5 Steps To Obliterate Procrastination

Leigh Peele, in her own unique style, tackles the issue of procrastination. As someone who teaches people how to reduce fat, helping others deal with not taking action is one of the single most important tasks she has as coach and trainer. Her advice is sound and relevant to any person procrastinating any task, and that includes you. Here is what Leigh has to say…

You may be thinking, “Great, another article about being productive, when I could be doing something productive!” You might be right, but I hope you come away from this article with a different feeling and insight on procrastination than usual.

Anyone can do any amount of work providing it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” – Robert Benchley

I Am A Procrastinator

I do not speak to you from a balcony of cold judgement my friends. I speak to you from the grips of a 12-step program I am in.

Procrastination runs in my blood. I come from a long line of procrastinators. I am talking about the human race. In truth, procrastinators aren’t born, they are made. That means what is done can be undone, but it will not be easy.

Why we procrastinate

To be clear, there is no definitive answer. In research, we see a lot of speculation, but always interesting discussions, on the psychology of procrastination. Most self-help books speak about perfectionism and anxiety, but in research this is rarely seen when put to the test.

Dr. Piers Steel released an epic research review in 2007 titled – The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure.

A bit of a joke to Steel, it took 10 years to finish the study. It is one of the best breakdowns of research in the area of procrastination. It is also my understanding that Dr. Steel will be releasing a book soon through Random House. You can bet I will not delay picking it up.

The research suggests a lot of what was speculative before were merely pieces of the overall puzzle (perhaps the wrong puzzle). There are different types of procrastinators and different avoiding measures. Lastly, there are different reasons.

The prime reason thought by researchers is based upon a very basic concept:

Task VS Reward = Delay.

The technical term is – Temporal Motivation Theory or TMT.

Steel produces a formula based off the classic E=MC2. It factors expectancy for succeeding at a task (E) or self-confidence; the value of completing the task (V); its immediacy or availability (Gamma); and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D) to come up with the desirability of the task (Utility).

I bet you enjoyed that, didn’t you? You don’t need to worry about formula’s here. There appears to be logical (and simple) actions to the problems of procrastination.

Solution #1 – Trade Vague For Specific

I am sure you have notepads and task sheets scarcely jotted with general goals.

“Lose 20 pounds” “Write articles for blog” “Clear inbox”

The first thing you need to do is write down specific goals. If you write down general goals you are putting general reactions into action. If your general reaction is procrastination, you will never achieve your goals in the timely manner you want. Instead of general – be specific.

“Lose 1 pound this week” “Write the first article on my article list by tonight” “Finish my email in 20 minutes”

At first, it might feel like a lot of writing and crossing out of lines. How many of those lines get crossed when you make specific actions, is all that matters.

Solution #2 – Set Urgent And Timed Deadlines

The best saying I have heard on procrastination is: “You want to keep a clean house? Invite you mother over every week.”

Brilliant. In two sentences, you basically sum up 60% of study conclusions from Dr. Steel’s 30- page review of procrastination. This has nothing to do with me having mom issues…

Putting a time constraint to short goals is the important part, otherwise you just have a bunch of little goals you aren’t likely to complete. Be very specific (but realistic) about your timed goals. If you think you can legitimately complete a task in 30 minutes while giving it your full attention – go for it.

Solution #3 – Make Plans You Can’t Break

Every month I offer my members a cookbook. Each month it is a different cookbook. Occasionally I might change the item to a program or something they are asking for, but the point is they expect something every month. Their happiness is my happiness. They are technically paying me to get the job done. I don’t have a choice. If I want the members, I create the book.

Tell you subscribers, readers, members or customers you will do something for them on a regular basis. Pick something you know will ultimately benefit them, and perhaps is something you are having a hard time sticking to. Maybe it is weekly emails or a monthly bonus? Whatever it is, say it out loud and say it to them to make yourself accountable.

Solution #4 – Shut Out The World

I am sure you know this. I am sure you by-passed this solution. I know you hear me, but do you really hear me?

I used to get in this trap (and I still have to battle it) of not being able to do my writing until I had the right song playing, after I checked email, facebook, forums, etc. This turned me to reading articles had me wondering the sanity of the world. The next thing I know, two hours have passed. My article on binge eating turned into a rant (I never published) over a Yahoo article.

Before I began my article I felt the weight of the world. I was drained, frustrated, and depressed. This is no way to evoke concentration and inspiration. For the procrastinator, lack of reward leads to defeat. To me, people are the reward and so is change for the better. How am I going to inspire people by reading comments on youtube. This could still be a small problem, but like I said, this is a “12-step program.”

Solution #5 – Praise Your Victory

I believe strongly in cognitive patterns shaping our minds and who we are to ourselves. The more you see yourself as a failure – the more you believe it. Sooner or later you start to recycle defeat before you give yourself a fighting chance.

