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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Ending Procrastination

Dear Sue: I have trouble getting things done and I tend to procrastinate. I am struggling with all the things I have to do and deadlines I need to meet. Is something wrong with me?

Ė Procrastinator

Sue Says: There is nothing wrong with you, and believe me, you are not alone. Many people procrastinate at some time or another, although some people struggle with it more than others.

Most people are selective with the things they put off doing, and for a good reason; people tend to procrastinate when they are faced with doing something they donít want to do. It is much easier to do things we enjoy doing than it is to do something we dislike.

For example, people, who like exercise, look forward to it, but those who dislike it, dread it. If you know you should look for a job or confront someone about a problem, but doing so is difficult or makes you feel uncomfortable, youíll probably avoid it as long as you can.

The lack of motivation to do something can be due to other reasons as well. Time is one of the biggest culprits; having more to do than time allows is a common problem.

If you lack sufficient knowledge or are facing an assignment that is challenging or difficult, you may tend to put off doing it. Fear is another factor; whether itís a fear of failure or fear of success, it can be a roadblock.

The most unique reason for procrastination Iíve heard came from Mark Goulston, author of ďGet Out Of Your Own Way". His theory is that people procrastinate when they are lonely Ė we may not want to do something alone or isolate ourselves for the time required to do a task. Enlisting the support of others or doing the dreaded task with someone else is often the solution.

Take a good look at the things you procrastinate. First, identify the reasons you tend to put off a particular task, and then try to come up with solutions to help you overcome it.

For example, if you are postponing doing something because it requires a large amount of time, scheduling time to do it may be the only way to ensure you will have the time you need to get something done. If a project is overwhelming and you lack the information you need, advance preparation will make it easier for you to face the task.

If a project is large, rather than trying to do it all at once, breaking it down into smaller tasks will make it easier to accomplish. Being held accountable can be a motivator for some -- announcing what you intend to do to friends, family or coworkers might help, especially if they will be checking in on your progress.

In addition to discovering the reasons you arenít doing something, uncover the reasons you will do something; in other words, know what motivates you and reward yourself for doing something that was difficult to do.

Donít be too hard on yourself; there is a flip side to procrastination. Some people simply work better under pressure. If you do your best work closer to a deadline, it might be best not to fight it. However, if working under pressure causes stress for you and others or you become careless as a result of too little time, youíll need to do something about it.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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