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PSU - Beating Procrastination


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Slides used in the talk given by Tom Cox on "Beating Procrastination" for PSU (Portland State University) in April 2010.

Slides used in the talk given by Tom Cox on "Beating Procrastination" for PSU (Portland State University) in April 2010.

Published in: Self Improvement

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  • 1. Beating Procrastination: Causes, Triggers, Cures
  • 2. Susan de la Vergne Tom Cox
  • 3. Procrastination is not Laziness
    • Problem Procrastination does NOT come from:
      • Laziness
      • Lack of Willpower
      • Lack of Ambition
    • Problem Procrastination is self-inflicted and stress-related
  • 4. When is Procrastination Good?
    • Procrastination can be good when:
    • Lack a Resource and must Wait
    • Suspect an Assignment is not really important
    • You need to Think it Through more
    • Your Energy Level is wrong (not Mood)
  • 5. Awareness or Mindfulness
    • Even before you begin to beat procrastination, you can start to increase your awareness
    • Step back from yourself – observe your feelings as you feel them
    • Notice your actions as you do them
    • This sets you up for success
  • 6. Stress Worsens Procrastination
    • Chronic Stress changes the Brain
      • NY Times article 18-Aug-2009
    • Problem-solving and Goal-seeking areas of the brain shrivel
    • Rote and Habit areas blossom
      • Doing old things and expecting new results
  • 7. Stress Relief can Restore the Brain
    • With four weeks of vacation, the brain returns to normal
    • Problem-solving and Goal-seeking areas re-grow
    • Rote and Habit areas shrink back
    • Other stress-reduction habits help
  • 8. Stress Behaviors
    • Difficulty making decisions.
    • Angry outbursts.
    • Forgetfulness.
    • Low energy level.
    • Constant worrying.
    • Propensity for mistakes.
    • Thoughts about death or suicide.
    • Trouble getting along with others.
    • Carelessness.
    • Withdrawing from others.
    • Hiding from responsibilities.
  • 9. Stress Enhancers
    • Isolation
    • Uncertainty
    • Feeling of Lack of Control
    • Fatigue
  • 10. Notice Stress Behaviors
    • If you are showing behavioral signs of high stress:
    • Do not blame or shame yourself! That enhances stress
    • Instead, realize it means:
      • You really are under a lot of stress
      • Your behavior will improve as you reduce subjective stress
  • 11. Attack Stress Enhancers
    • If you are Isolated:
      • Eat meals with friends
    • If you are Uncertain:
      • Seek certainty – analyze, ask
    • If you Feel a Lack of Control:
      • Focus on what you can control
    • If you have Fatigue:
      • Get good sleep – prioritize it
  • 12. Focus on What you Control
    • If you Feel a Lack of Control:
      • Focus on what you can control
  • 13. Procrastination Journal
    • Increase your awareness of your procrastination thoughts and behaviors by keeping a journal of:
      • The date and time of the impulse
      • What you were doing
      • What you were tempted to do
      • What you told yourself
      • What you chose to do and for how long
  • 14. Procrastination Triggers
    • Procrastination is often triggered by:
      • Resentment
      • Confusion or Uncertainty
      • Fear of
        • Failure
        • Success
        • Criticism
      • Skill Deficit
      • Unrealistic Time Estimates
  • 15. Resentment
    • Your procrastination might be triggered by Resentment if:
    • You have a hard time saying “no”
    • You’re a people-pleaser
    • You are often bullied into things
    • You fear confrontation
    • You feel taken advantage of
    • You say “I shouldn’t have to…”
  • 16. Resentment Example
    • Dilbert cartoon about Low Standards:
      • Wally tells Asok to use the “power of low standards” and leave his dirty dishes on the floor
      • Alice walks by and says “once again I have to clean up after slobs”
  • 17. Resentment Non-Fixes
    • Anti-procrastination advice that may NOT work with Resentment:
      • Break it into smaller chunks
        • Instead of one large task I resent, now I have ten small tasks I resent
      • Reward yourself
        • The reward may bring up the same negative emotion as the task and become non-rewarding
      • Clarify Goal or Next Step
        • If the problem is not a lack of clarity, time spent clarifying is wasted
  • 18. Resentment Fixes
    • Defer (mindfully) – pick a higher priority task to do instead
    • Ditch – Just say “no”
