Combatting Procrastination

 Contributed by Jim Troyer, PhD., Reputation

Resources Consulting

Approximately 95% of Americans have experienced procrastination. Procrastination often occurs by negative expectations of an event. For example, students frequently write term papers the last week of the course, while as many as 60% of adults fail to follow a plan for retirement savings. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome the common failure to act when we know it is for our own well-being. A greater understanding how to set goals is one way to curb procrastination.    

A deeper understanding of the causes of procrastination can shed light on how to combat it. In our above examples, fear and anxiety often arise due to thoughts of failure or perfectionism. By avoiding effort in vein, it is then reasonable to avoid writing a paper or following a plan. However, by taking a critical look at the task, we can subvert the assumption of failure.

The first step of a critical look is to dissect the given goal into learning and doing steps. For instance, create a list of at least 8-10 steps to achieve the goal. Second, compare preexisting ability to the discrete steps. Then highlight the steps believed to outweigh present ability. Reading, consulting others, and/or practicing will be required to enhance ability. A learning goal, in effect, changes expectations of failure or perfectionism. Since learning is progress, it changes the quick assumption of cannot into cannot right now. In turn, the belief of impossible evolves into a challenge. The nature of challenges brings about motivation.

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