Stop Procrastinating Right Now

And get your to-do list out of “pause” mode.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
And get your to-do list out of “pause” mode
Corbis/Click Photos
Corbis/Click Photos

If the words “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “That’s a job for next week” regularly fly out of your mouth, then you are a procrastinator. It can happen to any of us, from the laziest sloth to the most switched-on go-getter. “Many people believe procrastination is a character trait or a personality flaw that they were born with,” says former procrastinator Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering The Art Of Doing It Now. “But this is not true. It is simply a bad habit – which you can break.”

There are many reasons why we put off stuff. Too much work, not knowing how to do a task, a fear of failure, or just realising that there are better ways to spend our time all have us playing the “I’ll do it later” card. “People often think procrastination comes out of laziness,” says psychologist Dr Cindy Nour. “But it actually stems from other issues, like anxiety or perfectionism.”

Lucy, 30, comes from a family of procrastinators. Her parents even put off moving away from each other after they separated, and remained living in the same house for four years!

In Lucy’s case, the procrastination first started in university. “When revision time came, I had the most amazingly clean house due to procrastination,” she recalls.

It didn’t just stop there – Lucy also delayed paying her student loan, which means she’s still left sorting out her financial situation 10 years on.

Not doing the dishes is one thing, but when you put off more important tasks, you’re stopping yourself from reaching your potential, and often setting yourself up to fail. To avoid a lifelong pattern, first recognise what you’re doing, then break the habit by forcing yourself to get the job done.

In the end, Lucy saw herself turning into her folks and knew something had to change. “It’s because of them that I no longer procrastinate,” she says, “I can’t even begin to explain how much their behaviour frustrated me!”


Rita’s tips to ending your procrastination.

+Select one task that you’ve been putting off for ages.

+Make the time. You might not have a whole day to spare. But you can surely find one free day a week.

+Ignore everything else. Focus on the job at hand. You don’t want to reach the end of the day with 15 things started and nothing finished.

+No breaks allowed – except for visits to the ladies. Back in Rita’s procrastinating days, she could make a one-hour job last 14 months because she took so many breaks!

+Give yourself a nice reward when the job is done. And, no, the satisfaction of doing it isn’t enough!