Health and Harmony in the Tribal Workplace: How to Overcome Procrastination

Grace Marks
April 11, 2013

Is there something you “should” be doing right now that you’re putting off? It’s on your mind, sticky note, or to-do list, but somehow that call, report, appointment, decision, assignment or conversation gets postponed once again. Pushing the task aside one more day may result in stress, anxiety, wasted time, poor work performance and feeling bad about ourselves. So why do most of people do it?

According to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University of Chicago, there are three main reasons: to feel the adrenaline rush, avoid the situation out of fear of something, or avoid making a decision.

How Do You Know You're Procrastinating?

·       You do all the fun and easy tasks first.

·       You start a task and get easily distracted checking emails, making a cup of coffee, socializing with co-workers, or diverting to Facebook.

·       You come up with various excuses like it’s not a good time, I don’t have the energy, I will do it later, it can wait, it’s not that important anyway, or I work better under pressure.

Six Common Reasons and Excuses:


I don’t have the right skills to do this. You put too much pressure on yourself to complete the task perfectly so motivation is lost and the deadline is missed. Adjust your expectations and see mistakes as valuable learning.


It’s not going to turn out well, so why do it.  Some people think they won’t be able to accomplish the task and they will fail. Reflect on past successes, especially the challenging ones.

Hostility toward someone

He/She never appreciates what I do anyway. Deadlines can be consciously or unconsciously delayed due to being angry at someone who assigned the task. Stop and think about what you’re actually angry about. If you’re mad at your boss because you keep getting more work and feel underpaid, have a conversation rather than jeopardize your job.

Lack of interest

This is boring; it can wait. Get creative and give yourself incentives for getting something done that you think is boring. Reward yourself with time on Facebook, nature walk, snack or something that will motivate you. 

Overwhelmed with a task

I just don’t know where to start. Paralysis can set in if the project looks too big. Chunk any perceived oversized task into smaller more manageable pieces to take away the humungous factor. Check each step off your list and enjoy the feeling of scratching a line through something that has been completed. 

Fear of failure or being rejected

I don’t want to mess this up. By not completing the work or waiting until the last minute to perform a task gives you a built-in excuse that it could have been done better if there was more time. 

5 Ways to Stop Procrastinating:

Identify the cause. Create a simple table with four columns listing tasks you habitually put off, why you do it, what you do to avoid them, and specific and creative solutions. 

Think about the task as I choose to do it, (not I have to or I should do it.) You’re more committed to what you do voluntarily.

Plan to work only 15 minutes at a time. You can do almost anything for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes, you can choose to continue for another 15. 

Don't Overschedule. Be realistic about how much you can do in a day and schedule specific days for certain tasks so they don't hang over your head. 

Get Organized. Clear the clutter and have a place for everything from your mail and filing to your keys.

Get your pen and paper now, make your list, and commit to completing it. Keep your list manageable, typically 10 tasks, and make it a habit. This can be your first step in learning how to overcome procrastination.

Grace Marks, MPH, CPC is a certified life coach, motivational speaker, and holistic stress management instructor with Native Empowerment: Solutions for Health and Harmony providing customized training programs for tribal organizations and businesses. Visit


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