REACH is a webzine devoted to helping people live more consciously, offering articles and tips on health, community, the environment, and personal productivity and growth.

Just Get Started

Almost everyone procrastinates, and that’s not necessarily bad. After all, we’re not machines, so a little procrastination—a few minutes of daydreaming or internet surfing—can actually improve long-term productivity, not to mention quality of life. But for some of us, procrastination is more than a well-earned break or respite; it’s a way of life.

We’ve all known people who start working at the last minute and still produce something brilliant. But for most of us, serial procrastination means rushed effort, done at odd hours, and often under duress. Not surprisingly, procrastinators rarely produce their best work and are often tired, stressed, and frustrated.

Many of us procrastinate because we’re afraid of failing. If we can back ourselves into a corner, then we have a ready-made excuse when things don’t turn out well. It helps to remind ourselves when we’re thinking this way, and to recognize that we should give ourselves our best rather than worst shot at success.

So how does one kick the procrastination habit? One tried and true method is to break the job into smaller, more manageable pieces. Sometimes it’s hard to get started because the task at hand seems so big. When this feeling hits, take the job apart and break it into smaller tasks that are less daunting. Anyone who has trained for a marathon will tell you that 26 miles can seem an impossible challenge until they put together a progressive training regimen based on incremental goals. The right small steps can lead to big achievement.

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Another way to fight procrastination is to reward yourself for finishing the project or even just a piece of it. Treat yourself to that Mocha Frappuccino after you finish the first section of that report for your boss. If it’s a particularly big project, hold out a particularly big reward—like treating yourself to a movie or a concert for finishing on time and to your highest standards. The point is to associate those things that need to be done with the pleasures that help make life enjoyable and fun.

A couple of final procrastination tips . . . reduce the distractions around you, such as the television or email, and prioritize what needs to be done. Many of us fill our To-Do lists with busy work that really isn’t that important. And remember, that “monumental” task you’ve been avoiding is NEVER as difficult as you’ve imagined it to be. Just get started!