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The anatomy of a procrastinator

- Get 'er done! -

Name: Polly Procrastinator

Scientific name: Putitoff tilllaterous

Age: 11

Traits: Procrastinators are experts at putting things off. Many are creative thinkers who throw themselves into projects once they get started. But for a variety of reasons, getting started can be difficult. Often lacking organizational skills, procrastinators may feel overwhelmed by large, multistep tasks. Unsure where to begin, and sometimes secretly afraid of failure, they avoid homework and studying until deadlines are nipping at their heels. They then work themselves into a dither trying to finish on time.

Behaviors: Dormant periods of texting, doodling, staring at the ceiling, counting stripes on a notebook — anything but completing school assignments — followed by bursts of frenzied activity.

Natural enemies: Bad habits are the most serious threat to the procrastinator’s future success. Contrary to popular belief, procrastinating tendencies are not unalterable personality traits. With proper guidance, a positive metamorphosis can take place.

Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinating Child: A Handbook for Adults to Help Children Stop Putting Things Off, understands procrastinators. She grew up playing chicken with deadlines, which led to a lot of missed assignments and unnecessary stress.

“Procrastination was one of my biggest obstacles throughout my childhood and early adult life,” says Emmett. “I know many parents already feel stretched like a rubber band, but if they can work with their kids on breaking that habit at an early age, it will be well worth the effort.

Taming a procrastinator: The reasons for avoiding schoolwork can vary greatly and may indicate a deeper problem. However, after ruling out special needs such as learning disabilities and hearing impairment, Emmett says parents can reform most young procrastinators by following these steps:

• Teach kids to break down tasks into manageable parts. To help them overcome the dreaded stack of homework, encourage them to take it one assignment and one step at a time.

• Set a timer (start with 10 or 20 minutes) and insist the child ignore everything else and focus on the task until it is completed or the time expires. Supervise this time, and limit breaks and distractions.

• Offer a reward for completing tasks on time. For instance, place a sticker on a calendar when homework is finished in a timely manner. After a certain number of stickers are accumulated, celebrate with a special outing or treat.

Scripture to consider: “Look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions” (Proverbs 6:6-8, The Message).

Conclusion: With proper guidance, procrastinators can become responsible students who successfully manage their time — and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

“When they break the procrastinating habit it’s not only going to help them in school, but in their careers and relationships and in being their best for God,” Emmett says.

Researcher: Christina Quick

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