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How Procrastination will Hurt You in the Long Run

November 25th, 2019

Do you tend to put off tasks or ignore obligations until you run head-first into your deadline, or miss it altogether? Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to begin a project and then doing a sloppy rush job that could have been avoided if you had started earlier?

The tendency to procrastinate is relatively common, and in some cases, it can be serious…and it can also bring serious consequences for those who aren’t sure how to get it under control. If you feel like your minor habit of procrastination is slowly becoming a significant habit, or you’ve already missed one too many deadlines or milestones, and you’d rather not miss any more, keep these thoughts in mind.

Address one problem at a time.

Your report is due in three days. You’ve had it on your plate for two months, and you haven’t yet started. So you have two problems: 1) a report that’s likely to be rushed or missed altogether, and 2) a psychological problem (procrastination) that will haunt you and hold you back long after this report is over and forgotten. Don’t let a sense of paralysis cause you to freeze, give in, and give up on both. Instead, take a deep breath and face the first problem, the report. When that’s over, don’t take a long vacation. Face your next challenge and do what you need to do to get help, counseling, or support. Don’t walk away from either of your challenges; face both, but tackle only one at a time.

The second battle will be harder than the first.

Once your report is no longer an issue, face your procrastination problem with courage and conviction. Ask yourself honestly why you behave this way and what you hope to gain each time you do it. Do you feel rebellious and passive-aggressive, and is procrastination your way of claiming control? (“The person asking me to complete this task can’t tell ME what to do!”) Do you feel scared of the task and doubt you’ll be able to do it successfully? (“As long as I haven’t started yet, I haven’t failed.”) Are you so excited about the task that you’re hiding from your strong feelings? (“I really want to plan this wedding/write this novel/ finish this job application, but I just can’t get started!”) These are all very common reasons why people succumb to procrastination…but they’re all very different. Which do you relate to the most?

Break big tasks into smaller tasks.

No matter which reason best reflects your situation, one approach can help with all three: breaking down your intimidating task, so it no longer controls, scares, or overwhelms you. Instead of “planning a wedding,” choose a date. Instead of “writing a novel,” write a rough outline. Once you’ve started, you’ll find it easier to continue.

Merrit can help you with professional challenges.

For more on how to address and overcome the professional challenges that may be holding you back, talk to the career management team at Merritt!

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