In the spring of 1998, Natalie Gross was determined to apply for an opening that she heard about at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Despite her initial excitement, two weeks had passed and Gross had not officially applied for the job. “I procrastinated because I didn’t meet certain criteria for the position,” says Gross. “I was afraid of rejection.”
“Procrastination is a major stumbling block to success,” says Thomas D. Yarnell, a clinical psychologist in Biloxi, Mississippi. “We waste so much time trying to avoid difficult and unpleasant tasks that we set ourselves up for failure.” As a result, it can wreak havoc on our emotional stability and even our physical health. For instance, Gross says putting off her decision to apply for the job initially had little impact. But as the deadline drew nearer, she experienced tension headaches and unease. “I typically procrastinate when I don’t want to do the work or deal with the situation,” admits Gross. “I talk a lot, but do nothing. I tend to think I have more time than I really have.”
Overcoming procrastination, Yarnell says, is merely a matter of breaking a bad habit.
Fortunately for Gross, she got an extension and applied for the job. Now interim assistant dean for multicultural programs at Marquette University in Milwaukee, she makes more conscious efforts to take care of tasks in a timely manner. “Now, I create to-do lists, try to get started immediately, and give myself deadlines before a project is actually due. I realize that taking my time will ultimately affect someone’s job, even if it is only mine.”
Maximize Your Time
- Do unpleasant tasks first. Get them out of the way.
- Give yourself a deadline and inform others of it. When you meet your deadline, reward yourself.
- Get help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate, if possible.
- Break down large or difficult tasks. Tackle them one at a time in small steps.
- Get organized. For a procrastinator, there is nothing worse than getting started only to discover you don’t have everything you need to complete the task.