Here's a resolution that you may have made in previous years, but somehow just didn't get around to accomplishing. OK, that's a joke. But procrastination -- that is, the tendency to habitually and consistently delay tasks -- is a problem that plagues about 20 percent of the population worldwide, according to DePaul University psychology professor Joseph R. Ferrari, who spent years studying the phenomenon and is the author of a 2010 self-help tome, "Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done."
He advises truly hard-core procrastinators to seek out cognitive behavioral therapists. But for those of us who are aren't quite that dysfunctional, Ferrari suggests some simple research-tested steps to counteracting our tendency to dawdle.
- Resolve to keep a to-do list, with realistic deadlines for each item. Identify your most urgent priorities, and tackle those items first.
- Next, deliberately pick the most unpleasant items on the list and get them completed, because those are the ones that you're most likely to put off.
- Aggressively manage technological distractions. Check your e-mail only once an hour, and only follow up or answer messages when absolutely necessary.
- Stick to completing the tasks on your list before tackling new assignments.
- Figure out who your most productive colleagues are, and try to team up with them, so you can model their techniques for making the most of their time [source: Adams].