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Controlling Procrastination

Procrastination is putting things off until the last minute or missing deadlines because you have put things off too long. It can lead to stress or be a result of stress. The more stressful or unpleasant a task, the more likely you are to put it off. Of course, this only increases your stress. Therefore, having an approach to handling procrastination is important.

  • Structure your time. Use a schedule planner or a notebook to plan your day or week. Just seeing on paper that there is a time to get your tasks done can help you get to work. For shorter projects, use a timer or alarm clock to help you stick with your plan.
  • Make a molehill out of a mountain. Break up large tasks. If you know you will not be able to concentrate on a project for 3 hours, break up your work into 1-hour blocks for 3 days. It's much easier to face an unpleasant task if the time you are giving it is brief.
  • Create short-term deadlines. If you typically put off deadlines, create short-term deadlines within your projects that you must meet. This can help you make a habit of meeting deadlines. It will also force you to get things done so that when the long-term deadline arrives, the pressure and work have not built up.
  • Avoid perfectionism. If you accept nothing less than a perfect performance, you may never get to work on a task because you're worried that it won't be perfect. Remember that doing your best is fine, and that giving yourself enough time to do your best will reduce stress.

If you do procrastinate or feel guilty about your lack of willpower or self-discipline, blaming yourself is not helpful. Doing so may make the procrastination worse. Confidence and healthy self-esteem usually help rather than hurt a procrastinator.

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If procrastination is a serious problem in your life, there are outside resources that can help. Students can find services on campus, and some employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that can help you learn to manage your time more efficiently.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised April 20, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 20, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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