Maybe you tell yourself you perform better under pressure. Or that the work you do when you're not feeling in the mood to work isn't very good. Or you think that you can't do anything well unless you're feeling at the top of your form.
Uh-oh, you've got the earmarks of a procrastinator. Of course, you've got lots of company. Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. These are people who don't pay their bills on time, who miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts, who leave Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. Let's not even talk about income taxes!
Of course, it won't help you get things done any faster to know that procrastination isn't good for your health. But putting things off creates higher levels of stress and sends all those stress hormones coursing through your body, wearing it out faster. And it puts you at risk for poor health because you're just as likely to delay seeking treatment for medical problems as you are to delay everything else.
Procrastination actually weakens your immune system. It keeps you awake at night. And it doesn't do a thing for your relationships either. It makes loved ones resentful, because it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto them.
Procrastinators are made and not born. That's both the good news and the bad news. Good because it's a learned response, and what's learned can be unlearned. The bad news is that while it's possible to change, it takes a lot of intentional planning to transform this habit.
You should know that some people who think of themselves as procrastinators really aren't. In a world of unending deadlines, they just put too many things on their "To Do" list. They're not avoiding tasks, the mark of a bona fide procrastinator; they're getting things done, just not as many as they would like.
It's easy to tell whether you're a real procrastinator. According to Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, real procrastinators tell themselves five lies:
Procrastinators also actively look for distractions, especially ones that don't take heavy-duty commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is just about tailor-made for this purpose. The dirty little secret is that procrastinators distract themselves as a way of regulating their own emotions, such as fear of failure.
So face it. Some tasks are never going to be thigh-slappers no matter how long they marinate on your desk. You've got to do them now.
How to tackle procrastination? Dr. Ferrari recommends these strategies for reducing procrastination: