Hara Estroff Marano has a great piece about dealing with procrastination. Although she says that "procrastination is the one personal flaw that every student and adult in our time-pressured culture openly admits to" I have to disagree, because I am no longer a procrastinator. I used to be, but I discovered for myself many of the points she outlines in her article, and I have been able to overcome my old ways. Take a look at what she says, and if you're a procrastinator you may just learn something about yourself.

There's considerable misunderstanding about procrastination. For one thing, it's not laziness. Settling into the fertile psychological ground between our intentions and our actions, procrastination is an active mental process of diverting yourself from doing high-priority things in the delusion that tomorrow will be better—because you'll know more, you'll have more time or the sun will shine differently. ...

Procrastination begins with a decision to delay a pressing activity and is accompanied by a promissory note to do it in the future. At bottom is always the same problem—a low tolerance for frustration. You perceive negativity or unpleasantness in some aspect of the task and you dodge the discomfort through diversion.

But frustration is a fact of life. At some point, a procrastinator needs to learn frustration-tolerance skills and acknowledge the unpleasantness. It's also helpful to put the brakes on self-talk that exaggerates the negativity of a task. If you put off doing something because, you tell yourself, it's "too tough," stop the conversation. Then identify even a small part of the activity that's manageable and start there. ...

Some people are just not built for action, says Timothy A. Pychyl, professor of psychology at Ottawa's Carleton University, where he runs the Procrastination Research Group. His studies of purposive behavior suggest that there are two basic ways of functioning in the world. There are the action-oriented people, who move easily from task to task, and there are the state-oriented souls, who have a lot of inertia—and are most likely to procrastinate. State-oriented people rate tasks more negatively; they experience greater uncertainty, boredom, frustration and guilt than do their action-oriented peers.

What helps them, Pychyl finds, is to prime the pump of shifting from one action to the next. "Make a deal with yourself," he urges. And follow the 10-minute rule. Acknowledge, "I don't feel like doing that," but do it for 10 minutes anyway. That gets you over the hard work of initiation. After being involved in the activity for 10 minutes, then decide whether to continue. Once you're involved, it's easier to stay with a task. Succeeding at a task does not require that you like doing it.

If that sounds helpful to you, then go read the whole article. Now!

(HT: Digg.)



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