If you’re reading this, you’re probably struggling with procrastination in some form. It could be that for you, procrastination is only a relatively minor issue that you want to overcome in order to be more productive, or it could be that for you, procrastination is a serious problem that is ruining your life and preventing you from achieving your goals.
Regardless of the scope of your procrastination problem, you’ve probably tried to overcome your procrastination on your own before, and saw that this can be difficult to do. Furthermore, you may have looked for material on the topic, and saw that there is a lot of information out there about how to stop procrastinating, but that most of it is either partial or ineffective.
This guide is meant to be a definitive source, that can help you solve your procrastination problem once and for all. It contains a comprehensive list of all the techniques and strategies that you can use in order to beat your procrastination, based on decades of scientific research on the topic.
This article is quite extensive, since procrastination is a complex problem, that requires a comprehensive solution. However, this guide is written in a way that makes it easy to skim through, especially when it comes to the list of procrastination tips, and especially if you just want to get the basic idea behind these tips, without reading the related examples and explanations. (Also, if you just want a summarized version of this guide, you can simply scroll right on to the next section.)
If you want to look at the whole thing, we will start with a brief introduction to procrastination, followed by scientific evidence which shows that you can learn how to overcome your procrastination successfully, using the right tools. Then, we will see an outline of the process that you should follow in order to beat procrastination, followed by all the techniques that you can use to do so, together with tips on how to make this process as effective as possible.
While reading, keep this in mind: procrastination is a tough issue to handle, but if you take the necessary time to read this guide and formulate a valid plan of action, and if you then follow through on this plan, you will have an excellent chance at overcoming or reducing your procrastination.
The short version
If you want a brief summary of the steps in this guide, here you go:
- Figure out what are your goals, and make sure that they’re clearly defined, possible to accomplish, and significant enough to allow you to achieve meaningful progress.
- Figure out when, how, and why you procrastinate, by examining situations where your tendency to postpone things is preventing you from achieving your goals.
- Create a plan of action based on relevant anti-procrastination techniques, while taking into account both your goals as well as the nature of your procrastination.
- Implement your plan and monitor your progress, while making sure to refine your approach by figuring out which techniques work for you and how you can implement them most effectively.
And here are some of the top anti-procrastination techniques you can use:
- Break large tasks into small, actionable pieces.
- Identify your productivity cycles and schedule tasks accordingly.
- Set concrete deadlines for yourself.
- Eliminate distractions from your environment.
- Count to 10 before indulging your impulse to procrastinate.
- Get yourself started by committing to work for only 5 minutes.
- Switch between tasks strategically to avoid getting stuck.
- Create streaks of days on which you complete all your tasks.
- Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
- Visualize your future self to become motivated.
Overall, this approach for dealing with procrastination is fairly intuitive, which is one of the reasons why it’s so effective.
In order to make the most of it, you should read the full guide, which explains all the small details that will help you implement these steps as effectively as possible. Specifically, this guide will teach you how to set good goals for yourself, how to accurately identify the nature of your procrastination, and how to pick the best techniques for dealing with your procrastination.
If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, you can still benefit from implementing this system, by skimming the list of anti-procrastination techniques in order to find a few that you feel could work for you, and then following the steps that are outlined above. Alternatively, you can decide to just pick a few techniques that you think could help in your case, and then implement them without following any of the other steps.
Nevertheless, if you want to have the best chance that you can have at beating your procrastination, you will benefit more from reading this entire article, even if you do it over the course of several days, and even if you just skim over some parts. Doing this will help you understand this process better, and will ensure that you can implement this system and direct your efforts as effectively as possible.
Note: if you don’t feel like dealing with this right now, but you do want to get useful tips on how to deal with procrastination in the future, you can sign up here.
A brief introduction to procrastination
Simply put, procrastination is the act of postponing tasks that you need to perform.
Procrastination is a widespread phenomenon, as around 20% of the adult population and 50% of the student population view themselves as being chronic procrastinators. Furthermore, even people who aren’t chronic procrastinators often struggle with procrastination to various degrees in their everyday life.
This is a serious issue, since procrastination can lead to a variety of issues, such as worse grades in school, lower salaries in the workplace, a higher likelihood of being unemployed, increased stress, higher rates of mental health issues, and higher rates of physical health problems.
