Does your To-do list include :

• A complicated complaint that needs your immediate attention?
• Minutes of a meeting or a report you should write?
• A challenging discussion with a subordinate?

I don’t feel like it, I couldn’t care less, I don’t want to. Does this sound familiar? Don’t worry, you are not the only one: most of us have a hard time tackling challenging tasks.

According to a survey, one out of four adults reported being incorrigible procrastinators, and the rest of them didn’t even manage to submit the questionnaire on time. The study is a case in point and illustrates the scope of the problem very well. Many could take a number and get in line to join Procrastinators Anonymous.

To want to postpone dull, unpleasant and complicated tasks is human. But it is also short-sighted. In other words, ”What goes around, comes around” - a saying we are all very familiar with. We much rather preoccupy ourselves with pleasant and interesting pursuits. Procrastination is, essentially, a learned habit: we tend to always postpone the same kinds of complicated tasks. In the course of time, procrastination has developed into a schema, an unconscious mental model on the basis of which we act automatically. It could be compared with a computer software code that is executed automatically.

How to Get Rid of Procrastination?

Because procrastination is a model with certain regularities, the goal is to unlearn this model and replace it with a new, more assertive schema. First you need to identify what tasks you tend to postpone and why. However, this alone won’t suffice. What you need is a very strong desire, or determination, to change, which helps you tackle your tasks with greater enthusiasm.

The following firm principles will help you put an end to procrastination step by step.

A. The ”What can I do right away?” principle. You take a document in your hand, glance at it and think how complicated the whole thing looks and decide to get back to it later. This is exactly where the problem begins. Instead of facing the same things and documents over and over again, ask yourself: ”What can I do to further this issue right now?” And act – immediately.

B. The Frog principle. The writer Mark Twain asks: ”If you have to to swallow two frogs, how do you do it? Swallow the bigger and uglier one first and don’t look at it too long in the eye.” And to this I would like to add: ”Get down to business early in the morning”.

C. The Elephant principle. How to eat an elephant? One piece at a time. Divide a complicated task into smaller units, and if necessary, make a written action plan. Start working on the first unit.

D. Targeting. Do not think about the elephant itself, but rather, target your thoughts at the benefits and relaxed feeling you will have once you have got the tricky task done. And if the task at hand is especially demanding, reward yourself after having completed it.

One of the perils that many writers face is the so-called ”empty page syndrome”, in other words, daily excruciating struggle between inspiration, procrastination and ineffectiveness. The most assertive of writers have solved the problem so that they switch on their computers every morning, as diligently as ever, and simply begin to write, no matter what mood they might be in or how unmotivated they might feel. They count on it that sooner or later the creative flow will kick in.

As Nike’s slogan puts it: ”Just DO it!”

Further reading

Allen, D. Getting Things Done. 2001. Penguin Books.
Gleeson, K. 2003. The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized To Do More Work in Less Time. Wiley.

Author's Bio: 

Tim Pond is a best-selling author and coach. He has published fifteen books. To check out his mini email course with amazing bonuses, visit