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How to stop putting things off


When it's a problem

It's a problem if you're frustrated at yourself for using constant delaying tactics, when your work isn't getting done on time or it's always done at the last minute and accompanied by stress.

It's also a problem in terms of your relationships if your friends and family are getting fed up with your unreliability. It may be a standing joke that you started tiling the bathroom 2 years ago and it's still not finished, but unfinished jobs fester and cause resentment.

"When you are procrastinating you aren't particularly happy either as the task you are putting off is often in the back of your mind anyway," says Professor Dryden.

You may prefer the more immediate gratification of searching for holidays on the internet, or looking at old school friends Facebook photos. It may be a short-term mood fix but the task you're avoiding is still hanging over you.

It's one thing to be chilled and have a Mediterranean 'mañana' approach, that’s fine if you're on holiday sipping cocktails by the pool but not quite so appropriate when your tax return is due or you need to pick the kids up from school.

With procrastination there's often nagging guilt and self-reproach.

How to overcome procrastination

Question yourself: Ask yourself why are you procrastinating? Is it a particular job you don't want to do? Do you feel out of your comfort zone, not up to the job or do you just feel disorganised?

Once you can work out the problem it may be easier to tackle the task.

"Being mindful of our thinking can break the procrastination cycle, noticing your thoughts frees you up from thinking about them," says Dr Sinclair.

Don't make excuses: "You need to recognise that the conditions which you need to have in place before you begin a certain task DON'T actually have to exist," says Professor Dryden.

Your desk doesn't need to be tidy, your pencils don't need to be sharpened, and your laundry doesn't have to be done, before you get down to it.

Don't be side-tracked: "You need to self manage, maybe reward yourself once you have done something you don't want to do, but don't let yourself be sidetracked by your own thoughts," says the Professor.

Also don't let yourself be tempted by the time thief that is social media, when you have a job to do.

Take a risk: "It takes effort to be willing to tolerate discomfort but if you do procrastinate so much that you never take action your world is going to shrink and your life experience will dissolve in front of your eyes," warns Dr Sinclair. "Emotions, even uncomfortable ones can't be avoided, they have to be experienced, warts and all."

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