My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. — Charles Dickens.

Do you put off until the next day what you should have finished the day before yesterday? You’re not alone. Everyone procrastinates in some way. But that doesn’t make everyone a procrastinator. Psychologist and researcher Joseph Ferrari recently found that 20 percent of humans are chronic procrastinators. Habitual hesitation can stop you from unleashing your full potential. Procrastinators often cite lack of motivation as the reason they delay action. Do you desire success? If you do, you need to train yourself to take action and stay the course even when you’re not feeling motivated.

Procrastination is Like Smoking

Smokers know their pernicious habit kills. Tobacco use is unhealthy. It potentially leads to cancer. But the risk of the big C doesn’t seem to stop people from smoking. Smokers may want to give up the habit, just like procrastinators. But they need a little nicotine — now. Future potential pain isn’t a concern for now. Similarly, every procrastinator knows that failure to complete a task now might lead to suffering and regret down the road. But they still wait. Sometimes forever.

Famous Procrastinators

When I went into business that was a really bad habit and it took me a couple of years to get over it. — Bill Gates.

Leonardo da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, and Saint Augustine were procrastinators. Yes, you heard me right. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and even the Dalai Lama may not always get things done on time. Bill Gates used to be a terrible procrastinator at Harvard. Fortunately, Gates conquered the bad habit and went on to co-found the tech giant, Microsoft. Had Gates not dealt fiercely with his challenge, Microsoft would be just a dream. Maybe these people were super talented. Or lucky. Or whatever. Perhaps it’s best to say they succeeded despite their procrastination. How can one stop this destructive habit?

My Friend, Stan, Read all the Books But…

It’s a Friday evening just like any other. The pub is full. Everyone seems jovial. And beer flows freely. Four or so beers into the night, Stan starts talking. Maybe it’s the alcohol. And no, it isn’t about women. It’s about a topic we haven’t discussed before. Stan looks rather serious today. He starts, “I have read all the books. All the articles and blogs.” He continues, “I have listened to all the motivational speakers. I’ve seen a counselor. Heck, I have even prayed about it!” Well, I don’t know whether he prays. Maybe he does. “Nothing ever works for me,” he rumbles on into a tropical night. 

Stan seems convinced that reading, paying expensive professionals, or praying doesn’t help. I just sit and listen, like a good friend. But,sadly, I can’t help him. And here’s why..

I, Too, Used to be a Chronic Procrastinator

I, too, used to procrastinate. I still do, though less often. My procrastination was more than habitual. It had grown to epic proportions. I think it had reached chronic levels. I read tons of content on this destiny-destroying habit. “13 Reasons Why You Procrastinate and What to Do about it.” Or, “Stop Procrastinating NOW With This Simple System.” Heck, I even remember poring over an article that claimed to help me “Defeat Procrastination in the Next 24 Hours!” Most of the materials were just annoying clickbait. A waste of my precious time.

But one source stood out to me. It taught me that only consistent action toward my goals could conquer procrastination. I understood I had to force myself to keep working even when I didn’t feel like it.

Is Positive Thinking the Solution?

Some people believe you can achieve anything your mind conceives. Others think fate controls their lives. What’s your philosophy? Positive thinking doesn’t always work. At least, it didn’t do much in my situation. The victim often feels a bit like putty in the hands of the enemy within. They feel powerless. Exhausted. Frustrated. Visualizing success may work for some. For others, it turns out to be an exercise in futility. It is as if an incredibly strong internal resistance controls the affected person. Defeating procrastination takes a lot more than just-before-bed-time positive affirmations.

Why Most People Fail

The reason most people fail instead of succeed is they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment. — Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Catherine the Great can teach us career-saving lessons. These people knew how to get things done. It didn’t matter how insurmountable the challenges they faced seemed. They didn’t procrastinate. They moved fast and accomplished great things. They acted when they felt like it. They maintained their momentum in the face of difficulties. Each had an ever-blazing need to succeed.

They labored toward an eventual success that far outweighed the temporary pleasure of procrastination. Do you think they recited some mantra every morning and night? Did they conceive and believe their victories, as Napoleon Hill advises us in Think and Grow Rich? The two were insanely confident. But it was unrelenting action and well-thought-out strategies that thrust them to success and fame. So, plan. Act.

The Truth You Seek is Deep Within You

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. — Buddha.

The answers you seek are deep down in your soul. The only way to discover them is to explore your inner world. Examining your inner self can be both frightening and rewarding. Be willing to accept all the shocking truths waiting to confront you. Be quiet. Listen to your thoughts. Meditate. Understand the reasons behind your habitual hesitation. Realize that nothing but you can stop you. In the end, you’ll sit up and say: “I know now. I’m my own worst enemy. I have been working so hard to sabotage my success. I have procrastinated for way too long. And the pain is too much. I must now change.”

Do the Thing, and Motivation Will Follow

You have to prime the pump. Then you will begin to get motivated, and the fluids will flow spontaneously — Dr. David Burns — Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.

Procrastination offers pleasure. That’s why stopping it is hard. You want to do it later in the day. Or tomorrow. Or next month. Or even next year. You’d rather relax and enjoy this moment all you can. Doing it now causes pain. Doing it now may take away your present happiness. Doing it now requires discipline. Does discipline sound like a sweet idea?

Don’t wait to feel motivated to start acting. Motivation may be real. However, it is not something you can muster up any time you want. Successful people choose to stay focused on their goals, no matter what. They work when they feel enthusiastic. They plod on even when their initial euphoria has waned. Now, that’s hard. But you must do it if you want success.

Final Thoughts

Choose discipline over temporary pleasure. Feel the pain. Learn to live with it. Procrastination doesn’t give up without a fight. But you must keep going. You must continue executing your goals no matter how hard the internal resistance pushes back. Start with small steps. Maybe you will always struggle a little with procrastination. That’s all right, as long as you stay the course. Let the determination of people like Bill Clinton and Bill Gates inspire you.