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Introduction - Pg. xiii

xiii Introduction How many things were you supposed to do yesterday that didn't get done? How likely are you to do them today? Tomorrow? Okay, how about if I give you until next week? Can you have them done by then? Wait! Don't close the book yet! I know those are annoying questions, but I had to ask. Having fought a lifelong battle with procrastination myself, I know what the secret life of a procrastinator is like. You go through each day hoping no one will discover how far behind you are on projects at work, how much mold is growing on the leftovers in the back of your fridge, or how long it's been since you wrote to your Great-aunt Norma in Salinas. This book is your chance to come clean, to admit to yourself and others that you've developed a habit of putting things off, not finishing what you start, and doing things at the last minute. Don't worry; you'll be in good company. As you'll see from the many real-life examples given in this book, just about everybody procrastinates, either occasionally or chronically. It's become something of an epidemic as life has become more complicated thanks to technological, workplace, and societal changes (which I describe in Chapter 2, "The Procrastination Epidemic"). Drawing from my knowledge base in psychology, my experience as a career and life planning counselor, and conversations with hundreds of procrastinators from all walks of life, I bring you practical, painless, easy-to-implement solutions to the problem. You'll learn why you procrastinate, how to break the habit, and how to keep it broken. Most important, you'll learn that the key to being productive is not just to do more and more like some sort of time-management robot, but to focus instead on doing what's important to you and to the people you care about. In this book, I show you how to stop putting off things like cleaning out your closet, preparing your taxes before April 14, making a career change, and much more. But through it all, I urge you to have some fun, relax a little, and stop to smell the basil. A Special Note to Readers with Disabilities I make occasional references in this book to the role that learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Dis- order, mental illness, and other such difficulties play in the problem of procrastination. If you suffer from any of those disorders, many of the usual behavioral techniques won't work for you. I hope you'll use the advice given here merely as a springboard for taking action and adapting it to fit your own needs, possibly with the help of a mental health professional or educational therapist. If your disabilities are of a physical nature, then I apologize in advance for making statements such as, "Get up off that couch and wash those dishes," or "March over to that pen and paper and write out a list." In a book that's all about taking action, it's difficult to avoid using these sorts of physical analogies and expressions. I ask you to overlook the literal meaning of these statements and to focus instead on the message behind them.