How to Stop Procrastinating

Kelly Roher, Assistant Editor
Posted on September 1, 2007

Procrastination. It is a familiar word to many people and, for some, it is an even more familiar habit. To be sure, when we have challenging projects ahead of us, it is natural to put them at the bottom of our list of priorities and focus on less taxing work.

Transportation directors and managers of school bus operations are no different — some do procrastinate and it is no secret that this can cause stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many resources available today that are designed to help individuals understand why they procrastinate, and then help them stop this habit.

Saving it for another day
Carol Burns, transportation supervisor for the Roaring Folk School District in Glenwood, Colo., procrastinates on inputting data into the district’s transportation software. She also says that tasks that involve changing the district’s bus routes are not a high priority.

“There’s not enough manpower [at our district] to do these things,” says Burns. “They involve a lot of work, so my everyday tasks take priority over them.”

Brendan Wagner, the pupil transportation director for Chippewa Valley Schools in Clinton Township, Mich., procrastinates in several areas of his job as well. “I procrastinate on returning phone messages when the caller seems irritated or unhappy,” he says.

Wagner admits that he also puts off responding to parents’ requests for bus stop changes. While he recognizes that many parents have a legitimate reason for requesting a change and believes that it is important for their concerns to be heard, Wagner says that the district cannot possibly accommodate all of their requests. That is why he asks people to put their requests in writing. “I can get my thoughts across much better that way, and I find that people take ‘no’ for an answer much more readily when it is in writing,” he says.

Holding disciplinary meetings and completing employee evaluations are two other responsibilities that Wagner procrastinates on — he finds disciplinary meetings unpleasant and he dislikes his district’s employee evaluation form. “It is very limiting,” he explains. “If I have an outstanding employee, it’s difficult to expound and give them their due. On the other hand, if an employee has a poor evaluation, he or she has to come in and sign it, and that’s not something I look forward to.”

Marcy Murphy, the manager of a First Student branch in Crest Hill, Ill., puts off completing reports that summarize the activities and events that happen daily and weekly at the branch. “The monotony of the task makes it seem like a much larger job than it actually is,” she says.

Getting down to business
Regardless of the extent to which Burns, Wagner and Murphy dislike completing these tasks, they realize that they must be done, so they set aside time to devote their full attention to the work.

“I don’t like to make people wait, so I don’t procrastinate as a habit — just when something additional is added to my already overflowing plate,” Burns says. To accomplish those additional items, she says she shuts her office door and has incoming calls sent directly to her voicemail. “That way I’m not interrupted — I can put my immediate tasks on hold and get to the items at the bottom of my list.”

Wagner has a similar approach. “I typically pick a day for each of my unpleasant tasks and clear my schedule for the amount of time that I feel I will need for them — then I just get to it. I will not stop until the particular task I have chosen for that day is complete,” he says.

Murphy does not allow herself to be interrupted when she works on her daily and weekly reports — this enables her to finish them quickly. Moreover, when she picks a day to complete her least favorite tasks, she does the reports first so that she gets them out of the way.

Finding motivation
Even though deadlines loom and work must be done, some people still have trouble buckling down to complete their tasks. Kevin Hogan, an author, motivational/public speaker, consultant and corporate trainer, holds a doctorate in psychology and has written several articles on how to beat procrastination. One such article is “Ten Steps to Stop Procrastination,” which he says he wrote based on “the accumulation of a lifetime of motivation and achievement research.”

{+PAGEBREAK+} In the first half of the article, Hogan lists 10 ways to prevent procrastination (which he calls “Your Personal Plan to Prevent Procrastination”). In the latter half, he offers suggestions on how to overcome procrastination, some of which are similar to the items listed in the prevention section.

Hogan’s first tip for overcoming procrastination is to break the habit by establishing new habits to take its place. He says that once new habits are implemented, they will become more familiar and dependable over time.

Hogan also suggests establishing a plan when faced with a project. “If you have a plan of action,” he writes, “the voice of procrastination is not as likely to rear its horrifying head.”

By extension, avoid perfectionism. “Good enough is good enough,” Hogan says. “Do what is necessary to complete a task well and on time.”

When faced with a list of tasks, he advises doing the most unpleasant ones first. “You will feel better that they are finished and will be revitalized to complete the entire project,” he writes.

In Hogan’s last few tips, he discusses how changing one’s surroundings can eliminate procrastination. For instance, he believes that an organized workspace facilitates productivity. He also believes it is worthwhile for procrastinators to find a friend or co-worker who has good organizational skills and is willing to help them establish effective work habits.

Moreover, he advocates scheduling breaks during long periods of work to gain “renewed mental clarity and dedication.” It is also important to be surrounded by people who will help in staying focused.

Finally, establish a routine. “You are more likely to complete the task you want to accomplish when it is part of [your routine],” Hogan says.

To read Hogan’s advice on preventing procrastination, go to

Additional resources
For those who cannot eliminate procrastination on their own, there are numerous books on the subject. One such title is Overcoming Procrastination by Windy Dryden. Dryden is a psychotherapeutic studies professor. In this book (which was published by Sheldon Press in 2000), he says that procrastination can only be eliminated once an individual understands the emotions that trigger it. Dryden then offers suggestions to help people become aware of those emotions, as well as how to conquer them.

Another book, Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It, written by psychologists Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen, explores the reasons that people put off starting certain tasks, and then outlines a tested program to help people overcome procrastination. A new edition was published by Da Capo Press in 2004.

In Rita Emmett’s The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now, she establishes how and why people procrastinate. She then offers motivation for completing tasks and strategies on how to avoid returning to procrastination. The book was published in 2000 by Walker & Company.

Neil Fiore, a psychologist, inspirational speaker and coach, has written several books, including The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. In this book, Fiore provides a comprehensive strategy to conquer the causes of procrastination. His techniques are designed to enable people to work efficiently without stress and anxiety. A revised edition was published in April 2007.

Fiore wrote the book based on research he conducted while working at the University of California, Berkeley. “I led ‘conquer procrastination’ workshops at the university, and I observed that certain students’ self-talk was counter-productive [and led them to procrastinate],” Fiore says. “So I’ve tailored techniques that work for many people, but some techniques take extra tailoring if a person’s self-leadership is extensively unclear.”

Fiore also notes that there are benefits to attaining self-leadership. “Effective self-management can lead to effective management of others — not from pressure or threats, but once a person has a clear focus on when and where to start, and what to do,” he says.

For more information on Fiore’s work, visit


Five ways to conquer procrastination

The following is a summary of steps that can help reduce tendencies to procrastinate.

1. Increase emotional control. Maintaining a positive attitude will better equip you with the tools necessary to complete tasks.

2. Improve your thinking. Remaining focused and fine-tuning your decision-making skills will enable you to work more efficiently.

3. Acquire self-management skills. Developing your organizational skills and prioritizing your daily tasks will make projects less intimidating.

4. Change your habits. By practicing the habit of getting started, you will be more likely to stop the habit of procrastinating.

5. Acquire better task-completion skills. Working on projects one step at a time and consistently reminding yourself to work on them will decrease the chance that you will procrastinate on them.

Source: Wikibooks, a Web-based, open-content textbook collection. To read the site’s full entry on this subject, visit and type “Overcoming Procrastination/Eliminating Procrastination” in the search box.


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