The Big Stall

Putting things off is a national pastime. A recent study found that more than 25 percent of Americans consider themselves chronic procrastinators (among college students, it’s 75 percent). It may masquerade as a time management issue that is actually a form of self-sabotage that can harm your health (“That mammogram can wait…”), relationships (“I was only 20 minutes late…”), and self-esteem (“I’m a flake!”).

“The stress and guilt that procrastination causes wind up being much worse than actually tackling the task at hand,” says Kelly McGonigal, a psychology instructor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It (Avery). But you can break out of procrastination prison:

Identify the obstacle >> “Procrastinators are either afraid of something, or they get an adrenaline rush from the last-minute pressure,” McGonigal explains. If you’re afraid of negative history repeating, focus on what went wrong before and how you can improve things this time. If you’re going for the thrill, “create artificial deadlines or turn the task into a competition,” she suggests.

Max your motivation >> Create consequences for your inaction. Check out ProcrasDonate (procrasdonate.com), a program that bills you for every hour you waste online and then donates the money to charity.

Don’t scold yourself >> A study found that treating yourself kindly after procrastinating can break the cycle and increase your motivation to keep at it. Think about people you respect who have had similar struggles and the words of encouragement you would offer them, McGonigal advises.

by Guest Writer, Elizabeth Marglin, Natural Health Magazine, December/January 2012

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