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New Year’s Resolution: Overcome Procrastination

By: Brian Tracy
Last updated 1/15/2014

It has been said that “procrastination is the thief of time.” A wise man in one of my seminars expanded on that by saying, “Procrastination is the thief of life.”

Your ability to overcome procrastination and to get the job done on schedule can make all the difference between success and failure in your career.

However, the fact is that everyone procrastinates. Everyone has too much to do and too little time. But if everyone procrastinates, what is the difference between the high producer and the low producer?

Simple. The high producer procrastinates on tasks and activities of low or no value. The low producer procrastinates on tasks that have considerable value to the company and to the individual’s own career. For you to produce at your maximum, you must resolve to engage in “creative procrastination” from this day forward.

Consciously and deliberately decide which tasks you are going to put off. Look at your list of work for the day and choose those items that you are not going to do until you have completed other items that are vastly more important. You must work consciously and deliberately instead of procrastinating accidentally and automatically.

We always tend to procrastinate on our biggest tasks, which are usually our highest value tasks as well. There are a series of techniques that you can use to overcome or at least manage procrastination. In fact, there are libraries full of books, one or two of them written by myself, on the subject of overcoming procrastination. Here are some good ideas that you should start with right away.

Mental Programming
“Do it now!”

These are perhaps the most powerful words you can use to increase your productivity. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating on an important task, repeat to yourself, with energy and enthusiasm, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!”

The amazing discovery is that after you have repeated these words ten, twenty, or even a hundred times, you will find yourself unconsciously impelled to stay on your most important task and complete that job before you do anything else.

Completing Larger Tasks
Henry Ford once wrote, “Any goal can be achieved if you break it down into enough small parts.”

Any big task that you have to complete can be completed if you break it down into enough small parts. One of the best techniques is to divide your task into “bite-size pieces.” Take a piece of paper and write down every small part of the task that you have to do, in sequence, from the first little job to the final job that completes the task.

Then, discipline yourself to do “number one” on your list. Sometimes, the decision to take action on the first step on a large task makes it easier for you to do the next step, and the next step, and the next step as well. Sometimes just forcing yourself to start on a major task will help you to develop the momentum and energy necessary to work right through until the task is complete.

The Salami-Slice Method
A variation of the “bite-size pieces” technique for overcoming procrastination is called the “salami-slice method.” Just as you would not try to eat a loaf of salami in one bite, you do not try to do a large task in one time period. Instead, you salami slice the task; you reduce the size of the task by slicing off one small part at a time. You then resolve to complete that one small part before you go on to something else.

Each time you sit down with your major task, especially if you are overwhelmed with other pressing responsibilities, resolve to complete one part of the task at a time. Often this strategy will get you started on the project and make it easier to complete parts two, three, four, and so on.

Develop a Sense of Urgency
One of the rarest and most valuable human qualities in the world of work is a sense of urgency. It is estimated that only about 2% of people move quickly to get the job done. When you develop a reputation for having an “action orientation” and for getting the job done quickly, you’ll move onto the fast track in your career.

When 300 chief executive officers were asked what employees could do to put themselves on the fast track in their corporations, 85% of the top executives had the same reply. The most important qualities that they looked for were:
1. The ability to set priorities.
2. The ability to start on the most important job.
3. Get it done quickly and well.

When you develop a reputation for starting on your most important tasks and completing them quickly and well, you will be happily surprised at all the wonderful opportunities that will open up for you.

© 2013 Brian Tracy. Excerpted from Time Management (The Brian Tracy Success Library) by Brian Tracy. Used with permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

Learn more about time management in these AMA seminars:
Time Management

Managing Chaos: Dynamic Time Management, Recall, Reading and Stress Management Skills for Administrative Professionals

About the Author(s)

Brian Tracy Brian Tracy is one of America's leading authorities on the development of human potential and personal effectiveness. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling How the Best Leaders Lead and Eat That Frog.