Do You Procrastinate? Well I Do! So How Can You Break the Habit?

By: Marcia Zidle, MS NCC BCC

Most of us procrastinate at least occasionally and some of us do it consistently and problematically. So procrastination may be human but it's not very rewarding in the long run for our leadership, business or career success.

So why do we procrastinate?

According to The Procrastination Equation: How To Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done by Piers Steel - a procrastinator himself at one time – suggest there are three types of procrastination.

1. Expecting Too Little
When we have low expectations about the outcome- either getting rejected or not doing well - we tend to put off the experience. Then a vicious cycle ensues: we don’t do it - we feel bad about it – our confidence goes down and we keep saying I’ll do it later.

What are you postponing because of fear of rejection or low performance? What would be the benefit to do them today instead of waiting until tomorrow?

2. Devaluing the Task

When we fail to value a routine or un-engaging task properly, we allow ourselves to defer necessary crucial chores that are important but routine-and reinforce a dangerous tendency to ignore the basics - like paying your bills, doing expense reports, getting the car serviced, etc.

Everyone has routine tasks that need to get done but are put off until later? What are yours?

3. The Deferred Gratification Problem:

The rewards and goals that can be achieved right now often seem far more appealing than those that require us to wait. It seems most of us are wired for short-term satisfaction. For example, responding to emails immediately, clearing every minor item off our to-do lists, checking the news, watching the funny video on You Tube, etc.

What things do you do impulsively that give you short term gratification, but hinder your long term goals?

Start Breaking the Procrastination Habit

  • Identify what you put off. When you find yourself ignoring or delaying task, ask yourself why. Knowing what you tend to delay can help break the cycle and prevent future procrastination.
  • Build your confidence. Practice “success spirals,” small steps of achievement that take you outside your comfort zone-such as trying an adventure sport, or learning a new skill through a course
  • Complete little things before moving on to big things. For a particularly daunting project, start with a mini-goal or easily doable or enjoyable task to ease into the difficult terrain. By completing it, you will be warmed up for the more complicated or demanding aspects.
  • Avoid boredom and get the juices flowing. Make tasks more challenging through competition. ‘When you are competing against your colleagues, almost any task can become a race to finish first or to get the most work done.
  • Use blatant bribery. Kids get stickers for going to the dentist. Why shouldn’t you get a reward for doing something you don’t want to do? When you knock off your dreaded task by the set deadline, treat yourself to a coffee break, have ice cream for lunch or even a long walk outside. Choose whatever will give you a positive feeling. For me it’s ice cream.

Are you a procrastinator? What can you do right now to break the procrastination habit? What have you found helpful to get you moving?

Smart Moves Tip:

For some situations procrastination may be okay. For example, when starting a big project take the time to plan it out or work out potential solutions. But if procrastination is hindering your performance, causing relationship problems (boss, colleague, spouse, etc.) or affecting your personal satisfaction, then it’s time to stop, examine possible causes and potential solutions. If you don’t deal with it now, then when?

Marcia Zidle, M.S. N.C.C. is a board certified coach who provides executive coaching to business and community leaders and management teams to leverage their skills, strengths and style for high performance. Go to to sign up for the smart moves blog and free success e-books. Listen to her weekly internet radio program "The Business Edge" for Voice America Wednesdays at 2pm EST at can contact Marcia at 972-380-9281 or