Confessions of a Reformed Procrastinator

This article has been a long time coming. In fact, it’s probably several years overdue. Why? Because… I’m a closet procrastinator.

I’ve been too aware for too long that I’ve suffered this affliction. In college, 73% of my studying (I checked) was done between the hours of 11pm and 4am the night before exams, fueled by Cheetos and Mountain Dew. My car always stayed dirty, my fridge was always cluttered, and the malls always stayed open an extra hour for me on Christmas Eve. I once didn’t eat breakfast because making toast seemed like work. True story.

Over the years, I’ve learned to cope with this burden and even overcome it in many significant ways. I can’t tell you what a HUGE difference just a few simple goal-setting techniques have made. Being accountable to something written on paper compels me to act. It may be true that thinking before you act is a virtue. But too much thinking leads to very little action. And action is everything when it comes to reaching meaningful goals and leading a meaningful life.

But I learned a valuable lesson the other day that may help me even more. I learned that I’m still procrastinating in a lot of small, unseen ways that can add up to frustrating days.

Here’s what happened: On the way to work, I stopped at the intersection at the end of our street. On that corner is a mailbox, and I had three letters in the car to mail. Being late for work, though, my first thought – as it has been for years – was "I’m in a hurry, I’ll just mail them at lunchtime." But instead of driving on, I stopped my procrastinating self. I realized that I was actually prepared to take 5-10 minutes out of my lunch hour, get back in my car, slog through traffic, and run to the post office – just for the sake of not having to do it right now. Such is the irrational nature of a procrastinator.

I scolded myself for being so stupid, got out of the car, dropped the mail, and was on my way. Cost: 10 seconds. Payoff: No more brain space wasted on mail, and a traffic-free lunch. Lesson learned.

I know there are a lot of closet procrastinators like me out there, people who have goals or things to do (big or small), but put off acting on them for one reason or another.

We’re stressed when we procrastinate. But then we also procrastinate when we’re stressed. Procrastination is a nasty beast. It’s a mean, energy-sapping, time-chewing cycle. But you can break out of it. If I can do it, anyone can.

It’s really a mindset and a habit. It’s a matter of deciding to just get something out of the way while you have the chance. Here are my rules for breaking the procrastination habit:
  1. When in doubt, act.
  2. Erase your To-Do List every day or week and start over. Running lists end up with items that stick around too long, sink to the bottom and end up as invisible as Lincoln’s ghost.
  3. Hang around action-oriented people. People with energy often have a thrill for life, and it’s easy to pick up some of that spirit.
  4. Get plenty of exercise and sleep. Nothing makes you want to put things off more than feeling groggy or drained.
  5. Filter down and simplify. Does everything on your To-Do List belong there? As lists get longer, we procrastinators can freeze up and not know which way to turn first.
  6. Right now – before you read the next paragraph – go do something you put off earlier today…There, doesn’t that feel better? Remember and cherish that feeling.
I’m not always successful at not procrastinating. I have my share of setbacks. But with goal setting and the personal leadership I’ve learned with SparkPeople, as well as the rules above, I’m getting a lot better. I find that the more action I put in my day, the more fun it is, and the more time I have to do the stuff I really want to do – with a clear mind, a clear conscience, and a cleared-off To-Do List.
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Member Comments

I think we all procrastinate a little or a lot. When we start focusing on our life we can see it. Some reat input. Report
Terrific article and describes my me to perfection. I’m messy and cluttered with the over stuffed closet and dirty trashed car. I make changes in baby steps that make want to clean everything else later. Like I stopped treating my laundry room like my second closet and started hanging my clothes back up in my closet and putting socks and underwear up in my dresser drawers where they belong. And ever since I discovered bullet journaling on Pinterest I’ve been more organized than I ever was. Report
I do at times have to stop thankss Report
I procrastinate when I think I have too much to do and don't know where to start -- so I don't even get started Report
Procrastinator,I believe that is my middle name since I have retired. I make lists of things to do but seem to procrastinate and then can't find the lists. Remember the sock monster in the washing machine? Well, I must have a list monster in my house. Some day I'm going to find a whole stack of lists when I stop procrastinatIng. Report
Good article. Report
I must admit that sometimes the list gets carried over to the next day, the next, and the next. Maybe my list is to long is what I'm thinking. I will have to reevaluate my lists. Report
I'm a recovering procrastinator and work on it every day. I've even admitted it during a job interview and got the offer. I feel so much better knowing that I should go on and get her done instead of causing myself undue stress. Report
I'm a procrastinator as well and I curb it by counting the cost of not doing things. As the author said the cost of mailing the letters at lunch was higher than doing it right now. But if we don't think there's a price, then we'll delay. I'm procrastinating cleaning right now but it's been worth it to update sparks. :-) Report
It has helped me to NOT hit the snooze alarm . . to get the best start for the day. Report
Good article! Report
I am going to start working on my procrastination, first thing tomorrow! LOL Report
good read Report
I am a procastinator as well. I started to say "awful" procastinator, but that doesn't help by putting myself down. I am glad to read this- it sounds like me too. I do write lists but then many times don't do my list.I guess we need to encourage ourselves for each time we do the tasks.. Report
I procrastinate all the time. I just get overwhelmed and so I put things off. This was a good article. Report


About The Author

Mike Kramer
Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.