Don't Delay - Do it Today

* Identify Procrastination

While some of us are more predisposed to procrastinate than others, most people suffer from the affliction in some form or another. To discover your own tendency, ask yourself these questions:

"When faced with a problem, do I take a long time analyzing before I act?" This isn't necessarily a sign of procrastination, but if your track record shows disproportionate amounts of time spent on thinking rather than doing, you're probably using analysis as a way to put off action.

"When given an assignment, do I automatically place it in the 'to do later' pile?" This is probably the place where most postponement begins. In contrast, people who get excited about tackling a new assignment the minute it comes in don't usually have much trouble with procrastination. Instead, they need to make sure they stay focused on their priorities.

"Do I keep handling the same things over and over?" Maybe projects keep coming back because you've been postponing rather than resolving them.

* Understand Why

What makes one person a procrastinator and another a "go-getter"? I believe it boils down to perception and attitude. Most of us tend to make decisions based on whether we believe the results will bring us pain or pleasure. So people procrastinate when they believe that doing a certain task will give more discomfort than happiness. As long as the "negative" (boredom, risk of failure, challenge, etc.) outweighs the "positive" in their minds, they feel justified in avoiding the task.

* Change Your Outlook

Sometimes all that's needed is a change in perspective. By focusing on the benefits of completing the task, we free ourselves to take action. Another way to shift your outlook is to list all the negative consequences of inaction. Besides the obvious - an unfinished task - those include stress from having the job hanging over your head, inability to move forward, and lack of respect from others. And don't forget the biggest curse of delay: the loss of opportunity.

* Prioritize And Delegate

Many leaders do everything they can, and give away what they can't do. The problem with that is that if you're an intelligent and motivated person, there are a lot of tasks that you CAN do. And that results in an overloaded "in" box and lots of reasons to procrastinate. A better plan is to do everything that ONLY you can, and give away anything that can be accomplished nearly as well by others. By delegating effectively, you trim your "to do" list down to something manageable.

* Simplify Each Task

Taken as a whole, many jobs can look too big or difficult, and this perception can tempt you to put them off. The key is to break down the task into manageable parts. To do that, first look at the entire project and everything it involves, getting a global perspective. Then make a list of all the components, creating a separate folder for each. This way it's easy to group the various folders based on similarity. Now ask yourself which part needs your attention first, second, etc., and stack them in order of priority.

* Value Progress Over Perfection

One of the biggest reasons for postponing tasks is fear of failure. Many procrastinators are so intent on doing a job perfectly - which they know deep-down is impossible - that they can't bring themselves to start it. But I like the motto I heard from business expert Tom Peters: "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." The point is that if you wait until you're 100% ready before you begin a project, you'll be waiting for a long, long time.

* Reward Yourself For Completion

Finally, when you finish a difficult task, take the time to acknowledge a job well done. The kind of reward doesn't matter. Just make sure to reward your success in some way that's meaningful to you. There's nothing worse for morale than putting off a project, finishing it in a rush at the last minute, and immediately moving on to the next on without at least a moment of celebration.

Do you have something unpleasant to do where you have been waiting weeks to apply these tips? Change your attitude, break it down, and when you finish, reward yourself. Break your old habits and begin a new cycle of success.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.injoy.com.