Berger Leadership Blog

Feb 06, 2015

Breaking the habit of procrastination

Executive woman at desk

Tasks are piling up on your desk, but instead of diving in and tackling them, you sit back, throw your hands up and dawdle. Why? Because we are all sometimes prone to procrastination.

Amy Gallo, writing on the topic in the Harvard Business Review, says there are two main reasons why people ignore or put off completing a task:

- it’s something you don’t like to do, or

- it’s something you don’t know how to do (if this is the case, ask for help).

How do we stop procrastinating then? Gallo recommends setting deadlines, even for the simplest of tasks. “One of the simplest things you can do is create a schedule with clear due dates for each part of the task,” she writes. Dan Ariely, answering a question in the The Wall Street Journal on the topic, offers the same advice. “Perhaps the best tool we have to fight procrastination is to set rules for ourselves,” he writes. He recommends picking rules that are clear, strict and measurable and asking family, friends and colleagues to hold you accountable.

Along with setting deadlines, Gallo also suggests increasing the reward for completing a task. “Treat yourself to a coffee break, or a quick chat with a co-worker once you’ve finished a task,” she says.

Finally, she says procrastination is a habit that can be broken – just as getting things done right away is a habit that can be cultivated.

Is procrastination a struggle of yours? Even if it’s not, I’ve always found that setting deadlines and goals for getting work done is a helpful tool that will eventually turn into a healthy work habit.