You can learn to stop procrastinating
Furthermore, research shows that self-guided, internet-based training can be an effective tool when it comes to overcoming your procrastination. This type of training involves learning to understand your own procrastination better, and then learning how to deal with your procrastination problem using a variety of positive coping strategies that allow you to mitigate the detrimental patterns of thoughts or behaviors that cause you to procrastinate in the first place.
Moreover, research on the topic also shows that these improvements can be maintained in the long-term, both when it comes to reducing your tendency to procrastinate, as well as when it comes to reducing the severity of the issues, such as stress and anxiety, that you experience as a result of your procrastination.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that online self-treatment is always guaranteed to work. Furthermore, in many cases you could benefit more from pursuing other types of procrastination treatments, such as an in-person cognitive behavioral therapy or group therapy sessions conducted by a professional therapist, either in addition to this treatment or instead of it.
However, the existing research on the topic does indicate that for many people, an online, self-guided plan can be effective when it comes to reducing their procrastination problem. Since this approach is the most accessible one, and since it’s not mutually exclusive with pursuing further treatment plans in the future, it’s worth giving it a try, especially if the alternative is doing nothing at all.
How to stop procrastinating
In order to stop procrastinating, you need to start by clearly identifying your goals, and then figure out exactly how your procrastination is preventing you from achieving those goals. Once you’ve done that, you need to create a plan of action, which incorporates various anti-procrastination techniques, and then implement that plan, while making sure to refine it as you go along.
In the following sections, you will learn more about each of these steps, so that you will be able to use this approach for overcoming procrastination as effectively as possible.
Set your goals
The first step to overcoming your procrastination is to set your goals.
When you do this, it’s crucial to make sure that your goals are as clear as possible, since you are more likely to successfully pursue goals that are concretely defined than you are to pursue goals that are vague.
For example “be more healthy” is a relatively vague goal, and you are therefore more likely to procrastinate when pursuing it than you are when pursuing a goal such as “drink only water and avoid eating fast food for the next month”. Similarly, “start exercising” is relatively vague, while “go to the gym at least 3 times a week, for at least 30 minutes each time” is much clearer.
In addition, when setting your goals, you want to make sure that they are both achievable as well as meaningful:
- Achievable means that your goals should be realistic enough that you can actually accomplish them.
- Meaningful means that your goals should be substantial enough that they lead you to actual progress.
For example, the goal of writing 5,000 words for your book each day is meaningful but is generally not achievable, since most people can’t write at that rate, which is why it should be avoided. Conversely, the goal of writing 5 words each day is certainly achievable but isn’t meaningful, since it will take you decades to finish your book at that rate, which is why this type of goal should also be avoided
On the other hand, the goal of writing 500 words per day is both achievable as well as meaningful, which is why it represents a good goal to set for yourself. Of course, different people might choose different rates of progress, and the most important thing is to find the rate of progress that works for you.
Overall, the first step in overcoming your procrastination is to set your goals. These goals should be clear, achievable, and meaningful, which means that they should be well-defined, possible to accomplish, and significant enough to help you achieve notable progress.
Once you set your goals, you can move on to the next stage in the process of solving your procrastination, which involves identifying the nature of your procrastination problem.
Identify the problem
Once you’ve set your goals, you can move on to identifying the nature of your procrastination problem.
This is crucial, since you must understand the problem that you are dealing with if you want to be able to find an effective solution for it. Though this sounds obvious, many people never go through the brief period of introspection that is needed in order to achieve this, which can cause them to get stuck in a situation where they’re unable to formulate a valid plan for coping with their procrastination.
There are several factors that you should consider when assessing your procrastination problem:
- When you procrastinate. In what situations do you procrastinate? For example, do you tend to procrastinate more when you’re working from home compared to when you’re working in the library? Do you struggle to finish tasks after you’ve started them or do you mostly struggle to get started in the first place?
- How you procrastinate. What do you do when you’re procrastinating? For example, do you browse social media, play video games, watch TV shows, go out with friends, or find small and unimportant tasks to complete?
- Why you procrastinate. What’s causing you to procrastinate? For example, do you constantly find yourself being distracted, or do you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to get started?
For an example of how to consider these factors, imagine a scenario in which you’re taking a class where you need to hand in a series of assignments throughout the semester.
Each time you get a new assignment you sit in front of the computer in your room (the ‘when’), but instead of working on the assignment you find yourself wasting time on the internet (the ‘how’), because the assignment is so boring that you can’t find the motivation to start until shortly before it is due (the ‘why’).
