Delayed Gratification
Why you shouldn't put off reading this column

Chicago Tribune
By Janet Kidd Stewart
Special to the Tribune

Laura Tomacic has never been a procrastinator, and itís a good thing. Her job as program director for the Executives Club of Chicago demands that she coordinate thousands of reservations for top business people, most recently a luncheon with speaker Steve Forbes that drew 1,400 guests. "When I was younger Iíd get my weekend homework done by Friday at 6 p.m. so I could watch ĎThe Brady Bunch'," she recalls.

Today, panic keeps her from putting things off. "All I can think of are the phone calls Iíd get if invitations didnít go out on time. Thatís whatís driving me- complete fear," she laughs. She likes to stay on top of things at home, too, and that can be a problem. Her husband, a mortgage broker, is a confirmed procrastinator, reveling in last-minute travel plans, for example. "If he says heíll take care of something, Iím constantly checking up on it. I know I drive him nuts." 

Opposites on the procrastination issue tend to attract, a fact that can lead to a lot of unpleasantness, notes Rita Emmett, a professional speaker and motivational trainer based in Des Plaines. Her thoughts on conquering procrastination - for yourself or a partner - drew more than 100 participants to a recent womenís health forum at Gottlieb Health & Fitness Center in Melrose Park. And sheís just written a book on the subject, "The Complete Procrastinatorís Handbook," for which she hopes to find a publisher soon.

Many times procrastination is cast in a humorous light, and the subject often brings nervous laughter instead of real solutions when itís discussed, she says. A recovering procrastinator herself, Emmett says she was daunted by the growing "time-management industry" that urges people to craft detailed mission statements and keep calendars with military precision. "Procrastinators just arenít going to craft a complicated mission statement," says Emmett, a former English major who left college just a few credits short of graduation and didnít go back until her second child was in 1st grade. 

To get clients moving, Emmett asks what they are putting off. Usually, things like chores and errands top the list. "Then I ask them, "Are you putting off your life? Your hopes, your dreams, your relationships? Have you been meaning to go back to school or ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon?" Those are the things that make clients feel the worst, Emmett says. Returning library books late can make you the butt of jokes, but putting off a career dream or a financial goal can rob a person of self-esteem.

'Previous generations had [an accomplishment- reward] rhythm. There would be a celebration feast at harvest time and a barn dance.' 

Rita Emmett

Because getting started seems to be the most difficult part of getting over procrastination, Emmett suggests identifying an important task, then giving it an hour of undivided time - no more. This lets you get started on a project without waiting for an entirely free day, which tends to never come, she notes. "The timer goes off after an hour and even if you havenít scratched the surface on the project, youíve taken care of the guilt of at least doing something," she says.

Another tip: Reward yourself. "If completing a job were its own reward we would never procrastinate," Emmett says. Procrastinators always seem to have something hanging overhead, she says, which makes them less likely to play hard and then take on their next assignment rejuvenated. An avid reader, Emmett rewards herself for†completing an assignment by giving herself the time to dig into a good book thatís not work related. "People who donít procrastinate do a job and then reward themselves for doing it" without a lot of agonizing, Emmett says.

"Previous generations had that rhythm. There would be a celebration feast at harvest time and a barn dance."

Today, work never seems to get finished, and procrastinators more than anyone feel they donít deserve to celebrate because theyíve wasted so much time on the project, she says.

In todayís fast-paced work world, one might think procrastination had gone the way of the long lunch hour. Yet with fewer staff employees doing more work, some experts say, putting off one job to do another is even more common.

If there is an upside to procrastination, it may be that business moves fast enough today that last-minute performers can sometimes be rewarded. For instance, the monthly newsletter for Nantucket Nectars, a Massachusetts-based juice company, doesnít come out until the second week of the month.

"If I was stricter about the deadline, it would be a bland newsletter, and I work much better under pressure" notes the editor, Wink Mleczko. The delay allows her more time for creativity and others more time for sending in submissions, notes Mleczko, who recently filed her income taxes on the last day of her extension period.

Rita Emmett presents talks and seminars on a variety of subjects to associations, organizations, and conferences. For further information call Rita at (847) 699-9950


Want to write a book? Go to Ritaís web site and click on The Writerís Room. Take a look at Rita's The Procrastinator's Guide To Authorship: Stop Putting Off Your Success. Find a free article about writing proposals in The Writerís Room

Donít procrastinate in going there now.

Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinatorís Handbook and The Clutter-Busting Handbook, is a professional speaker who presents Keynotes and Seminars nationwide. She can be reached at 847-699-9950 and email is

To subscribe to her free monthly Anticrastination Tip sheet with quick short tips & ideas to help break the procrastination & clutter habit, click here Subscribe

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