September 2006 Anticrastination Tip Sheet

What's the opposite of Procrastination?
An Idea and Tip Sheet to Blast Away the
Procrastination Habit
From Rita Emmett


Quote For September

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you DIDN'T do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore, Dream, Discover!
---- Mark Twain


Chicago Area People Want To See Rita In Person?

She will speak about PROCRASTINATION at:
Arlington Heights Library
Tuesday, October 10
7 PM
No charge
Register after October 1 by calling
847-392-0100 or logging on to


Message From Rita

Hello all,

We've been hearing from lots of our Bright and Creative Readers lately. Here's a sample:

In response to the August quote which was: "I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves" (by Anna Quindlen), fellow Professional Speaker Max Dixon wrote: "I am her child."

Then, my good friend Kay Merkle (who was one of the very first people to hire me to speak for her group) wrote that she loves the audio of The Procrastinator's Handbook and she points out that I NEVER mention it in this Tip Sheet.

So in honor of Kay, here goes: Hey everybody, The Procrastinator's Handbook is not only a book; it's also available in both cassette tape and CD at bookstores, Amazon and our web, creatively named:

Also, many of you have cared about, prayed for and now are asking about my good friend Melissa whose 2-year old daughter, Bella, was scheduled for brain surgery at the New Orleans Hospital the day after Kartrina hit. Melissa, her husband and twins evacuated to Houston, then evacuated again when Hurricane Rita hit. Many of you have inquired about Bella since she finally had her successful surgery in November. Bella is doing great, and in spite of many, many challenges, the whole family is still healthy and sane. They are now in San Diego. If you'd like to see a picture of Bella and her twin brother, Max (both looking healthy and angelic) go here:

Recently, one of our Bright and Creative readers (who wishes to remain nameless) wrote: "Rita, you are always teaching us how to help ourselves overcome procrastination. Got any advice for handling others who procrastinate?"

Dear Anonymous and Aggravated,

When I was five, I regularly witnessed the world's most basic strategy to handle a procrastinator. We had one aunt who ALWAYS arrived two or three hours late for dinner. Doesn't every family have someone like this?

My mother simply told her that our 5:00 dinner was at 2:00. My aunt would come rushing in at 4 or 5 with a crazy story of why she was late. My mother would fuss that she had to hold up dinner and that we were all starving.

And a short time later, when we all sat down to eat (at the time we'd planned to eat anyway) my aunt was smiling, my mother was smirking and the whole family was winking at one another as they made all kinds of "It's about time" comments.

To this day, I always recommend that whether it is professional or personal, you give procrastinators "false deadlines."

First, be sure to give them plenty of advance notice. Then, make certain to give them a deadline that is much earlier than the real one. For example, if their ads for the program book must be brought to the printer by June 1, tell them to have their camera ready ads on your desk by May 21.

Of course, if YOU procrastinate and don't tell them their deadline till May 20, then none of this works. So one of the very best ways to handle a procrastinator is to not be one yourself.

One more tip: if procrastinators have a big project to work on, they often become overwhelmed. They can't do it all at once; they don't know where to start and so --- they put off thinking about it or ever getting started. You can help by teaching them to break it into chunks, and to set up many mini-deadlines.

If you've ever seen those lists that brides receive in order to plan a wedding; that's what you are shooting for. They are told to firm up the church and the hall 12 to 18 months ahead of time, order bridesmaids dresses ten months ahead of time, invitations six months ahead of time, and so forth.

In business, don't tell your procrastinator to set up a big project such as a training conference and expect it to go smoothly. Instead, tell him to have names and topics of potential trainers to you by a certain date. THEN to have the training location secured by a certain date. THEN tell him to have the trainer selected and a contract in the mail by a certain date, Next, set up the caterer for lunch.

This sounds like you are babying them, but after doing this system a few times, they will have learned to break the project into chunks and set their own deadlines. All you need to do after that is have them check in with you every few weeks and tell you what has been accomplished.

This system works in both your personal and professional life; or with committees as well as individuals who you supervise or who answer to you.

What about kids who procrastinate? Well, I did write a whole book about it, (THE PROCRASTINATING CHILD: A HANDBOOK FOR ADULTS TO HELP CHILDREN STOP PUTTING THINGS OFF) but here's a great tip to get you started. Set up some house rules to help develop non-procrastinating habits. Examples:

  • No after-school snack (or computer games, phone calls, TV, or whatever their routine is) until jackets, books, backpacks are put where they belong.
  • No TV, games or time with friends at homework time till all homework is complete, done well and ready to be turned in
  • No going out or time with friends till chores are complete.
  • If there is chaos getting ready in the morning, then they need to get up earlier which means they have to go to bed earlier.

This system means that THEY have control over when they can play or relax. No arguments. If they want to go out, you ask if homework is done. If not, they know the answer. They will "test" at first to see if rules are real. After a while, children will accept new rules in the house.

Now, how do you handle a procrastinator if you are married to one?

Well ... um .... er .... after all these years ..... I'm still working on it. I guess .... I'll have to .... get back to you later on that one.

Love to you all,