| September 6th, 2006


My deadline should have ‘a deadline’ of its own for me to finish a task on time! I have a tendency of postponing things to the last minute, I feel I need to have that ‘stress’ factor to get things done. There is a term for people like me, which is ‘procrastinator’- someone who postpones work (especially out of habitual carelessness). In my school years I didn’t get in too much trouble for this habit, as I knew I could get by with the last minute study, or brush up on my papers; I would always get out of any situation – no matter how dire the situation was. Don’t think I never promised myself to do work more sensibly when I survived with minimal sleep and lots of cramming at the last minute, the pain was temporary especially followed by ‘mediocre’ grades, but I would end up doing the same thing– which was doing things at the last minute again!

Photo: © Farjana K. Godhuly@adhunika








But that was then and this is now, I have a toddler in the equation, who doesn’t always understand why his mother has to do the things at the last minute, because he usually has plans of his own and likes to abide by his own rules. By the time he decides to quit or sleep, I am ready to retire as well…So, I asked few of my ‘procrastinator’ friends what do they do to get things done on time; one friend said, she usually procrastinate when the work is related to her personal life, but doesn’t procrastinate when it is office related work, , she doesn’t know how that works ‘psychologically’ but it just works that way for her. Another friend said, if she knows she has a meeting at nine next morning for instance, she would mentally tell herself she has the meeting at eight, and get there on time!  So, everyone has their own way of dealing with their procrastination, and since I started talking to my friends about this, I realized that many of us suffer from and for this habit, I felt we should be focusing on what can we do to overcome the habit and enjoy life then dreading about that never-ending ‘to-do’ lists which needed our attention yesterday. I know there are many out there who are the  ‘the successful ones’ – the ones who are no longer procrastinators, and knows the simple steps that helped them to manage their life as desired. So, I would hope you – our readers would be candid with your suggestions, and tell us what works for you and help us break the habit and tell us how should we get organized for good.


15 Responses to “Procrastinator”

  1. Sharmin says:

    Here is a book that should be helpful:
    The 60-Second Procrastinator
    I am reading this one:
    60-second Organizer: Sixty Solid Techniques for Beating Chaos at Home and at Work by the same author.
    He has great handy tips to get organized.

    From my personal experience, “Prioritize” is my number one secret to success.


  2. Ishret says:

    I agree with Sharmin, prioritizing helps me a lot. Planning is very important. I have to have a plan and a written list for everything (with prioritization) from grocery to tasks at work. Even when I invite people over at my home for dinner, I have to have a list of all the food items I’m going to cook, in what order (with approximate time) and using which cooking pot/pan.

    Also, I set reminders (at PDA or cell phone) for things that I may forget (call someone, take medicine, etc.).

    – Ishret

  3. Suzana says:

    I am not the most organized person in the world. But, I will tell you what works for me. I stress a lot when I am given a particular job. As a perfectionist by nature( I am a Virgo by the way) I have to have it done at any cost before I can even think about attending anything else. And that might be as simple as making a pot of Coffee. But I will finish it up and then focus on something else. I hate deadlines. I hate doing things at the last minute. I believe in doing things as they come in and having enough time after I do it to make corrections If necessary.
    So, my dear friends if you just keep one thing in mind that works for me is that if you have to do the work why not to do it now and relax than do it the last minute.But difference from now or later is you will not have enough time to do it. So, why make our lives more stressful as it already is??

  4. Sharmin Islam says:

    Well, I can certainly say that I am not the most organized person in the world, especially after becoming a mother last year. But being somewhat organized by making lists does help me to cope with all the day-to-day tasks, and not feel overwhelmed by them. While being very organized helped me in my professional life, I find it difficult to carry that same trait over to my personal life now as a stay-at-home mom. My schedule is often dictated around my child’s now, and it’s quite unpredictable sometimes. Therefore, now, I just try to keep a mental list of the most important things that I need to get done during the day and I seriously don’t worry about whether the little things, like the dirty dishes or the laundry, get done or not. I make my well-being a very high priority and I accept help from my husband. If I’m too tired, I make sure that I get my rest, otherwise I won’t be able to take care of my child. So, in essence, I guess my advice to those struggling with procrastination is to make a “to-do” list and to try to finish just those tasks that are really important and not worry about whether all the items got done or not. See also if others can help you to finish some of the items on your list. You will have more time and energy if you accept help from others. Finally, remember to always reward yourself with a little something each time you do get something done, so that you will have more incentive to get the other items done in the long run.

  5. Selina Huq says:

    I am an academic counselor and I must say that majority of my student are procastinator Here are some strageties that I suggest they use to decrease procrastination. Some of the suggestion are taken from various academic literatures.

    List your priorities: Prioritize your tasks. Focus your time on the most important task; let go of those that consume your time and are not your top priorities.

    Get Organized: Develop an organized strategy for tackling the work you need to do. Your planner, and to do list will come in handy here.

    Divide the task into smaller jobs: Sometimes we procastinate because the task seems so complex and overwhelming.Divide a large task into smaller parts. Set subgoals of finishing one part at a time. This stragety often can make what seems to be a completely unmanageble task an achiveble one.

    Take a stand: Take time to make a contract with yourself to complete a specific task. The hardest barrier at time is beginning; once task is started forward progress is easier.

    Ask for support: Tell your family members and friends of your intent. Seek their support and encouragement.

    Hope this suggestion helps you to become less of a procrastinator.