Break the pattern. When you cross something off of your list and achieve a victory against the battle of procrastination – acknowledge it. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic or time consuming, but it should be a genuine moment. For myself, after I finish a hard task or an article I take 10 minutes and play my guitar or have a play fest with my pup. I make sure to remove myself from the area, take a deep breath and gain a sense of pride for my job well done. After that, I start my next specific goal and try to stay on track.

You should have real down time. You should celebrate the effort and work you make. Your mind and body will get used to the pattern of success and only good things can come from that. For the record, after this article I will grab my guitar, sit next to my dog, and do a rendition of My Morning Jacket’s – One Big Holiday.

Leigh Peele

About Leigh Peele

Leigh Peele is a nationally published author and expert in the field of fat loss. Currently, she has two successful ebooks, a membership site, and endless options in clients and business opportunity. She is now taking her time to help others grow in the business of marketing and blogging. You can find more information at http://www.leighpeele.com

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  • “A bit of a joke to Steel, it took 10 years to finish the study. It is one of the best breakdowns of research in the area of procrastination.” LOL.

    So far as procrastination go, I am its personification. This post has been quite helpful, especially the part about praising one’s victory. I think that’s important.

  • Great post!

    Personally, I find that “shutting out the world” and having regular downtime are the things I need to work on on a daily basis.

  • Yes. Procrastination is my number one factor which slow down my success in some areas in my life. Thank you for your great post. And Yaro’s site is always one of my favorite place to stop by when I need some inspiration to move forward.

  • Solution #1 is especially useful, I find.

    I am trialling an approach I call “2-level goals”. I have some high-level goals, like “Build a business serving people who value personal development”, and under those goals go my achievable to-do items for today that will move me closer to the higher-level goal.

    That avoids irrelevant busywork on the one hand, and overwhelm on the other.

  • This is the best article I’ve read on over coming procrastination. It does not, in the end, boil down to “Just do it”. Thank you for offering actual strategies.

  • My favorite is praise your victory. Delaying your praise for accomplishment something may not be the best idea… and it does give you excitement and fuel for the next one.

  • Thank you very much buddy. I wish I could procrastinate procrastination. I am using your book as training material to motivate my learners.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Thanks for the post. It will really help me because I have been fighting procrastination for years and it has been an up hill battle. Sometimes I win and most of the time I procrastinate.
    I will try some of your suggestions and see if there is an improvement for me.

  • As with fear (see my earlier comment) procrastination is a human behaviour which is likely to have been positively rewarded by evolution, otherwise it wouldn’t be here. I have gone back to see where procrastination has led to good results and found some: quite a number of tasks, like filling my tax form (as a mere employee), or filling hour registration, have been rewarded by them turning out needless. The state returned my tax bill with correct data and my company apparently didn’t care about hour registration nearly as much as they said. There is also the less noble effect: someone else will do it for you. Yes, we’re products of a race seeking maximum result for minimal effort.

    Eradicating ALL procrastination is likely to put us under enormous stress and turn us into inefficient specimen of our species. But for the kind of procrastination that makes us unhappy, we can use a couple of good techniques.

  • Procrastination can be deadly for any business. I am also a procrastinator Leigh, so this is right up my alley. I will try to implement some of your suggestions in my life and see how it turns out.Thanks for sharing.

    – Robert

  • I like this formula: Task VS Reward = Delay.

    If the reward is not appealing or clear, then the probability of delay is higher.

  • Have a deadline. No time to procrastinate. Wait, let eat first.. Lol but seriously, why delay something that you can do now. If you want to succeed, act quickly. Move with your cheese.

  • Great article; I’ve been following Leigh now since 2007 when I was losing 50+ pounds meself. My favorite non-procrastination tip is to ‘just freakin’ DO IT’ – ie, throw yourself in wholeheartedly.

    When you choose to take control like that….great things happen.

  • I have recently started sending out a monthly email to all my friends and family. Once a month I spill the beans on what’s happening in my world. Usually around 2,500 words it takes a whole afternoon to complete. But now that I have done 4 so far, I am getting great feedback. It’s daunting, and I put off starting it for about two years.

    At the urging of a friend, I have started off on the project.

    My friend always shouts ‘TCB BABY’ When he needs to get through something.

    (Take Care of Business)


  • […] article is on a topic I believe all of us can relate to – […]

  • I’m a procrastinator too! I find it helps when I set very specific short term goals for myself to complete with a deadline. If I tell myself that I need to accomplish writing a blog post by tonight, then I’d do it right away. If I gave myself the week to do it then I’d do it at the end of the week.

  • I used to procrastinate all the time, but I managed to pull myself together using a lot of self-discipline. When given a few tasks to do, I would automatically start with the most unpleasant task immediately. Once that was out of the way, the rest of the tasks were a walk in the park. And to cap it all, the feeling associated with completing all of the tasks in a given time was wonderful.

    I cannot remember when last I thought of “doing it later”.