In this situation and in similar ones, you might often end up promising yourself that you’ll get started soon, or that next time will be different, despite the fact that the same thing happened in the past, and that you never really did anything significant to change your behavior. However, by clearly identifying the nature of your procrastination problem, you can figure out a valid way to deal with it, instead of just hoping that things will be different in the future.
Note that one tool that could help you figure out why you procrastinate is the guide on the psychology of procrastination, which contains a comprehensive list of the reasons why people procrastinate. If you’re not sure why you procrastinate, then you should read it and identify the reasons for procrastination that describe you the best, before coming back here and figuring out which techniques you can use to address them.
Create a plan of action
Once you’ve set your goals and identified the nature of your procrastination problem, you can create a plan of action which will allow you to stop procrastinating and start getting work done.
There are various techniques that you can use in order to accomplish this, and we will cover them in the next section. These techniques fall into two main categories:
- Behavioral techniques. These are techniques that involve instilling good behaviors and avoiding bad ones. Examples of behavioral techniques which are effective in dealing with procrastination include using a to-do list, creating streaks, and implementing nudges.
- Cognitive techniques. These are techniques that involve promoting positive thought patterns and eliminating negative ones. Examples of cognitive techniques which are effective in dealing with procrastination include holding yourself accountable for your actions, visualizing your future self, and changing the way you view tasks.
In general, each technique should help you accomplish at least one of the following things:
- Make it easier to get started. For example, leaving the document that you need to work on open on your computer before you go to sleep will make it easier for you to start working on it once you sit down at the computer the next day.
- Make it easier to keep going once you’ve started. For example, putting your phone on silent mode and out of sight reduces the likelihood that you will be distracted by notifications while you’re working, which will make it easier for you to focus on your work.
- Make it harder to avoid working. For example, going to the library and turning off the WiFi on your computer removes the temptation to procrastinate on social media instead of writing your paper.
You can use any combination of techniques that you want. What’s important to remember is that you should pick the interventions and techniques that fit you best given your personal situation, since different techniques will work better for different people, and might even work differently for the same person in different situations.
As such, make sure to identify the nature of your procrastination problem before figuring out which techniques you should use in order to solve it. As you go along, try to see which techniques are working for you, and then eliminate those that don’t, while experimenting with other techniques that you haven’t tried before in order to find new beneficial approaches.
Finally, if this all feels like too much at first, remember that imperfect action is infinitely better than no action at all.
As such, if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, just pick a single technique that you want to work on for now, and then add further techniques later on, once you feel comfortable enough to do so. If you’re not sure which one to pick, simply go with the first one on the list (‘break large tasks into smaller ones’).
Tips and techniques for overcoming procrastination
Break large tasks into smaller ones
Breaking large tasks into small subtasks can help you plan your progress better, and can prompt you to take action and avoid procrastinating.
For example, if your goal is to write a paper for a class, you can break down the task of writing the paper into an ordered list of subtasks that you need to perform. Such a list could include items such as “decide on a topic”, followed by “collect a list of relevant sources”, “write the introduction”, and so on.
In addition to helping you be more organized, doing this is also beneficial from a psychological perspective when it comes to avoiding procrastination, since it can make large tasks feel less overwhelming, and since it allows you to experience a continuous and rewarding stream of progress.
Note that you can break tasks apart as much as you want. In general, a good task is one that you can complete at one “go”, so that you can mark it off your to-do list before you need to take a break.
Prioritizing your tasks can help you figure out which tasks you need to work on and when you should work on them, which will ensure that you don’t end up procrastinating by wasting time on unimportant tasks while neglecting important ones.
Two common methods for prioritizing your tasks are the following:
- The Ivy Lee method. This method involves preparing a to-do list at the end of each day, and writing down a list of six tasks that you want to complete tomorrow, ranked in order of importance.
- The Eisenhower Matrix. This method involves categorizing each task that you have based on whether it’s important or unimportant and based on whether it’s urgent or not urgent, and then prioritizing your tasks based on these criteria.
Overall, there are many methods you can use in order to prioritize your tasks. Don’t waste time overoptimizing your prioritization method or getting stuck figuring out which one to use; just pick one to start with and then try different methods until you figure out which one works best for you (if you’re not sure which one, go with the Ivy Lee method, where you write down six tasks that you want to handle each day).
