Strategies for Staying Sane: Beating Procrastination, Part 1

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Friday, 4:15 p. m. Glenn realizes tte grant proposal has to be in the mail today or he stands no chance.  The proposal is still in outline.  Can he finish it, polish it, and mail it by 5:30?  Tuesday. 6 p.m. Geneva will chair the PTA subcommittee on recreation programs in an hour.  She hasn’t looked at her notes since the last meeting, a month ago.  As she gathers her materials, she realizes that she was to report estimates for the cost of referees for the after-school basketball program.  She has made no effort to get the necessary information.


Everyone occasionally puts off doing things, feels unmotivated, or avoids taking action.  For most people the tendency to procrastinate is a basically normal attribute that, at worst, results in a little inconvenience or unnecessary time pressure.

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Some people, however, seem to have enormous difficulty getting started and seem incapable of initiating tasks. Consequently these “expert procrastinators” frequently find themselves one or two steps in front of a virtual tidal wave of deadline stress, unfinished business, and loose ends.

Fortunately, regardless of whether you are a novice task avoider or a veteran activity delayer, there are several very powerful methods for beating procrastination and thereby increasing productivity while at the same time reducing stress.

The first and probably most important anti-procrastination method is simply to understand the relationship between motivation and action. Most people mistakenly believe that motivation must precede action – that before you can actually do something you must first feel motivated to do it.  Right?

Wrong! The fact is that in most cases action precedes motivation ~ that is, once action has been initiated motivation tends to gather momentum and it becomes increasingly easy to continue what has been started. As the old saying goes: “Getting started is the hardest part.”

  • Don’t wait for motivation before taking action – make motivation by taking action!

Many are deterred from starting a task or attending to a situation because it will only amount to a drop in the bucket.  “So why bother?” they say, and simply proceed to do nothing. But one drop becomes two, then four, eight, sixteen, and fairly soon, significant headway has been made.

The next time you feel the creeping paralysis of procrastination taking hold of you, make a commitment to do just a few minutes of the task you are avoiding.  You’ll probably find that after the first few minutes elapse, the momentum of motivation will be solidly upon you and you’ll continue the task with ever-increasing interest and enthusiasm.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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