Procrastination is a dream stealer. It's insidious and has the potential to snuff out our vitality and diminish how we feel about ourselves. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, to procrastinate means "to put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness". Ouch, that sounds harsh, doesn't it! But when we procrastinate, we start to lose our focus, drain our energy and ultimately cause our self-esteem to plummet. Just imagine what happens when you fill a sink with water but your plug has a loose seal. You come back 5 minutes later to find an empty sink. That's exactly what happens to us when we procrastinate -- our energy and focus simply drain away from us.

I am a reforming procrastinator. For example, I had a basement storage room that desperately needed de-cluttering. It got to the point after literally months of procrastination that I started avoided going to the basement altogether. Finally I noticed how much of my time and energy was going into avoiding cleaning up the clutter. So I simply decided that I'd spend two hours each morning chipping away at it. I was stunned when it took me only two mornings to get that room in shape! Order was restored, junk was tossed and I even discovered a set of African tribal masks my ex-husband and I purchased decades earlier hidden away in some garbage bags. I wonder what a Feng Shui expert would say about that! I likely spent 100 times more energy postponing and thinking about cleaning up that room than it actually took to clean it up! What could I have done with all that time and focus if I'd tamed my procrastination beast! Have you had a similar experience?

We procrastinate about obvious things - preparing our tax returns, cleaning up cluttered areas, scheduling car maintenance, going to the gym or making amends to people. However, we also procrastinate in more subtle forms. How about going to bed when our bodies need sleep? Or taking quiet time to refuel yourself or assess your priorities? Taken the time to plan healthy meals lately? How often do we put off acknowledging ourselves or others or spending quality time with our children and loved ones?

The journey of a thousand miles truly does begin with a single step. Being aware of where you procrastinate is the first one. To get a handle on procrastination, read on to create your game plan. Why not start by declaring this next week a "procrastination-free" week. If you fall off the horse and do procrastinate, just dust yourself off and get back on! Our dreams are too important to all of us to let the dream stealer of procrastination sabotage them.

Taming the Procrastination Beast

Here are some useful strategies to tame your own procrastination beast. So if you're serious, get started now - don't procrastinate!

1. Identify Your Procrastination Hot Spots Take a moment to identify where in your life you're procrastinating - look at your health, your family, your finances, your home environment, your relationships. What are the first three things that come to mind? We'll call these your procrastination hot spots. There will be many, but let's just start with those.

2. Write Your Hot Spots Down Write those procrastination hot spots down. Taking it out of your consciousness and down on paper enables you to look at it objectively. If you want to improve your success, commit your actions to paper.

3. Build a Charge For each item on your list, take a moment to "build a charge". First, reflect on what your life would look like and feel like if this item was complete? Notice your energy level, your ability to focus, your level of self-esteem. As you visualize that in detail, feel the positive energy of it being generated in your body. Write down what you notice. Second, reflect on what your life would look and feel like if you continue to procrastinate on this item. See yourself in six months or even six years with this hot spot still bugging you. Notice the physical reactions that cascade through your body as you connect to that picture. Write it down.

4. Make a Choice Now you get to decide. Tap into that charge you just felt. Are you willing to tackle this procrastination hot spot now? If the answer is "no", that's fine, but make a date as to when you'll review that decision. If the answer is "yes," keep going!

5. Create a Structure that Works for You Put a structure in place that will help you get the job done. A date when you're going to start and a completion date are imperative. When will you make that call? By when will you create that filing system? Decide when and for how long you're going to work on it. Some people like the "I'll do it until it's done approach". Others, myself included, prefer to create more bite-size chunks of time. For example, to de-clutter the kitchen or kids' rooms I'll set the timer for 15 minutes or listen to 1 CD while taking on those jobs. Do you need any support - either someone to pitch in with you or someone who will hold you accountable for getting the job done? What internal dialogue could you use to support you as you go, such as "I deserve having a filing system that works for me!"

6. Celebrate your Success Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment! Don't minimize the importance that an organized sock drawer can have on your peace of mind. So take the time to step back and enjoy the benefits of taming your procrastination beast.

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn B. Ellis is the Founder of Thrive After Divorce, Inc. A Harvard University graduate, Carolyn is a Certified Master Integrative Coach™, Teleclass Leader and the first Canadian to be certified as a Spiritual Divorce Coach. She has also served as a Staff Coach at the Institute for Integrative Coaching at John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco, CA, and has been trained personally by its founder, NY Times best-selling author Debbie Ford. Her book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce will be published in 2007. She is a member of Collaborative Practice Toronto. Her three amazing school age children and bouncy labradoodle dog are her daily sources of inspiration and joy.

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