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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Sep 8, 2023


Procrastination has been described as “our favourite form of self-sabotage” (Alyce Cornyn-Selby). This week we explore how to overcome it.



Hello and welcome to episode 200 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. Procrastination has been described as “our favourite form of self-sabotage” (Alyce Cornyn-Selby). This week we explore how to overcome it.

Most people experience procrastination from time to time. 25% of the population even have procrastination as a defining personality trait. Procrastination is associated with a range of negative aspects including low self-esteem, pessimism, anxiety, fatigue and detachment. It’s not only bad for performance - procrastination can wreak havoc on our well-being.

Procrastination can be defined as voluntarily delaying an intended task despite expecting to be worse off for doing so. This is a crucial element of procrastination - that we put things off even when we know we will be worse off as a result. So why do we procrastinate at all given it’s so bad for us? The function of procrastination is short-term mood repair. We procrastinate because it makes us feel better in the short term, even when that’s at the expense of achieving longer-term goals. Research even shows that the more negative our mood, the more time we spend procrastinating. So what can we do about procrastination?

A good place to start is to think about the opposite of procrastination. A flow state is the closest we experience to the opposite of procrastination. When we experience flow our attention is fully focused, we feel flexible and adaptable, our skills are challenged, we feel great and time flys by. So how do we achieve flow? Flow is assisted by clear goals, flexibility in pursuing those goals, lots of feedback, and an opportunity to stretch our skill set. So here are six practical approaches you can try to get into flow and overcome procrastination:

  1. Choose to be challenged in an area of interest: Boredom increases the risk of procrastination, so we want to focus our attention towards tasks that are interesting. Being guided by our interests can get us out of the procrastination rut and ready to tackle other more challenging areas.
  2. Set goals and deadlines to work towards: We prioritise and work harder to achieve tasks that have a deadline, so use that to your advantage.
  3. Boost your mood before you begin: Given procrastination is a technique to restore our mood, boosting our mood reduces the risk of procrastinating in the first place. Go for a walk around the block or undertake some other mood-boosting activity before you tackle a task that you typically put off.
  4. Minimise distractions: Turn off wifi or use settings to reduce notifications and access to distracting apps.
  5. Involve others: Gather people who can provide encouragement, mentoring and feedback. It’s harder to procrastinate when others are checking in and holding you accountable.
  6. Work in bursts: Set a timer for 15 minutes and start working. When the 15 minutes is up, assess whether you can put in an extra 15 minutes. The urge to procrastinate tends to fade away once we get started.

There’s no need to be plagued by procrastination. Give these practical tips a try and let me know how you go. If you want to dive into this topic in more detail, our Leadership Today subscription includes a recorded webinar called “A Procrastinator’s Guide” and also a five day Defeat Procrastination challenge. Go to for more information and use the promo code PODCAST at checkout for 25% off an annual subscription.


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