Identify your productivity cycles
Different people have different cycles of productivity, which depend on a variety of psychological, behavioral, and biological factors.
For example, some people might work better in the morning, while others might be more productive at night.
One way to reduce your tendency to procrastinate is to identify your peak times, which are periods of time where you’re most productive, and to then design your schedule so that most of your work is planned for those time periods.
In addition, you should also identify your slump times, which are the periods of time during which you struggle to concentrate or get anything done, and to then design your schedule so that only your breaks or most simple tasks are scheduled for those time periods.
For example, you might notice that you work well in the morning right up until you eat lunch, and that you then have a slump until the afternoon, when you start getting focused again. Based on this, you can try to schedule your work/leisure time accordingly, in order to take advantage of your peak times, and to avoid trying to get work done during your slumps.
Finally, keep in mind that you might be able to handle different types of tasks better during different parts of your productivity cycles. For example, you might be able to handle creative work better early on in the day, before you start dealing with emails, phone calls, and other distractions. Accounting for this will allow you to take advantage of your productivity cycles even better, which will make you less likely to procrastinate.
Use time-management techniques
You can use various time-management techniques in order to make it easier for yourself to avoid procrastinating when you’re trying to work.
For example, you can use the Pomodoro technique, which is a time-management technique where you use a timer in order to organize your workflow.
The Pomodoro technique entails working on your tasks for a set amount of time (e.g. 25 minutes), and then taking a short break (e.g. 5 minutes), before starting to work again. Additionally, as part of the Pomodoro, once you complete a certain number of work cycles (e.g. 4 cycles), you can take a longer break (e.g. 30 minutes), before getting back to work.
You can modify this technique and similar ones to fit your personal preferences. For example, instead of using a set amount of time as a marker for each work cycle when using the Pomodoro technique, you could choose to use a different type of marker, such as the number of words that you’ve written or the number of pages that you’ve read.
There is no single method that works perfectly for everyone, so you should try out different techniques until you find the one that works for you. If you’re not sure which one to start with, simply go with the Pomodoro technique, and modify it to suit your needs as you go along.
Set deadlines for yourself
Research shows that setting deadlines for yourself can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate, since they serve as a type of precommitment device, which helps you plan ahead and stick to your goals by committing to a certain rate of progress before you get started.
There are several things that you should consider when setting deadlines for yourself:
- Deadlines should be concrete. As we saw earlier, you are more likely to follow through on commitments that are concretely defined. For example, “Thursday at 4 PM” is more concrete than “sometime tomorrow”, which is why it’s a preferable type of deadline.
- Deadlines should be realistic. You should choose deadlines that give you as much time as you need to complete a task, but not more than that. Deadlines that don’t give you enough time to get your work done can cause you to feel stressed or to give up entirely, while deadlines that give you more time than you need encourage you to delay unnecessarily (a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s law).
- Deadlines should be meaningful. Deadlines are only beneficial if you actually abide by them, so the more you tend to miss deadlines, the more meaningful your deadlines have to be in order to ensure that you will follow through on them. An easy way to make deadlines more meaningful is to write them down, but you can use additional techniques when necessary, such as finding someone who will hold you accountable, or finding a way to penalize yourself if you fail to abide by your deadlines.
It’s also important to remember that deadlines should encourage you to start working early. As such, you should avoid using deadlines that encourage you to wait until the last minute before getting started on your work.
This means that, whenever possible, you should create a series of minor deadlines which correspond to each of the steps that you need to complete along the path to your end goal, instead of having just a single deadline at the end.
This means that you should set proximal goals for yourself, which are small goals that you strive to achieve while working toward your final distal goal. Research shows that the use of proximal goals helps you be more productive compared to using only distal goals, as well as compared to using motivation-based goals such as “do your best”.
Furthermore, an added benefit of using these intermediary deadlines is that we tend to care more about deadlines that are close to us in time, so constantly having a nearby deadline makes us less likely to procrastinate.
Finally, creating self-imposed deadlines can be especially beneficial in situations where you would otherwise have no clearly-defined target date and no external deadline. This might happen, for example, if your goals are related to personal development, as in the case of wanting to start a business or to lose some weight, in which case the lack of a deadline can cause you to procrastinate for an endless amount of time.
However, keep in mind that the effectiveness of deadlines varies in different scenarios, and there are situations where increased flexibility can be preferable to the use of deadlines.
