Procrastination (delaying or postponing action) can become a bad habit – so bad that it starts eating away at your quality of life. Just think, you might be lying on a beach, listening to the sound of waves and palm fronds waving in the breeze, when whatever it is you’re putting off builds up in your head and encroaches on your time-out. Then your heart starts pounding and in the distance you see a panic attack coming…


Analyse the issue

Look at what it is that’s causing you to procrastinate. For most of us, these reasons are often ‘shoulds’, such as, ‘I should visit my parents more often’, or, ‘I should start exercising regularly’. Now ask yourself these three questions:

1. Why do I feel I should be doing this?

2. Do I want to do it?

3. Do I have to do it?

If the issue is something like paying tax, the answer to question 3 is probably ‘yes’, but if it’s visiting a friend who always monopolises the conversation with his problems, you don’t have to do it. When it’s something that must be done, the next step is to ask yourself this question:

Q. Why am I not getting around to doing this?

Perhaps you’re afraid of the consequences, or you haven’t worked out your priorities, or perhaps putting things off has simply become a habit.

Get your priorities in order

Once you’ve analysed what’s taking up your time, get things in perspective by writing down which people and activities are important to you.

Dump the ‘energy thieves’

It may sound harsh, but some people and activities are energy thieves. Energy thieves distract you from achieving what you want. Be honest and ask yourself this question:

Q. Who and what can I release?

Reward yourself

Promise yourself that when you’ve phoned that long-lost friend or dealt with your overdraft, you’ll treat yourself to something small yet indulgent – a massage at a spa, an ice-cream sundae, a day-time movie on your own. But don’t make empty promises – delivering is essential for a sense of achievement. If you have to complete a heavy task, say, writing a 100-page report, give yourself a good break and a reward halfway through. This will help you acknowledge your progress and give you the impetus to push on to the end.

Change the scenery

When you know you’re procrastinating, try changing your venue. For example, if you have a huge pile of papers to sort, bundle them into a bag, head for a restaurant with a sea view, take an iPod so you can listen to music, and do your work over a cup of coffee. Changing the context of your surroundings from work to leisure makes a task feel less like drudgery, and the novelty of different surroundings can provide the inspiration you need to get going.