Overcoming Procrastination

What Is Procrastination?

In a nutshell, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.

According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent writer on the subject, procrastination occurs when there’s “a temporal gap between intended behavior and enacted behavior.” That is when there’s a significant time period between when people intend to do a job, and when they actually do it.

Recognize That You’re Procrastinating

Instructions

Print out the form. For each statement, check the column that most apply to rate yourself by indicating the extent to which each statement is characteristic or uncharacteristic of you. The scale ranges from (1) ‘Not like me at all’ to (5) ‘Very like me.’ Note that (3) on the scale is neutral i.e. the statement is neither characteristic nor uncharacteristic of you. Add up your score and check your result using the scoring table underneath.

15 Statements to Answer Not like me at all Not like me Neither like me or not Like me Very like me
1 I often find myself performing tasks that I had intended to do days before.
2 When planning a meeting, I make the necessary arrangements well in advance.
3 I generally return emails and phone calls promptly.
4 I find that jobs often don’t get done for days, even when they require little else except sitting down and doing them.
5 Once I have the information I need, I usually make decisions as soon as possible.
6 When I have something difficult to do, I tell myself that it’s better to wait to do it until I’m feeling more inspired.
7 I usually have to rush to complete tasks on time.
8 I usually accomplish all the things I plan to do in a day.
9 I usually start a task I’m given shortly after I’m given it.
10 When deadlines are approaching, I often waste time by doing other things.
11 I often have a task finished sooner than necessary.
12 When preparing for a meeting, I am seldom caught having to do something at the last minute.
13 I often delay starting tasks that I have to do.
14 When faced with a huge task, I figure out what the first step is so that I can get going.
15 I frequently say “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
15-30

You’re a procrastinator, and it’s not something to be proud of. It means that you miss deadlines and waste a lot of time. As a result, your boss is not getting from you what you’re capable of delivering, and he or she is probably very frustrated with this. See below how you can stop it.

31-45

You’re a mild procrastinator. You need to understand better why you procrastinate – there are several reasons, for it, and more than one may apply to you. And you need to learn the steps you can take to stop doing it. See below.

46-75

Good news! You’re not a systematic procrastinator! If you do, however, occasionally catch yourself procrastinating over something, see below for tips on dealing with this.

Source: This set of questions is based on the Procrastination Scale created by Professor Clarry Lay of York University, Canada, and is presented with his kind permission. The questions are for illustrative purposes only, and no validation work has been conducted on them.

Procrastination is as tempting as it is harmful. If you have recognized a tendency to procrastinate within yourself, you need to figure out why. Perhaps you are afraid of failing? (Or perhaps you’re actually afraid of success!)

Even back in 1742, Edward Young was well aware of the issues of procrastination, when he wrote, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”

If you are reading this, you are one who habitually postpones doing something, especially anything that is a regular practice. In other words, you put off for tomorrow what ought to be done today, even though you know in your heart of hearts, tomorrow never comes.

We might be a wife who is waiting on our husband to get around to fixing something, having heard every excuse imaginable. We may be an employer, who is waiting for a report from an employee, and are still waiting. We may be a parent waiting for our child to clean his or her room, which will likely be a very long wait. Few of us are of the personality that is organized, arrive early at most appointments, and complete tasks in a timely manner. We procrastinate even though we have experienced the problems that come with it dozens of times. We plan to go on a diet, starting January 01, and next thing we know, it is June, and we are saying to ourselves, “If only I had stayed with it, imagines how much weight I would have lost by now.”

We have known the bitterness of scrubbing the dishes after we have let them set through procrastination, and then forgetting about them until the next morning. We may be one who has put off making a repair to our car and has broken down alongside the road. We may have also suffered the late fees from putting off paying the bills until we have missed the due date.

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Thief of Time

Yes, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” If we were to calculate the time that procrastination costs us on a yearly basis, we might find hundreds of hours spent wasted; as a result. An example might be the time we spend looking for misplaced items. Well, the items are not misplaced; we just failed to put them back in their right place, where we would remember them. We come in, and we throw our keys down instead of putting them in a regular place. The dryer beeps, and we put off going to get the clothes out. When we do remember that we put that off, the clothes are wrinkled, and we need to run the dryer some more to take the wrinkles out.

We may be a person, who puts off starting a project because it seems we have time, or it appears insurmountable. On the other hand, maybe we are the type that starts new projects with energy and enthusiasm, to find ourselves putting it off about half way through. Thus, we find many things in our lives half way done. Alternatively, we might be one that gets to the finish line of projects, before the procrastination bug takes over. Regardless of which category we may fall into, or why we procrastinate, we are on our way to recovery, because we accept that we have a problem. Otherwise, we would not be reading this chapter.

focus acronym written on black chalkboard

Irrational thinking is the Enemy

Irrational thinking produces irrational feelings, which will create wrong moods, leading to wrong behavior. Those of us, who are habitual procrastinators, tell ourselves outright lies, which we believe every time. “I will get at it tomorrow.” “I am going to take a short break.” “This can wait.” “I need a break.” Then, we postpone it far longer than we should have, which means that we now have anxiety over getting it done and a sickening feeling that we are going to fall short. Now, we must rush, and the quality of our work suffers.