    • Dilute the impact – Focus on your Worthy Goal
    • Delegate (when appropriate)
    • Just Do It – “Put on your Big Boy Pants” – sometimes we all have to do things we dislike; grow up
  • 19. Procrastination Cycle
    • You Feel Anxiety
    • Which is temporarily relieved by
    • An Empty Promise or a Self-Criticism or a Distraction
    • Which leads to
    • Non-performance and more Anxiety
  • 20. Confusion or Uncertainty
    • Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Confusion or Uncertainty?
      • Do I have a Clear Vision of my desired outcome?
      • Do I have a Clear Understanding of my Next Steps?
      • Do I have a sense of hopelessness?
      • Do I feel Anger because it seems someone wants me to Read their Mind?
  • 21. Confusion Non-Fixes
    • Anti-procrastination Advice that May Not Work with Confusion:
      • Break it into smaller chunks
        • Sometimes this does work; sometimes not
      • Reward yourself
        • The reward doesn’t help because the problem wasn’t a lack of willingness
      • Just Do It
        • Just do what, exactly? What is the “it”?
      • Time Log or Time Management
        • Time Usage is not the weak link here
  • 22. Confusion Fixes
      • Create a Vision First
      • Analyze – what is unclear
      • Ask – sharing a burden halves it
      • Find Someone Who Did It
        • Almost any successful person will gladly give you 30 minutes to tell you how they succeeded – just offer to buy them coffee
      • Work Backwards from Result
      • When the Process is unclear, specify the Outcome
  • 23. Don’t Remember Things
    • When experimental subjects had to memorize seven (7) digits instead of two (2):
    • Their self-control dropped by half (50%)
    • They were twice as likely to pick chocolate cake over fruit salad
    • Use your System to Remember Things
    • “ The Weakest Ink is Stronger than the Strongest Memory” – so write it down
  • 24. Fear
    • Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Fear?
      • What emotions come up when I consider this task?
      • Have I eliminated Resentment?
      • Have I eliminated Confusion?
      • Am I mad at myself, or consider myself cowardly?
      • Do I envy people who do this easily?
  • 25. Faces of Fear
    • The three major kinds of fear are:
    • Fear of Failure
      • Does doing badly hurt more than not trying? (Perfection or don’t try)
    • Fear of Success
      • Will success push us out of our comfort zone or create new work?
    • Fear of Criticism
      • Who might be critical? Why do we care?
    • Tackle each one differently!
  • 26. Fear Non-Fixes
    • Anti-procrastination Advice that May Not Work with Confusion:
      • Break it into smaller chunks
        • Sometimes this works; sometimes not
      • Analyze or Ask
        • I may know what to do, and fear it
      • Reward Yourself
      • Just Do It
        • Sometimes this works; sometimes not
  • 27. Fear Fixes
      • Create a Vision First
        • Find a passion greater than your fear
      • Deadlines
        • The fear of missing the deadline can overcome the fear of doing the task
      • Find Someone Who Did It
        • Sometimes the role model gives you courage
      • Create an Unshakable Sense of Worth based on Facts
      • Re-Interpret Fear as a Reason to Act
  • 28. Skill Deficit
    • Procrastination Triggered by a Skill Deficit
      • What emotions come up when I consider the task I’m putting off?
      • Have I eliminated Resentment, Confusion, and Fear as causes?
      • Am I self- Critical / see myself as Stupid ?
  • 29. Skill Deficit Fixes
      • Break into Sub- Steps , then check Skill
        • List Skill needed for each sub-step
        • Go find/hire each skill you lack
      • Identify the Real Outcome
        • Guy who couldn’t Read – went with Audio Books instead
      • Re- Interpret your Reluctance – treat the skill deficit as a challenge
  • 30. Unrealistic Time Estimates
    • Is Your Procrastination Triggered by Unrealistic Time Estimates?
      • Do I even make time estimates?
      • Have I eliminated Resentment? Confusion? Fear?
      • Am I Chronically Late?
  • 31. Three Steps to Beat Procrastination
    • Become mindful – notice when you do it
    • Analyze – identify your triggers
    • Treat – use the right fixes for your triggers
  • 32. Coming Soon
    • “ Beating Procrastination” class
    • Tom Cox
    • Portland State University
    • Professional Development Center
  • 33. PSU/PDC Classes
    • Leadership
    • Management
    • Communication
    • Project Management
    • Information Technology
    • Multimedia … and much more!
    • More info: