Denise Landers

Article Summary:

Identifies common causes for procrastinator not moving forward and how you can help.

Dealing with a Procrastinator

Do you fit either of these descriptions?

  • You frequently find yourself procrastinating on important tasks.
  • You are the take-charge, do-it-now personality and have to live or work with a procrastinator.

If you made some New Year’s resolutions, chances are they were not about situations that sprang up last week. More likely, a task has been nagging at you over time, you kept putting it off, and now you want to get motivated to make that change.

As hard as it is for us to overcome our own tendencies to procrastinate, it is even more difficult when we are a do-it-now person living or working with a chronic procrastinator. The “now” person often struggles to understand why the other keeps stalling. It usually doesn’t help to admonish them to “get started” or “just do it.”

How can you help a procrastinator? Finding the underlying reasons for delaying actions are the first steps in moving toward a successful resolution. The following represent some of the most common causes and responses:

1. Lack of Interest
If your priorities and theirs do not match, explain to them why this is important to you and what the consequences are in not doing it.

2. Lack of Time
When they typically underestimate how long something will take, and then end up with incomplete work, teach them “back-timing,” where you go from the final deadline through the steps to the must-start date.

3. Perfection
If they delay because they are not sure they will produce a perfect result, use the “What if…” scenario, evaluating possible outcomes and consequences of each to recognize what an acceptable outcome could be.

4. Others’ Opinions
If you think that the procrastinator is worried about possible failure and subsequent rejection, help him or her understand it is natural. Share your own fears.

5. Uncertainty
When they are not sure what is expected, encourage them to go back and seek clarification from those involved so that they can fully understand what will be needed to produce the result.

6. The Unknown
They fear new things and this risk factor causes avoidance. Recall things in the past that they accomplished, reminding them that conquering something new can also be stimulating and rewarding.

7. Poor Work Habits
To limit their multitasking habits, you can remove distractions. Keep the children out of the way or handle phone calls so that they can focus.

What more can you do to help you deal with the procrastinators in your life?

  • Set false deadlines. Move up the date or time when a task or event is very important.
  • Assign one task at a time. Too many things at once can cause a procrastinator to freeze up and do nothing.
  • Be clear about consequences. Let everyone know the downside of not getting the work done.
  • Provide rewards. Temper diligent efforts with subsequent free time or fun activities.
  • Use outside help. Hire someone to take over the job or to assist the procrastinator. It is harder to avoid a task when another person is present.

If the New Year inspires resolutions, start planning now to ensure that progress is made. Whether it is for yourself or someone else, tackling the list of activities that have been put off is a great stress reducer.

Denise Landers, productivity trainer, organizing specialist, author of Destination: Organization and owner of Key Organization Systems, Inc. has spent years speaking, training, consulting, and coaching on the topics of time management and effective workflow. To find easy ways to prioritize, focus and improve your team productivity, subscribe for free monthly articles on time management and organizing topics at:

Read all advice by Denise Landers; Find more Time Management experts

More advice on Time Management
» Time Management Tips To Reduce Stress
» How To Focus At Work
» all Time Management articles