For example, maybe you have been assigned to write a 20 -page paper for a college course. It is not due until the last week of class. However, you wait until the last week to write a paper, and now you are anxiety ridden. Therefore, you put it of day-after-day until you are on the last day, and can put it off no more. You must rush in the research, and the typing is hectic. Your paper lacks any real depth, and the grammar and style are inferior, and the paper just does not flow.

Yet one other penalty results from procrastination. When we get beyond the point of being able to complete the project comfortably, we can no longer enjoy life because in the back of our mind is the stress of knowing it is undone, and the clock is still clicking.

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Take Action!

We need to self-talk back to ourselves. Whatever we said to delay the project, we need to tell ourselves that this is irrational thinking and the consequences. We then need to spell out what we need to do to get back on task. This has to be done every time those irrational thoughts pass thoughts our mind.

We need to get a daily planner. We need to write down the tasks that are to be done the next day, and the time they are to be done. We need to check them off and on time as this is our written contract to us. Say we need to drink four 20 oz. bottles of water each day as part of our diet. It is more efficient to write them down, and then check them off as you drink them, than to write them in the daily planner as you drink them. There are good feelings that come from getting tasks done, and seeing a line through the projects. Habits die hard, which is a both bad and good. If you have a bad habit, it means work to overcome it and establish a good habit in its place. Yes, any bad habit that is overcome has to be replaced with something good in its place, or it will likely return. On the other hand, once you remove the bad and establish the new, it will be just as firmly entrenched as the bad habit was.

You know that being late is the habit of the procrastinator. Know this, you do not respect nor love anyone that you are late for, regardless of how you rationalize it. If you are habitually late, your self-centeredness makes you so, unless you legitimately have a mental or physical illness, which a doctor has justified, not you. The fiddling that you do, the procrastinating that you do before leaving to make an appointment needs to be recognized. You need to prepare to go. Get what you need, and have it sitting by the door. Leave ten minutes before you are scheduled to leave. You need to allow for things that may slow you down, like catching every red light on your way to the appointment. However, never blame yourself for things that are out of your control, like a flat tire, unless you procrastinated in getting new tires.

Another helper is training those around you to share the load. If you are a wife that works too, your children and husband should share in the housework so that you need not be limited in time. Also, help yourself further by breaking big projects into smaller parts. Train yourself to think analytically, as you contemplate how to approach a project before ever beginning.

Four people who work a lawn service crew get a yard done 30-40 percent faster than one might think, not because there are four people, but because they are trained to approach the yard logically. All four get out of the truck, and one grabs the weed eater, the other push mower, and two get riding mowers. The weed eater and the push mower are going to get around trees, sidewalks, and fences, so the riding mowers do not have to slow down. The riding mowers start out where there are no objects to go around while the one with the weed eater trims and the push mower follows him. The weed eater can go around a tree a few times very quickly, and then the push mower follows it and takes a few times around. Once they set up the yard for the riding mowers, they take hold of their own riding mowers.

Make allowances for things that may interfere with your day. You may lay out your daily planner with things scheduled to close together. You cannot get from one meeting that ended at noon, and be at the next at noon. Just because one meeting is over at a set time, does not mean you should schedule another immediately thereafter. Allow for interruptions, going over, and time to recoup after the meeting.

Remember; take breaks about every two hours, giving your mind a chance to regroup. Do not take your break sitting at your desk. Get up, move around, get the blood flowing. Maybe, eat a snack while standing on your break.

  • Self-talk those irrational thoughts with rational ones
  • Write it down in a daily planner
  • Love and respect your fellow human by not being late
  • Replace bad habits with good habits
  • Break big projects into smaller ones
  • Share the load
  • Approach a project logically
  • Make allowances for things that may interfere
  • Take a break to regroup

8 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Studying the Bible Regularly

1. Eliminate distractions

Many believe that listening to the radio in the background is helpful but it is not, it distracts the mind.

2. Use your strongest sensation to memorize things

Each student has their own learning style. Some people like to draw mind maps and use bright stickers, others prefer listening to audio/video and writing long paragraphs by hand. Don’t follow what others claim to be effective – use trial and error methods to find out which technique works best for you. For example, if you have a photographic memory that captures everything with vision, it would make sense for you to read more and pinpoint the most important bits with your stationery (little stickers, markers). If you’re an auditory type of learner, record the lectures beforehand and listen to them over and over until you memorize the material. Reading out loud is also effective.