This means that if you personally feel that deadlines are hindering your progress in some area, for example because you feel that they stress you out unnecessarily, then it can be reasonable to avoid using them. Just make sure that avoiding deadlines in that situation is truly the best option for you, and isn’t just an excuse for you to procrastinate.
Timeboxing involves allocating a specific amount of time, called a “time box”, to activities that you want or need to do.
Using timeboxing can be beneficial for three main reasons:
- It can help you make sure that you dedicate enough time to tasks that you dislike. For example, you might decide to decide a certain block of time each day to exercising, in order to avoid a situation where you never end up procrastinating because you keep doing other things instead.
- It can help you avoid dragging out tasks that you need to perform. For example, you might decide to dedicate 2 hours to finishing the initial design of your new blog, after which you have to move on to the next step in creating it, which will help you avoid a situation where you procrastinate for days by wasting time on trivial details.
- It can help you control the time you dedicate to taking breaks. For example, you might decide to dedicate a 30-minute timebox to watching TV after lunch, after which you have to get back to working on your assignment, which will help you avoid a situation where you procrastinate for hours by continuing to binge shows.
Use a to-do list
Using a to-do list is highly beneficial when it comes to helping you avoid procrastinating, for several reasons:
- It helps you break down your goals into actionable tasks.
- It helps you organize your tasks, prioritize them, and schedule them in an optimal manner.
- It helps you focus only on specific tasks that you need to be thinking of at the moment.
- It helps you write down deadlines and stick with them.
- It helps you track your progress, and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
In addition, using a to-do list can also give you extra motivation to work on your tasks, because it makes you want to be able to cross those tasks off your list, and because you get added satisfaction from being able to do so.
When it comes to creating your to-do list, you can either use the pen-and-paper method or one of the many apps on the market. Try out different solutions until you find the one that works best for you, but as always, make sure to not get stuck over-optimizing things, and simply pick one option to start with at first. If necessary, you can always reassess the situation and modify your solution as you go along.
One way to motivate yourself to get things done is to create streaks or chains of completed tasks, that you don’t want to break.
For example, you might decide that each day that you go without wasting time on social media or each day that you successfully write another page in your thesis counts as another day you get to add to your streak.
How you keep track of your streaks is up to you, but the more meaningful you make the streak, the more you will want to maintain it, and the more you will be motivated to avoid procrastinating.
One example of a method for keeping track of your streaks is the Seinfeld strategy, which involves marking a big red X in a calendar each day you complete your daily goal. Alternatively, if you’re using a time-management app, it’s likely that it will have a setting that will allow you to keep track of your streaks in the app.
Gamify your behavior
Gamification involves incorporating elements from games, such as competition with others and the accumulation of points, into other types of activities, in order to increase your motivation to work toward your goals. Gamification, when implemented correctly, can be a powerful tool when it comes to getting yourself to stop procrastinating.
For example, to increase your motivation to work on your tasks, you could reward yourself a number of points for each task that you complete, and deduct a number of points for each task you procrastinate on.
As with other types of anti-procrastination strategies, there is no single method of gamification that works perfectly for everyone. As such, if you decide to use gamification, you should try out different ways of implementing it, until you find the one that helps you deal with your procrastination in the best way possible.
Establish a routine
Establishing a consistent daily/weekly/monthly routine can be helpful in getting you to complete your tasks in a timely manner.
For example, you can set up a routine of doing creative work early in the morning before checking emails or social media, which is a good way to ensure that you start your day being productive, and by completing your most important tasks while you still have a clear head.
The routine that you establish should take your daily productivity cycles into account, which means that different routines will work for different people. Setting a routine is especially important in some cases, such as if you tend to have an erratic sleep schedule, which could make you sleep deprived and therefore more prone to procrastination.
Commit to having no ‘zero days’
A zero day is a day in which you make absolutely no progress toward any of your goals.
You can commit to having no more zero days, by deciding that you will not end your day until you manage to take at least a single step toward reaching one of your goals, even if it’s just a minor one, such as writing a single paragraph or going outside for a five-minute walk.
If you have several goals in mind, you can even take this approach further, and commit to making a single step on each of your goals every single day.
Plan ahead for future contingencies
One of the main reasons why people fail to break the procrastination cycle is that despite having a strong goal intention, which means that they truly want to stop procrastinating, they fail to plan ahead for circumstances that could cause them to procrastinate.
