Quality Magazine

Jim's Gems: Discipline and Commitment Cures Procrastination

May 14, 2012


We all procrastinate to some degree, but some use procrastination as a crutch. Procrastination has an output (or maybe it should be phrased “a result”), which is inaction. The only cure for it is action. We need to go beyond considering, debating, and wishing and just make it happen.

What causes procrastination? There is no single answer. We’re all human, therefore complex, which means the answer is just as convoluted. Essentially, procrastination may be because we are confused; we are afraid of making mistakes which may lead to failure; we don’t know what to do; we believe it will be a lot of work for little, or no, reward; we believe it will just go away in time and we can avoid it; we don’t want to ask for help. In short, there have been countless studies, articles, and books written on the subject so nothing we can say here will shed much more light on the issue.

The bottom line, however, is that the key to moving beyond this rut of procrastination is discipline. Timothy Pychyl, a psychologist at Carlton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, said “Procrastination happens because we’re disorganized, not very dutiful, and probably impulsive.” We delay getting started and are quick to jump over to something we consider more important or that we’re more excited about doing.

Curing procrastination takes commitment and it’s going to be a little uncomfortable. It's going to involve effort, and you're going to run into challenges. You need to ask yourself, “Do I intend to make it happen or would I rather put it off again and again so that it never gets done?”

What gets done is what gets done now. In a few days, in a couple of weeks, in a few months, or when you get around to it means these somedays usually don’t ever come.

Try substituting the word “never” for someday. This may force you to confront the reality that procrastination will likely result in it never happening. Give yourself the choice between doing it now or doing it never, and you'll be much more likely to get it done, if it's truly important to you.

You can choose to take action, or you can choose to do nothing and forever leave this opportunity, and reward, behind. Earl Nightingale said “…if you’ll think back, you’ll remember that you’ve always been happiest, most contented, after having finished a difficult project or faced up to a responsibility you were worried about. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and the joy that will come with its accomplishment makes it more than worthwhile. Work never killed anyone. It’s worry that does the damage, and the worry would disappear if we’d just settle down and do the work.”

Decide to take the following actions and accept the tremendous opportunity that is available to you. Surround yourself with doers; let go of the excuses; forgive yourself the previous inaction and make this the moment you move toward real, effective, purposeful action that will lead to contentment and personal reward.