3. Set yourself deadlines
Studying without specific time limits (“I need to study a whole five chapter of the Gospel of John in in one study session”) can be highly unproductive as you will feel overwhelmed and will just put it off. For maximum efficiency, start studying for just ten minutes every day of the week at the same time every day (early morning works for me), for seven days straight. After the first seven days, move it to fifteen minutes. Follow this pattern until you are at a half hour a day seven days a week. Have your own assigned area of study, know exactly what is being studied. Have all of your tools there: colored pencils or highlighters, Bible, Bible dictionary, commentaries, etc.

4. Study when you feel most alert and efficient

Most of us hate waking up early but society and school have tricked us into thinking that this is the only way you can be effective. Well, what if you start working at noon and finish later, let’s say at 9 PM instead of being sleepy for the whole day and feeling exhausted by lunch? Listen to your body clock and notice when you yawn less. Don’t torture yourself with Red Bulls and espressos, it’s better to sleep for a couple more hours and be alert for longer later that day.

5. Don’t stress too much

Every time you feel anxious and de-motivated, try to be realistic and consider several scenarios of what will happen if you succeed/fail in this particular task. Will it be the end of the world for you if you don’t study one day because an emergency came up? Surely it doesn’t mean that you should not care, but don’t stress too much about the study, tomorrow is just around the corner.

6. Eat healthy & exercise

Alright, this tip is as old as time – avoiding sugary drinks and junk food can significantly boost your performance as your blood sugar levels won’t jump like crazy. Go for fish, nuts, whole grains and berries. And no, that Little Debbie snack cake has more sugar than a Snickers bar! Try doing your exercise every day right before you study, it will wake your body up so that yo are extremely alert. It would be nice to do 30 minutes of exercise and 30 minutes of Bible Study.

7. Get inspired and save time by finding a rhythm

This recommendation will be especially relevant as time goes on. If you have Bible study software (this one is free), this is far faster than picking up a dictionary every time you need to look up a word, or a Bible dictionary or some other research tool. You do not want to spend precious time looking for any tool that should be right there in front of you. Most software tools have dictionaries in the program, a means of highlighting and even adding notes in the eBook.

8. Motivation is the key

Lastly, no external motivation, like this post or inspirational quotes, will make you more motivated than seeing progress. Human beings are usually capable of much more than they can imagine. So instead of finding excuses to avoid studying or leaving work till the last minute, visualize a bigger picture. List 3 positive consequences of achieving your goal and always keep them in mind. Note that these outcomes should be serious enough to give you an extra kick. The hardest part is to start, as you’ll be waiting for the perfect moment and aligned stars. Here is how you can share your progress. Each week take note of 2-3 really great Bible insights that you learned. When Sunday comes, share them with 2-3 people before and after the Christian meeting, it will help you get better at communicating Bible truths and embed them into your long term memory.

NOTE: You have seven days a week to study. Make four of the Bible study where you are working your way through the Bible. Each of the other three days, use each of them to prepare for an upcoming Christian meeting. For example on your Tuesday study day, you might prepare for the Book Study class at the Wednesday night meeting. Then on Wednesday, you are back at your Bible Reading/Study Program, and on Thursday, you use your study to prepare for Sunday. Never do three days in a row to prepare for Christian meetings because then that will be too many days away from your Bible Reading/Study Program.

These general tips will help motivate you to get moving:

  • Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself a piece of tasty flapjack at lunchtime if you’ve completed a certain task. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things!
  • Ask someone else to check up on you. Peer pressure works! This is the principle behind slimming and other self-help groups, and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
  • Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task.
  • Work out the cost of your time to your employer. As your employers are paying you to do the things that they think are important, you’re not delivering value for money if you’re not doing those things. Shame yourself into getting going!
  • Aim to “eat an elephant beetle” first thing, every day!

If you’re procrastinating because you’re disorganized, here’s how to get organized!

  • Keep a To-Do list so that you can’t “conveniently” forget about unpleasant or overwhelming tasks.
  • Use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle to help prioritize your To-Do List so that you cannot try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it is unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.
  • Become a master of scheduling and project planning, so that you know when to start those all-important projects.
  • Set yourself time-bound goals that way, you’ll have no time for procrastination!
  • Focus on one task at a time.

If you’re putting off starting a project because you find it overwhelming, you need to take a different approach. Here are some tips:

  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
  • Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren’t the logical first actions. You’ll feel that you’re achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won’t be so overwhelming after all.

If you’re doing it because you find the task unpleasant:

  • Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. So give it a try! You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought!
  • Hold the unpleasant consequences of not doing the work at the front of your mind.
  • Reward yourself for doing the task.

Finally, if your problem is that you can’t decide what action to take, and are putting off making a decision because you’re nervous about making the wrong choice, see our decision-making section. This teaches a range of powerful and effective decision-making techniques.

Remember: the longer you can spend without procrastinating, the greater your chances of breaking this destructive habit for good!