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Admit it—you’ve been guilty of procrastination. Sometimes it was unintentional, because you had other priorities to deal with. Occasionally it was deliberate, because something else was more appealing. Either way, the outcome (or lack thereof) was less than desirable, and you likely vowed to yourself that you’d never do it again. Until of course you did.

What does it take to overcome this cycle of procrastination? The answer lies in understanding what causes it in the first place, and then taking steps to combat those causes directly. There are four reasons why you (and a whole lot of other people) put off getting things done.

The task has low value

In other words, it’s something that you dislike. It’s far more pleasant to design a new marketing initiative than to gather documents for the tax accountant. It’s much more enjoyable to have coffee with a colleague than to file the last three weeks of expense statements. It’s easy to put off things you don’t like to do.

You have a low expectancy of success

Usually based on your (or other’s) past experiences. You might think: “What’s the point of making all these sales calls; I’ve been making cold calls for a week now and I’ve had zero success.” Faced with that rejection, it’s a lot more appealing to surf the Internet or organize your desk.

The outcome is delayed

The result is too far into the future. Since the deadline for this sales proposal isn’t for another month it’s okay to leave it for later. And of course, this decision to defer is relatively painless because of reason number four—you’re easily side-tracked by bright shiny objects!

You’re easily distracted

“Bright shiny objects” are tasks that effortlessly pull you away from your intended goal, such as an unexpected email that takes you away from the report you were writing or an unrelated web link that catches your attention and takes you miles away from the online research you’re meant to be doing. Sure, bright shiny objects are sometimes urgent issues that need to be dealt with. But urgent or not, they demand immediate attention and thus distract you from your original objective.

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