Procrastination identifies the reasons we put off tasks—fears of failure, success, control, separation, and attachment—and their roots in our childhood and adult experiences. The authors offer a practical, tested program to overcome procrastination by achieving set goals, managing time, enlisting support, and handling stress.
Change is a Process
Making a change and learning new behavior happens gradually over time. There are many different models of how change occurs. James Prochaska and his colleagues have researched the change process in health habits and substance abuse and have identified a predictable sequence they call the Stages of Change.
The first stage is Precontemplation, when you’re not ready to change and not even thinking about it.
Second stage: Contemplation. This is a time of thinking through whether you’re ready to take action and deal with the repercussions, positive and negative.
Pochaska’s third stage is Preparation, when you’re testing the waters, not fully committed but willing to try something new.
Then comes stage four, Action.
Addressing the factors that lead to procrastination
1. Low confidence in your ability to succeed
In order to build up your confidence that you can succeed, we suggest you pick a goal that is realistic, achievable, and easily measured. Then break it down into small, manageable chunks and begin with something you can accomplish in a short amount of time, because nothing succeeds like success.
2. Task aversiveness: Expecting that the process will be difficult or the outcome will be unpleasant
A task is uncomfortable because it’s related to an underlying fear or anxiety, and it is this discomfort that makes a task so aversive that you avoid it. As you understand your fears and develop your self-acceptance, you may be surprised to find that tasks may actually become less aversive.
Suggestions to make the process or the outcome more pleasant are enlisting support from a friendly ally, rewarding yourself with social experiences, delegating to reduce your to-do list, setting limits so that you are less overwhelmed, and letting go of what you don’t need.
3. The goal or reward is too far away to feel real or meaningful
To help make a faraway goal or reward feel more real and salient, we encourage you to work in short intervals and reward yourself frequently. We encourage you to pay attention to your values, so that you can remind yourself how a long-term goal is important to who you are and what you want.
4. Difficulties in self-regulation, such as being impulsive and distractible
For self-regulation, we offer techniques that help your body and mind relax, so that you can manage your emotions and interrupt the path to distraction.
How to approach these techniques
*Try one new thing at a time: Trying to put them all into practice immediately may make you feel ovewhelmed, overworked, or discouraged.
*Go slowly: Trying to do too much is part of the problem–so slow down.
*Watch for resistance: Keep an eye our for resistance.