This issue can be significantly mitigated by creating a strong implementation intention, which you can do by identifying future situations where you might struggle to self-regulate successfully, and then coming up with the appropriate goal-directed behavior that you should engage in if you ever find yourself in those situations.
For example, if you notice that you frequently procrastinate because people invite you to hang out and you find it difficult to say “no” even though you know you should be working, you can come up with a pre-planned response that will make it easier for you to politely refuse people’s offers, which will make it easier for you to stick to your goals when you’re faced with the temptation to do otherwise.
Increase your energy levels
Increasing your energy levels is one of the best ways to get out of slumps and to stop procrastinating, since being tired can often make you more likely to procrastinate.
For example, the following are some things that you can do in order to increase your energy levels:
- Get enough sleep. In general, you’re more likely to procrastinate if you’re not getting enough sleep. Simply making sure that you sleep enough will therefore help you be more productive, and will lead to various other improvements in your life, in terms of your physical health, mental health, and general wellbeing.
- Drink some water. Dehydration is a big problem when it comes to your ability to concentrate on your work, and you can easily solve it by just drinking a glass of water from time to time. Other drinks are acceptable in moderation, but try to avoid consuming too much caffeine or sugar, which could cause your energy levels to crash after a while.
- Eat something (moderately) healthy. If you’re hungry, eat something that will give you some energy. Avoid junk food or snacks that will spike your energy for a short while and then cause you to feel tired.
- Take a break and go outside. If you’re stuck inside all day and feel that the walls are closing in on you, take a short break and go outside to breathe some fresh air and clear your head.
- Get some exercise. If you haven’t done anything physical in a while, try to get your body moving a bit. You don’t have to do anything major, since even a few pushups and a bit of stretching can help you feel better, though it’s worth it to put some effort into this since consistent exercise has numerous benefits to both your physical and mental health.
- Listen to music. Listening to music that you like can sometimes give you an energizing motivational boost, which will help you concentrate on your work, especially if you find it boring or monotonous.
Improve your work environment
A bad work environment can cause you to procrastinate more, while a good work environment can help you be more productive. As such, you should try to improve your work environment as much as possible.
For example, if your desk is so cluttered that it’s hard for you to focus on reading your textbook, this could make you more susceptible to distractions and therefore also to procrastination.
Improving the work environment is especially important for chronic procrastinators, since they frequently tend to have an excessive amount of clutter, which they struggle to remove, despite feeling that it lowers their quality of life. In such cases, cleaning up working (and living) environment can often help you feel better, which will help you concentrate on your work.
Note that, when you’re trying to improve your work environment, you should generally strive to make it easier for you to focus on your work and to enjoy it. This means different things for different people, but in general, cleaning things up and removing distractions is a good start.
Change your work location
If you find that you’re more likely to procrastinate on your work when you try to get it done in a certain location, then go sit somewhere else when you want to work.
For example, if you can’t bring yourself to stop procrastinating when you’re trying to work on the computer in your room, go to the library or to a coffee shop and work there instead.
This is especially important when it comes to separating the areas where you work from the areas where you conduct other functions of your life (e.g. play, eat, rest, or sleep), since having a location which is dedicated exclusively to work can help you make the mental switch into “work mode” when you need to.
Removing distractions from your environment makes it more likely that you will focus on your work and avoid procrastinating.
For example, if your phone emits a loud sound each time you get a message or a notification, you’re going to constantly be interrupted in the middle of your work. Putting your phone on ‘silent’ mode or on ‘airplane’ mode can help reduce the likelihood that you will be distracted, which will help you focus on your work.
Furthermore, note that it’s important to be fully aware of the impact that such distractions can have on you, and to make sure not to underestimate their negative influence.
For example, research shows that even if you’re not actively using your phone, simply having it out on your desk serves as a significant distraction. In addition, though putting it in your bag or in your backpack can reduce the degree to which it serves as a distraction, having the phone there will still occupy more of your mental resources than having it in a different room, where it’s entirely out of reach.
Another example of this is the fact that multitasking by doing things such as watching TV or browsing social media while engaging in “cognitive activities” such as studying, is associated with reduced levels of self-control.
Research suggests that the relationship between this type of multitasking and low levels of self-control likely involves reciprocal causality. This means that people with lower levels of self-control are more likely to multitask in this way while they’re working, but that multitasking in this way is also likely to decrease people’s ability to control themselves while they work.
