Are You Suffering From “I’ll Do It Later” Syndrome?

by Alli Polin on September 5, 2017

Do you know what you want to do and then, um, not get around to it? If so, you’re like millions of others who are suffering from “I’ll Do It Later” Syndrome. 

Ok, so I made up that it’s a syndrome, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. It is. 

“I’ll Do It Later” is putting yourself on course for a life unfulfilled. Yes, that’s a tough statement, but it’s what happens when you choose to defer to tomorrow what will make your life better today. 

I could write this post and act as if I know better than you because I’m an expert who puts every piece of advice to work in my own perfectly put-together life. Me? I never put off for tomorrow what I could do today. (If only you could hear me laughing). 

We all do it. 

I’ve been half way through writing a book for ages. 

Bought a gym membership that I used almost daily until I got sick and… Well, you know the rest of the story.

My closets are overflowing because I still have clothes in there that I should have given away five years ago.

Emails from old friends go unreturned because, well, “I’ll do it later.”

Maybe you have something else in common with me which is going crazy over all the other “I’ll Do It Later” sufferers in your life. It’s the age old “I’m not perfect, but I expect you to be” dilemma. 

My daughter never hangs up her school uniforms after school despite my begging and pleading. No worries, she assures me she’ll do it later (which apparently is some time in 2018)

I give my husband important dates and to-dos and tell him to write it on his calendar NOW. He will; don’t worry… later. 

We let our lives pass us by and try to control the minutiae in the lives of others both at work and at home. What are we thinking? Talk about a losing proposition. 

Let’s stop here. 

First, let’s acknowledge that some things do get done later. Maybe you do get back to the gym, update your resume or website or whatever it is you’ve been putting off. Thank goodness.

However, other things grow in magnitude and become less and less likely you’ll ever do it. Why? You talk yourself out of it. 

Book? Eh. Whatever. You’re a crappy writer. 

Start a blog? Too much work. Nobody will read it anyway.

Take a long vacation? I can’t afford to be out of the office for two weeks. Things would fall apart. 

It’s ugly. Dreams shattered and we justify giving up on ourselves through our well-cultivated arguments. We put ourselves down, push ourselves into a corner and voilà. No need to ever get around to doing it later. It was a dumb idea to start.

Enough. You deserve better.

3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Beat “I’ll Do It Later” Syndrome 

Start With One

It’s not realistic that you’ll do everything you’ve been putting off right this second so pick one and make progress. It feels great to get into the groove. You can feel habits forming and positive about sustaining your effort. 

If you tried to get into motion on four things at once, let’s be honest, at least two, if not three, would be on the “I’ll do it Later” pile by the end of the week.

Start Small

Yup, it feels great to be back in the gym, and it’s tempting to get on the treadmill for an hour followed by a weight circuit. We both know what’s likely to happen. You won’t be able to walk tomorrow and the likelihood you’ll get back to the gym in a day or two is slim to none. 

Telling yourself you want to dedicate an hour a day is great, the harder part is doing it consistently. When you start small, you start with what’s do-able. Maybe it’s thirty minutes or even twenty. Don’t talk yourself out of it because it’s less than your vision of what you should be doing in a perfect world. It’s still a change; it’s still positive motion. It’s better to build a habit of small actions than wait for later to take one giant leap. 


Get a Partner 

Left alone, most of us will do nothing today especially given the choice of doing it later. We let ourselves off the hook when we need to stay on it. 

Partners can pester you, hold you accountable for check-ins or motivate, encourage, and support you. You have to decide what you need from your partnership and ask for it. Make it formal and regular. Casual accountability is simply feeding your “Ill Do It Later” syndrome.

If there are things in your life, at work or home, that you’re putting off, again and again, a partner can help to propel you forward. You may choose to work with a coach to figure out what’s holding you back, a friend who’s willing to give you a loving push or mastermind where you report on goals and progress. Whatever works for you, decide, and get a partner. 

Change is never easy. It’s uncomfortable but even worse than the discomfort of action that takes you into the unknown, is looking back on your life and thinking “I wish I did.”

What tips can you share that have worked for you to make things happen in your life and leadership?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ September 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

Spot on Alli. I love the “start with one” tip. I also make sure that I don’t over plan on how to start. Just start!


Alli Polin September 6, 2017 at 6:35 am

Right on, Kate! Just start! Later to often means never…



Terri Klass September 5, 2017 at 10:42 am

Excellent challenge for all of us Alli!

It can be so difficult propelling ourselves forward when we feel comfortable just where we are. For the longest time I worked with an organization that kept providing me with new leads and business. The thing is I became so dependent on them I spent little time growing other connections.

But as you say I took one step and that began my journey forward.

Thanks Alli and will share!


Alli Polin September 6, 2017 at 6:35 am

All change starts with the first step. Always grateful that you so generously share your real-life examples and experiences, Terri!



LaRae Quy September 5, 2017 at 11:02 am

I love all of your suggestions, Alli! While “small steps” may seem insignificant, it really is a great way to jump start a project. They give yourself permission to accomplish small goals and that is a great motivator. BTW, stick with that book project! I’m in the middle of the same process so I am grateful to know that there is someone else out there suffering with “I’ll do it later.” 🙂


Alli Polin September 6, 2017 at 6:34 am

I’m not giving up on the book yet! Muddling through the messy middle at the moment 🙂 Glad to know you’re in the thick of it too.



Amanda September 6, 2017 at 5:40 am

This was relatable and helpful.


Alli Polin September 6, 2017 at 6:33 am

Thanks for stopping by and reading, Amanda! Glad it was useful.




Blair Glaser September 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

Thanks for being a partner I needed in rough and tough times! Can’t wait to read that book!


Alli Polin September 7, 2017 at 12:35 am

Even if you tried to get out of being a Beta reader, I’d twist your arm. MUAH!!!!


Joy Guthrie September 8, 2017 at 11:54 am

In general, I have found that procrastination on some things is helped by a deadline. 😄


Alli Polin September 11, 2017 at 4:05 am

On many things 🙂 With you, Joy!

Thanks for your comment!



Built For Teams September 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm

For me, it’s also helpful to take 20-30 minutes before jumping into my next “thing” to jot down the goal, ways to get there and a timeline on when I want to have it completed. Putting that somewhere I can see it everyday can make a big difference!


Alli Polin September 14, 2017 at 6:42 am

Great advice! Too often we set loose goals or make promises to ourselves and then lock them away out of sight. Keeping goals and actions front and center makes a huge difference. Thanks for reading and for your great addition!



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