been called the ‘thief of time’ and ‘the art of keeping up with yesterday’ - just two witty descriptions for a condition that is anything but funny. The trouble with procrastination is that it is a silent and insidious condition that takes control of us when we are least aware of it, and the resulting inability to confront a situation or a project that must be done, has denied many the pleasures of a successful and fulfilling life.

Large chunks of our life are literally wasted when we allow time to just drift away, and the procrastinator is invariably left with the sickly feeling of dissatisfaction that little or nothing has been achieved, and acutely aware that those precious hours have slipped by without any worthwhile concentration or effort. To combat procrastination we should remind ourselves every single day about the ambitions we have, and the goals we have so lovingly set for ourselves. And we should recognise clearly, and remind ourselves constantly, that unless we snatch back control of the situation, all we are doing is delaying (or even denying) the achievement of our ambitions.

So, how do we overcome procrastination, and get on with what has to be done? Here are a few ways of casting off the shackles of lethargy and inaction and tackling the job in hand.

(1) First of all, and very important, don’t run away from the situation – if you do this then you run the risk of ending up paralysed by feelings of helplessness and self-loathing. If there is something to be done, then tackle the job head on, and follow through with vigour, celebrating each successful step along the way by treating yourself to some well-deserved reward.

(2) Don’t delay anything – some of us delay paying a bill, or making a difficult call, or starting on a testing project, believing that if we ignore it then it will simply go away. But of course it doesn’t go away, and the procrastinator will live in constant fear of someone hammering on the door either demanding long overdue payment, or else, or to get the project finished. So the question here is, are we really willing to pay the high price the delay will cost us?

(3) Many procrastinators have a fear of submitting work in case it should be judged as sub-standard. Often they will leave it until the last moment, so that they can offer the excuse “If only I’d had another week, it would have been much better!” However, there is no such thing as perfection, but if we make a start straight away, we can dramatically improve bit by bit as we progress.

(4) Next, be sincere. Make sure that this is really what you want to do, that this is your goal, and that you are not simply complying with someone else’s wishes, just to please them. It is your life, after all. Often a well-meaning parent or teacher will urge the youngster to take a job in an office or factory, believing them to be secure, when all the boy or girl dreams of is a musical or acting career. Whatever you do, resist pressure from others, whoever they are, and make the goals your own.

(5) Avoid excessive preparation, for this is merely squandering time on trivial matters and unimportant aspects of the project. Beware of becoming obsessed with putting materials or tools into neat lines, or unnecessarily tidying the desk, putting papers in order, or sharpening pencils. Becoming involved in preparation to this degree will almost certainly lead to lost opportunities, and to the task being delayed yet again. Of course, to function well, tidiness and preparation are essential, but we should not allow these things to become devices for putting off the time when real work must begin.

(6) There are some who scoff at the idea of making ‘To Do’ lists, but in fact having a list of projects is a great method of keeping you informed of what is still to be done, and a record of what you have already achieved. This record acts as a spur to further action, and encourages you to get down to the things that still need to be done – and what better way is there of overcoming procrastination than being able to demonstrate to yourself, and to others, your ability to really get positive results?

Getting started is understandably one of the hardest parts of all, but once we overcome the initial inertia and are in motion, our enthusiasm will grow apace. It is at this time we must reinforce those positive feelings by reminding ourselves of all the benefits of finishing the task. And remember that a great incentive is to reward yourself in some way for each step completed. So, saying to yourself “I will do it when I have time” or “I will paint that fence in a couple of weeks time” just will not do. The longer you dither about and delay starting any project, the more difficult it will be when you finally have to take action, for even the most simple of jobs will seem like a nightmare, and the desire to procrastinate will raise its ugly head once again. The best laid goals and intentions will amount to nothing if you do not act promptly. Action is the single most powerful key to defeating procrastination, and to rooting out a destructive habit that has held you back from any achievement in the past. Have faith in your talents and abilities, and believe in your goals, for by taking firm and instant action you will be well on your way to success and fulfilment, and to making all your most cherished dreams come true.

Roy Burton

Author's Bio: 

Roy Burton was born in Tottenham, north London. He spent several years with the military, and following release worked in the public library system. He has travelled widely throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, and is now based on the Isle of Wight. He has a diploma in NLP, and has had many articles published on the Internet. He welcomes comments and suggestions, and can be reached on markfield55@aol.com.