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Squashing the Procrastination Demon

Lonnie Pacelli -- When faced with unavoidable tasks like writing a report, tax filings, or job searches, here's how to tackle the job with a more positive attitude and complete it with greater satisfaction.

We all know a procrastinator . . . the person who does Christmas shopping on December 24th, pulls an all-nighter to get a report done, or avoids making even the simplest decisions. Many times the procrastinator puts forth a defense of, "Well, I do get it done, don't I?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Even if things do get done, though, the stress put on the procrastinator (and those around him or her) is greater than it needs to be. If you know of a procrastinator (or are one yourself), use these tips to help make life a bit easier for not only the procrastinator but for those around him or her as well.

Spend time at the beginning of each week scheduling time to get things done—On Monday mornings take 30 minutes before you start your day to set your calendar for the week and schedule time to finish your to-do's. Need to get a report done by Thursday? Schedule a realistic amount of time in your calendar on Tuesday and Wednesday to get the report done. Being realistic is key here; don't try to schedule 16 hours worth of work into an eight-hour day.

Avoid being distracted by "shiny objects"—The biggest procrastinators I've seen allow for non-urgent disruptions to interrupt their day and divert their attention from working on the important tasks. If something comes up that is truly urgent and needs your immediate attention, then by all means address it. Play that card judiciously, though. Don't let the shiny objects drive your day.

Break big tasks down into smaller tasks—One reason for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand, particularly if it is a task that the person doesn't like. If you hate cleaning your house, don't do it all in one day; consider cleaning the bathrooms on one day, vacuuming on the next, and dusting on the third day. It won't seem as daunting a task and will give you more flexibility in your day.

Look for ways to simplify the task or eliminate it altogether— Let's take doing your income taxes as an example. Rather than letting receipts pile up in a shoe box for the entire year, set up folders for your major expense categories at the beginning of the year and drop receipts in the appropriate folder throughout the year. You'll spend only a little amount of time setting up the folders at the beginning of the year, but you'll eliminate the larger task of sorting your receipts into categories when year-end comes.

Think about the finish line, not the starting line—When you catch yourself procrastinating on a task, don't think about the amount of work ahead. Think about the relief you'll feel at the end of the task and the satisfaction you'll experience by doing a job well done. You'll still have to do the task, but you'll go into it with a more positive attitude by thinking about the finish line.

Courtesy of Lonnie Pacelli

Lonnie Pacelli is an internationally recognized author and autism advocate with over 30 years experience in leadership and project management at Accenture, Microsoft, and Consetta Group. An engaging and entertaining keynote speaker, he consistently receives rave reviews from audiences, and his practical, no-nonsense, experience-based approach to solving tough problems has helped leaders, project managers, and teams consistently deliver results. For more information, and to see Project Management books, articles, keynotes, and self-study seminars, please visit

© 2017 Lonnie Pacelli

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