  • I think it would be unfair to our subconsciousness to continuously override it and carry out ALL tasks that are on our way. I do keep track of everything I think I need to do, but sometimes a pending task is pending there for a long time (I keep track of entry dates as well). Then I’ll ask myself:
    – is this really something important?
    – why has it been pending so long?
    – what am I going to do about it?
    In some cases I conclude that it may have seemed important or urgent at the time, but now has become a fine candidate for “later/maybe” or be removed altogether. Sometimes it is important and then I try to figure out why I haven’t done it. Mainly there are two reasons: spacetime or energy. Then I go on to create the spacetime for the task, or I call in a friend to remove the energy obstacle.
    The retrospect also allows me to see patterns in my behaviour, so that I can build routine defences against them, like calling in my mom for certain errands that tend to linger.

    All of this is far more realistic, in my opinion, than “completing all the tasks”. It’s not even efficient to do everything that you have found important over a period of time.

    The fight against procrastination is a continuous discovery and includes allowing for some procrastination. It would not be healthy to completely throw away this natural human behaviour.

  • This is the best article on over coming procrastination I’ve read so far. I’m also a procrastinator, so your tips will definitely come in handy. I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a lot of self-discipline to battle procrastination. My favorite solution, and something I’m trying to put into practice these days, is #2 Set Urgent And Timed Deadlines.

  • […] had a whole other idea I was going to write about but instead I am going to leave a simple link to a short article I read about 2 minutes ago.  For the procrastinators out there, me included, it […]

  • Great points there, Leigh. Procrastination is a problem for just about everyone. Even though many think it’s a manifestation of laziness, it goes deeper than that. Perhaps, the work you are trying to do is really uninteresting to you. If that’s the case, you will frequently find yourself procrastinating. We all have things to do that we don’t like. I try to approach it like a medicine that doesn’t taste good, and then reward myself with things that I do like to do as motivation to get past that.

  • GFD

    Good stuff here, especially like advice 1 and 5.

  • AJ

    This was a good summary of the research. I look forward to the book being released. I found if you use action verbs at the beginning of your goal list it will help motivate you to complete the task.

  • I must say i am extremely glad i came across this post. Given the fact procrastination is one of my bad habits, i will take your advice on board to rid myself of this sad disease. Thanks very much once again.

  • Rob

    My tips are:

    1. Pause: Avoid focusing on only the urgent, think about the important too. To do this requires a few minutes of quiet reflection to form at least an outline of a plan. This may seem like you’re wasting time but in fact some up front planning will mean less problems in the long run.
    2. Just do it: Once you have a plan in place don’t procrastinate. One of the main causes of procrastination is perfectionism, a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one’s own performance. Don’t worry about making a mistake, just do the next action!
    3. Understand your natural cycles: Just as nature is governed by cycles, so is the human body. Most people are generally aware of the 24-hour cycles of sleeping and waking that are the major components of our circadian rhythm (circa dies means “around a day”). Less commonly known, however, are the body’s ultradian rhythms (ultra dies means “many times a day”) that occur in cycles throughout each day. Eye blinks, heart rate, hormone regulation, thermal regulation, breathing … the list is almost endless, and some of these activities help account for the energy cycles we feel throughout the day.
    4. Focus: The vast majority of people focus too much time and energy outside of their Circle of Influence, in their Circle of Concern. Such people typically worry about things they cannot control. Preoccupying yourself with issues like that is a huge waste of time and energy. Covey notes that highly effective people think and act primarily within their Circle of Influence. They forget about the things over which they have no control, preferring to focus their time and energy on issues where they can actually make a difference. By doing this, they gradually expand their Circle of Influence as they earn more power and respect.
    5. Let go. Nobody can achieve everything, so don’t try: delegate
    6. Say NO!
    7. Revive dead time. Stuck in traffic? Flight delayed? Transform productivity blackspots by keeping a list of ongoing projects with you at all times. It’s surprising what will rise Phoenix-like from the ashes.

  • Procrastination is my biggest enemy and from today I will surely try to avoid that. Much inspired by your advice. Especially I like both, Make Plans You Can’t Break and Shut Out The World very much. Thanks for such useful information.

  • Another great article about most common problem and excellent ways to tackle them from Peele.

  • […] 45. How to Stop Procrastinating by Leigh Peele […]

  • Talking about procrastination!
    It took me 3 days to finish reading this article. What’s the excuse? No excuses! I am just a big time procrastinator! Sigh…

  • It can be hard to manage your time sometimes. I try to put the most important tasks for completion in the morning as that is when i am most productive and less likely to slack off.

  • […] 5 Steps to Obliterate Procrastination (Entrepreneurs Journey blog) […]

  • Great Post. I add this Blog to my bookmarks.

  • Thank you on your help!

  • Very Interesting Information! Thank You For Thi Blog!

  • I used to be a “proscrastinator” – however, what helped me was to use a seriously strict schedule – at specific hours I had to work, nothing else.

    That coupled with your No. 4, to shut out the world, I increasingly progressed. As long as you keep the same hours every single day, it becomes much easier.

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