Dealing with a Procrastinator by Denise Landers


Do you fit either of these descriptions?

• You frequently find yourself procrastinating on important tasks.
• You are the take-charge, do-it-now personality and have to live or work with a procrastinator.

If you have made some New Year’s resolutions in the past, chances are they were not about situations that sprang up the week before.  More likely, a task has been nagging at you over time, you kept putting it off, and now you want to get motivated to make that change.

As hard as it is for us to overcome our own tendencies to procrastinate, it is even more difficult when we are a do-it-now person living or working with a chronic procrastinator.   The “now” person often struggles to understand why the other keeps stalling.  It usually doesn’t help to admonish them to “get started” or “just do it.”

How can you help a procrastinator?  Finding the underlying reasons for delaying actions are the first steps in moving toward a successful resolution.

The following represent some of the most common causes and responses:
1. Lack of Interest:  If your priorities and theirs do not match, explain to them why this is important to you and what the consequences are in not doing it.
2. Lack of Time:  When they typically underestimate how long something will take, and then end up with incomplete work, teach them “back-timing,” where you go from the final deadline through the steps to the must-start date.
3. Perfection:  If they delay because they are not sure they will produce a perfect result, use the “What if…” scenario, evaluating possible outcomes and consequences of each to recognize what an acceptable outcome could be.
4. Others’ Opinions:  If you think that the procrastinator is worried about possible failure and subsequent rejection, help him or her understand it is natural.  Share your own fears.
5. Uncertainty:  When they are not sure what is expected, encourage them to go back and seek clarification from those involved so that they can fully understand what will be needed to produce the result.
6. The Unknown:  They fear new things and this risk factor causes avoidance.  Recall things in the past that they accomplished, reminding them that conquering something new can also be stimulating and rewarding.
7. Poor Work Habits:  To limit their multitasking habits, you can remove distractions.  Keep the children out of the way or handle phone calls so that they can focus.

What more can you do to help you deal with the procrastinators in your life?

• Set false deadlines.  Move up the date or time when a task or event is very important.
• Assign one task at a time.  Too many things at once can cause a procrastinator to freeze up and do nothing.
• Be clear about consequences.  Let everyone know the downside of not getting the work done.
• Provide rewards.  Temper diligent efforts with subsequent free time or fun activities.
• Use outside help.  Hire someone to take over the job or to assist the procrastinator.  It is harder to avoid a task when another person is present.

You do not have to wait for the New Year to make a resolution.  Start planning now to ensure that progress occurs.  Whether it is for yourself or someone else, tackling the list of activities that have been put off is a great stress reducer.

Denise Landers is a national speaker, trainer, consultant, author of  Destination: Organization, A Week by Week Journey and the owner of Key Organization Systems, Inc. (  She provides group training and individual assistance to improve daily work flow and time management skills.