    Selina Huq

  6. Sharmin says:

    One more survival tip: Learn to say “no” when you know you have got your hands full. Some people think saying “No” is rude and they agree to do things even though they don’t have the time for those. Ultimately they keep on procrastinating and feel bad about themselves.

    Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t enjoy that task, so we tend to postpone it. I suggest to try alternatives, see if that can be assigned to someone who has more interest, or if that task can be done differntly making it more intersting. Think outside the box!

    I liked that Sharmin Islam mentioned, make your well being the top priority (w/o being too selfish). If your are doing ok mentally and physically than there is more chance that you will be able to server better.

  7. Madhury says:

    hmm.. I was thinking that I will get back to posting on this topic later (here comes the procrastinator by nature), when I have sometime in hand, but then I thought, I better post, and I think it shows here that over the years my habits have changed, and I learned to get organized, learned to prioritize and learned to motivate myself by providing mental incentives (of whatever that may be). Also a schedule works great for me. I have a schedule up in the kitchen that was intended for the baby sitter, and now I have extended to include the tasks that I have to do every night to put my three kids to bed, so that I have a little time for my self later on to catch up work, or read, or just watch TV, (.. oh the other half). These things are helping me now to manage my life a little better. I have come to learn enjoy my time, and decide it is really ok for taking a break so that I am more satisfied, and don’t feel like putting things off for later. Now that this issue with the procrastination is more or less manageable, I am facing another problem..short term memory loss. I am hoping that will be something that the group will be addressing in near future.

  8. Sharmin says:

    Just curious, did you just have a baby? Short term memory loss is very common for new moms.

  9. Faika says:

    As a champion procrastinator, I must say this topic is very close to my heart! As mentioned in some of the other comments however, I have found prioritising to be the key to prevent procrastination. I have found that it helps to make a list of what I need to do for the day during the night before or early in the morning. Even mundane tasks like doing the laundry or making an important phone call have been part of my daily list. Having the list keeps me focused on the tasks for the day and be a better time manager. And the sense of accomplishment once I tick off a completed task off the list is absolutely incredible!

  10. Salma says:

    I have a tendency to procrastinate like a lot of you but with me it’s a little different. I don’t procrastinate at work at all. I am sure a lot of you who are working are like this. I think I value my work more than my personal stuff maybe because I know deep down inside that if I don’t do the work I may get fired. But no one will fire me at home. I prioritize everything at work, make a list of things to do if it’s a big project ( I know I will miss something if I don’t) and estimate how much time it’s going to take me. I do that at least two weeks before the project is due so that I can tell someone if I need extra help ( I work in small teams and none of the projects I work on are for more than two months). I try to do the same at home but somehow the list never gets done at the right time and everything starts piling up and now with a fifteen-month old it’s even worse. As I have taken time off from work I am now trying to prioritize work at home also and estimate realistically how much time I will need to get each work done. But like Madhury said it’s very important to take breaks also. And I think we all have a little bit of short term memory loss because we try to keep too may things to remember in our head. For me the four major things that work are prioritizing, making a list of things, doing a realistic estimate of time and knowing if the work can be done without any help. I have realized that there is no shame in asking for help when it’s too much to handle.

  11. atiq says:

    I was reading peoples comment on procrastination. All of them are helpful. “Prioritizing” is great tool as it has been mentioned. But a lot of times when someone is procratinating he/she simply lacks the motivation to get up and do the job in which case ‘prioritizing’ won’t help much. One thing that works very well for me is a ‘DO IT NOW’ policy. Making a list and all that is ofcourse necessary but getting into the habit of doing it right then can be very helpful.

  12. Shahnaz says:

    Thanks everyone for your valuable pointers to help me get out of this habit. So, in a nutshell you all have suggested the following steps for me to practice:

    1. Commit to get organized
    2. Make a list of ‘to do’s’
    3. Prioritize
    4. Estimate realistically how much time it will take to do the job
    5. Break down the task in smaller tasks, especially when the task is a difficult one
    6. Do it now!
    7. Ask for help, delegate when necessary
    8. Not worry about whether all the items get done or not on the list
    9. Learn to Say ‘no’ when I have my hands full
    10. Take a break
    11. Reward myself when a task is completed
    12. Most importantly, make my well being a top priority

    Thanks everyone for your time and the support, will update you with my progress report, say in a month.

  13. Zee says:

    just out of curiousity…isnt making the lists another form of procrastination? Ive always noticed that i work much more efficiently if im under pressure… i guess the hardest part of it all is setting the deadline. i guess the easier way would be to set an arbitrary deadling and work with that but once u get close to it..u can see the reality of it. whether if u will make it or not and then work from there.

  14. Needra says:

    Just do it! why wait till last minute and not doing it right ‘coz of time crunching, hair pulling, and nail biting moments?

  15. Sujan says:

    My wife told me about this interesting thread. So did Atiq. And after meeting Shahnaz Apa in NYC, I thought I’d contribute something.

    The use of the word ‘PROCRASTINATE’ dates back to 1548 A.D. The word ‘PRIORITY’ goes back to 1387 and ‘EFFICIENT’ to 1398. And looks like ‘NOW’ respectably comes from the B.C. era. (source: http://www.etymonline.com)

    Seems to me there was heavy procrastination in even making up the word!

    Jokes aside, here’s a simple question: 3 frogs on a lotus leaf; one decides to jump in the water; so how many frogs are on the lotus leaf?

    Answer: 3 still. Deciding to do something is quite far from actually doing it.

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