A Series of Questions to Reduce Procrastination: From an Expert

image represents grounding
My Favorite Grounding Exercise
April 21, 2021

A Series of Questions to Reduce Procrastination: From an Expert

1980:  My English teacher writes in my yearbook:

“Laura, You are one of the brightest students I have ever taught – and the most exasperating!“

2020: A birthday card says:

“I used to just Crastinate.  Then I decided to go Pro”

Procrastination has been a constant in my life.  I still struggle at times.  Recently I found an article that was helpful.  After playing with the ideas, I revised the suggested questions to work for me.  (One size does not fit all.)

In the article* the authors propose that you can reduce procrastination by asking 4 questions that address 4 aspects of procrastination (expectancyvaluedelay sensitivity, and metacognition).  The idea is to focus on the thing you are procrastinating on and ask yourself, “How would you feel if you don’t complete it?”, “How would someone successful complete the goal?”, “What is the next immediate step?” and “If you could do one thing to finish on time what would it be?”  The ideas in their research made sense to me but the questions didn’t really work.

That first question is awful, “How will you feel if you don’t complete it?”  I have half a century of experience with this!  I will feel like a loser, like a disappointment.  I will hear the echoes of decades of “if you only applied yourself.”  And the question, “How would someone successful complete the goal?”  implies that I am not a successful person.   Let’s quit while we are behind!  And yet……  Their research made sense and I wanted to test out a new tool.

My company name is “Individual Solutions”.  I believe that we each need to find the solutions that work for us.  We need to individualize advice.  So, I played around with their questions and have a set that works for me:

  1. How will I feel when this is done?

(Take some time with this.  Imagine that it is done well enough.  I no longer chase perfection and I believe that done, just DONE, is often good enough.  I imagine how I will feel when it is done.  That generally brings a smile to my face.)

  1. What is the next smallest step I can take toward getting this done?

(Write the first sentence and save as a document.  Put away 10 things.  Work at it for 15 minutes.  These micro steps help when it is something I really don’t want to do.  Or Imposter Syndrome is really doing a number on me.  Other days I am just really, really tired.)

  1. How do I build momentum?

(To me this relates to my successful self.  I reach out to my team.  People who can read a rough draft and give useful feedback, or an accountability partner.  Another tactic is to set aside a block of time for this to be my only focus.)

  1. How do I set up for the next step?

(This is for when I really can’t work on it or have done all I can for now.  I have many projects going in my life and can easily lose the thread of one (or many).  Setting things up so I can jump back into a project reduces my start time.)

Are you a Pro at Crastination?  Try these questions or create your own.    I have been testing these out for the past few months and find they help.  I would love to hear what works for you.  Share your results (or revised questions) at resilience@LearnModelTeach.com


Laura A Gaines

*A Low‐Intensity, High‐Frequency Intervention to Reduce Procrastination, by Jason Wessel,  Graham L. Bradley, &  Michelle Hood.  First published: 10 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/apps.12293