Ever put off an activity ’til another day — which turns into a few months? Wished you would’ve started earlier on a project only to procrastinate the next time around? Missed a deadline altogether because you procrastinated and ran out of time?
Whether it’s studying for an exam, writing a paper, working on a project or doing things around the house, everyone has at some point in his or her life procrastinated on a project. Procrastination is universal. Usually, people procrastinate because accomplishing the task is hard or makes them uncomfortable in some way. So it’s not surprising that we’d also like to avoid any difficulty or discomfort when trying to curb procrastination. Consequently, quick fixes for procrastination abound. But many of them are Band-Aids that don’t really get to the root of the problem.
In End Procrastination Now! by psychologist William Knaus, Ed.D, you won’t find quick-and-dirty anti-procrastination pointers. Instead, what you will find is a thorough step-by-step system that tackles procrastination from all sides — including getting to the causes and core.
Knaus is known as an authority on procrastination. He has authored over 20 books and is one of the original directors of post-doctoral training in rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT).
To conquer procrastination, Knaus presents a three-pronged plan: cognitive (understanding what procrastination is and changing inaccurate thinking); emotive (being able to deal with discomfort); and behavioral (taking action and following through). Accordingly, the book’s three parts discuss the prongs in greater detail.
In Part One, which contains chapters 1 and 2, Knaus provides an explanation of procrastination and the various styles. Ending procrastination starts with self-awareness and requires readers to become self-observant. To do this, Knaus suggests keeping a procrastination log, which documents your thoughts, feelings and actions as you’re procrastinating. He also outlines the five phases of change to progress from procrastination to productivity.
Chapter 2 focuses on overcoming procrastination thinking. Readers learn how their thoughts can promote procrastination and how to challenge and change this type of thinking with the ABCDE method, created by REBT’s founder Albert Ellis. The various types of procrastination thinking (“I’ll need to let the idea simmer longer”) will no doubt resonate with readers.
Part of ending procrastination is resisting the temptation of short-term gains and keeping your eye on the prize with long-term goals. When a task makes us anxious or triggers other unpleasant emotions, we’re more likely to avoid it. This is known as emotional procrastination, covered in Part Two, chapters 3 and 4.
In chapter 3, Knaus teaches readers how to strengthen their “emotional muscle.” He describes the various ways our emotions affect procrastination and how readers can conduct a “procrastination analysis” to explore their goals. According to Knaus, “procrastination is normally an impulsive response to avoid discomfort.” So readers learn how to pause and tolerate tension.
Stress, anxiety and self-doubt boost procrastination. In chapter 4, Knaus gives readers tools to overcome stress-related procrastination. For instance, many people don’t think they have the resources to meet a challenge, which in turn increases their insecurity and tendency to procrastinate. Knaus shows readers how to change our language to welcome a challenge by outlining concrete and actionable steps to take.
In Part Three — chapters 5 through 7 — Knaus teaches readers to follow through by developing their decision-making skills and avoiding behavioral diversions (e.g., reading blogs instead of writing a book review). These steps include typical tips like creating a to-do list and lesser-known ones like backward planning and a cognitive-behavioral correction exercise.
Chapter 7 addresses a common concern: curbing at-work procrastination. Like the other parts of the book, Knaus doesn’t just give quick tips to push past procrastination. Instead, he helps readers dig deeper. He lays out a five-step process for analyzing the when, where, why and how of your procrastination and finally becoming productive.
Throughout the book, Knaus provides readers with practical exercises they can do to work on each prong. Typically, several tips are outlined in the chapter and some are presented in table form.
Overall, Knaus does a nice job of simplifying a broad and complex topic. The book is straightforward, easy to read and relatable. At some points, though, it’s fairly dry and could’ve benefited from more anecdotes and livelier discussion, especially because the reader is introduced to so many new terms and concepts. This isn’t a book to read in one or two sittings. Instead, it’s more like a workbook that you put down and pick up throughout the weeks, letting the information sink in and giving yourself plenty of time to do the exercises.
End Procrastination Now! gives readers a comprehensive system to make lasting changes. It helps you better understand why you procrastinate, how to weather the distress that may initially come from taking action and to finally undertake the project at hand. Again, the reader has a fair amount of work to do in curbing procrastination (which can get tedious). This system is a process that takes time, thought and much effort. It requires thoughtful self-analysis and action. If you’re willing to put in the work, this book can be a huge help.
End Procrastination Now!
By William Knaus, Ed.D
McGraw-Hill: March 2010
Paperback, 256 pages