All the professional men and women attending the "Conquering
Procrastination" seminar at the O’Hare Hyatt Hotel last Tuesday admitted
that they "often feel overwhelmed and then procrastinate about
But Rita Emmett, the presenter, said that she, too, used to be a
procrastinator; now she has conquered it.
Emmett, a "Recovering procrastinator", is a professional speaker who
designs talks for businesses and organizations throughout the nation.
"I was born a procrastinator" she said. "I always felt things were out
of my control. I wanted to do it but I couldn’t do it. I’m not a
procrastinator any more. Now I hardly ever put things off and when I do,
it’s a choice."
She scribbled across a blackboard, "Emmett’s Law: The dread of doing a
job uses up more time and energy than doing the job itself."
"You spend hours dreading a task, sometimes days," she said. "Then you
finally go to do it and it takes 20 minutes."
Erma Bombeck told a story of being haunted by a pile of mending, Emmett
said. Every time she looked at the pile she felt guilty. When she
finally went to do it, she discovered clothes her children had outgrown
and was through with the pile in 15 minutes.
Procrastinators often take on other characteristics, such as being lost
in clutter, or always arriving late, she said.
People who are always late may not value timeliness, she continued.
Although most Americans view tardiness as rude, many non-Western
cultures are much more relaxed about time, she said.
A fear of wasting time may be behind habitual lateness, she added.
Instead of arriving early and possibly wasting 15 minutes waiting, you
give yourself minimal time to get there and make the other person wait,
Instead of viewing it as a possible waste of time, you might plan things
to do while you are waiting, she said. Like bring a book to a doctor’s
Emmett’s Law: The dread
of doing a job uses up more time and
energy than doing the job itself.
With all the junk mail and catalogs that
circulate today, it may seem impossible to get a grip on your mail,
"A lot of us were raised with rules," she said. "You feel, ‘’I have to
read everything that I get in the mail.’ You get a catalog and you’re
afraid if you don’t look through it you might miss something."
Those who get lost in clutter tend to stack up unread junk mail and
catalogs, thinking eventually they’ll get around to reading them, she
The way to conquer that problem is to learn to throw it away, she said.
"You have to realize this is the era of paper clutter. If you throw
something away, you WILL survive."
A desk or a good filing system can help you organize and gain a sense of
control over paper, she said.
"Whatever’s accumulating needs a place," she said. Find a place for it,
and you’ll feel so much more free and uncluttered. Time management and
procrastination have a lot to do with self-esteem.
The same people who won’t throw away their junk mail, save all sorts of
junk no one will ever use, Emmett said.
She told a story of helping a friend move, and lugging 18 years of
National Geographic magazines from the old home to the new one, and
another story about a fellow replacing a broken toaster but keeping the
old one in the basement in case he ever got around to fixing it.
"You have to ask yourself, "How long do I want to be the caretaker of
this? If I clean, I have to clean around it. If I move, I have to move
it with me,’" she said.
"Haven’t some of you lived long enough to realize the stuff you’re
saving nobody wants?" she asked the group.
Pack rats may find it impossible to throw away the 18 years of National
Geographic, she said, but why not give them to a veterans hospital or a
school? There are many charitable organizations such as Goodwill
Industries or homes for battered women that would gladly take the
clothes you've outgrown or books in your basement, she noted.
But you may have to ask a friend to throw away your broken toaster, she
"You’re not going to miss it" she said. "You’re not going to say, "I
wish I had eight broken toasters in my basement.’"
Sometimes just beginning to throw things away is all it takes to learn
it doesn’t hurt, she said.
Fear of Failure
People may procrastinate because they’re afraid of making mistakes, she
said. Rather than do the job and have a flawed outcome, they do nothing.
"Take a new attitude about mistakes," Emmett said. "Mistakes are
She handed out a postcard that said, "The person who never makes a
mistake probably isn’t doing any-thing." It will take a load off your
shoulders to realize that striving for excellence is achievable, but
perfection seldom is, she said. Procrastination is often a mind game,
"Part of the reason we procrastinate is we’re focused on how terrible
we’ll feel doing it," she said. "Change the focus to how good you’ll
feel when it’s done."
Another tip is to set a kitchen timer for one hour and spend it doing a
dreaded task such as organizing papers or housekeeping, Emmett said.
Then when the timer dings, you may find the job is finished, or that it
may require more time but you feel so good about seeing the light the
end of tunnel that you may go ahead and finish the job.
"And then you are learning one of the key secrets to conquering
procrastination," Emmett said, "That is, you didn’t dread doing the
whole job, you simply dreaded getting started."
Rita Emmett presents talks and
seminars on a variety of subjects to organizations, associations &
conferences. For further information call Rita at (847) 699-9950