The challenge of procrastination – or why your mother was probably right

Assuming your mother was a bit like mine it seems likely that ‘Never put off till tomorrow, something you could do today’ turned up at some point in your childhood. But the whole point of growing up is to stop listening to our mothers, at least until we’ve made some progress towards independence and maturity.

So you may not be too agreeable to my proposition – that your mother knows best! And even if I could convince you, it might not make a difference to how you operate, especially if you are a committed procrastinator.

I’ve been looking at the causes of procrastination, to see if I can make some headway with getting more done and it seems to me the problem doesn’t all come from the same root. I came up with 4 types. Can you work out which type you are in this list?

Type 1- The Fun Guy! This isn’t really true procrastination – there’s just too much good stuff to do, it’s always more fun and it makes it easy to avoid doing the tough stuff. The real problem is more about not being able to make the connection between the stuff you don’t want to do, and some bigger goal that is attractive. It’s like wanting to be in a winning sports team, but convincing yourself training doesn’t really matter. You will be disappointed when you end up on the bench, but by then it will be too late.

Type 2 – The Mountain Climber! If you are a mountain climber, whenever you start to think about something you need to get done it gets bigger and bigger in your imagination. It can quickly take on huge proportions, to the point where the thought of it becomes too big to face. At that point you will probably shelve it, at least for a while. You may team up with The Fun Guy to find something to do to take your mind off it.

Type 3 – The I’m not a Happy Chappie. If this is you, you are probably labouring under the illusion that you can only really get good work done if you are in the right mood. The rationale is: right now doesn’t feel right, but if I wait a while, I’m sure I’ll feel better and one day I will feel good enough to get this job done. The problem is: you just can’t say when that one day will be. This doesn’t work too well in a modern business environment where ‘I didn’t feel like it’ doesn’t carry much weight, even if it was true!

Type 4 – The Fire Fighter. These guys can only really get cranked up to full speed if there’s a fire to put out. If you can’t show them at least a small crisis (but preferably a big one)they won’t be able to move from their comfortable couch. Of course, if the couch gets really, really boring, it may be tempting to help manufacture a bit of a crisis, just for entertainment (see Type 1 – he keep cropping up)

Did you recognise yourself yet? Let me know if you think you have a different type I’ve missed.

Now for the tricky bit – what’s this got to do with your mother? Do we really need to trot out all those old adages Mothers used to throw at us?

Well my view is yes we do! If you go back to what your mother (and maybe your father too) was trying to teach you, the major part of it was GOOD HABITS.

GOOD HABITS for procrastinators start with ‘Never put off till tomorrow, something you could do today’.


  • Turn off the noise! If you are used to having hundreds of distractions this will be uncomfortable, but you will get used to it!
  • If it’s simple, don’t think about it too much, just do it!
  • Get moving, do something.
  • Set some small goals that you can easily do to get you started. They can be very small.
  • Celebrate every achievement (but not for too long).
  • If it looks like Mount Everest, stop and break it down and find something you can do now.
  • If all your motivation is coming from external sources (fires) sign up with a mentor or coach – someone who can help you set some goals for yourself, and keep you connected to them.
  • If you have a bigger goal, stop and draw a picture to help you keep in mind how everything you have to do is connected to that goal. You’ll be surprised by how much it will help.

And remember all the time you are doing this – no matter how annoying it is to admit it