Add a delay before indulging your impulses
One way to help yourself resist the desire to engage in impulsive behaviors is to add a brief delay before you indulge yourself.
For example, if you want to check your phone for notifications or check a website for new posts, you should make yourself count to 10 first. Then, if the urge to engage in that procrastinatory behavior is still there, you can follow through on it. However, if the urge to do it disappears, which it often will while you count, you can choose to get back to work instead.
If necessary, you can decide to count a bit higher (e.g. up to 20 or 30), as long as you make sure to actually count each time you do this. More importantly, remember that you’re not allowed to do anything else while you count, unless it’s related directly to your work.
If you actually use this count each time, you will find that you are often able to resist the temptation to engage in this type of behaviors, which are appealing in the short-term, despite the fact that they prevent you from reaching your goals.
Make it harder for yourself to procrastinate
The more difficult you make it for yourself to engage in procrastinatory behaviors, the better you will be able to prevent yourself from procrastinating.
For example, if you need to write a paper on your laptop and you tend to procrastinate by browsing social media, blocking the sites that you usually look at while procrastinating will make it more difficult for you to procrastinate, which will increase the likelihood that you will get to work, simply because there’s nothing for you to procrastinate with.
Make it easier for yourself to get started
The easier it is for you to get started on tasks that you need to complete, the more likely you are to do them on time.
For example, if you need to work on a certain document, then before you go to sleep, you can leave it open on your computer, so that’s the first thing you will see when you open the computer in the morning, which increases the likelihood that you will work on it.
Nudges are small modifications that you can make to your environment in order to get yourself to do the work that you need to do.
For example, if your goal is to get good grades because you want to get into a good graduate program, consider putting a small sticker with the logo of your dream program on your laptop, which will give you a small motivational boost when you need to start working.
Similarly, if your issue is that you often end up gaming for longer than intended, you could set up an alarm on your phone that goes off after a certain amount of time, and then put the phone close enough that you can hear it but far enough that you have to get up and leave your gaming platform in order to stop the alarm.
Minimize the number of decisions you have to make
The more decisions you have to make during a certain time period, the more fatigued you become from a mental perspective, and the more likely you are to procrastinate on making future decisions. As such, by minimizing the number of decisions you have to make each day (or within a certain timeframe), you can improve your ability to make decisions in a timely manner.
For example, if you need to write a paper, you can create a timeline of what parts of the paper you need to work on in advance, so that you don’t have to make the decision of what to work on each day.
Similarly, you can prepare the food that you will eat throughout the week in advance or pick the clothes that you will wear the next day right before you go to sleep, which will save you from making those minor decisions throughout your workday.
In addition, note that the more options you have to choose from when deciding what to do, the more difficult it will be for you to make a decision, and the more likely you will be to procrastinate. As such, by minimizing the number of options that you can choose from, you can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate.
For example, if you use highlighters while writing notes, you can decide to limit yourself to a small selection of colors, which will make it easier to choose from them each time you need to use one.
Set time constraints for decision-making
To avoid procrastinating simply because you can’t decide how to act, you can limit the time that you have available to make a decision, especially if there is no new information to take into consideration, or if the decision that you need to make isn’t too important in the first place.
For example, if you need to decide which design scheme to use in a presentation, you can start a timer with 1 minute on it, at the end of which you have to go with one of the available options, even if you’re not perfectly sure that it’s the right one.
This technique can be especially valuable in situations where you need to make minor decisions and where none of the available options is clearly better than the other, meaning that it really doesn’t matter which option you choose.
A countdown is a technique where you choose a number, and then count down from that number until you reach ‘0’, at which point you have to make a decision or start working on a task that you’ve picked in advance.
For example, you can decide to have a 6-second rule, where you count down from ‘6’, and once you finish the countdown you have to get started on your work, no matter what.
You can make countdowns more effective by conditioning yourself to abide by them. Essentially, this means that you could use countdowns before engaging in relatively simple and easy tasks that you do on an everyday basis, which will make you more likely to follow through on them when it comes to more difficult and aversive tasks.
Start with the best or worst tasks
Some people find it beneficial to start their day by dealing with their worst upcoming task, so they can immediately get it out of the way. This is often referred to as eating the frog or eating the elephant beetle, which refers to the concept of starting your day by getting the task that you dread the most out of the way.
Alternatively, some people find it easier to start with their easiest tasks first, in order to make it easier for themselves to get started and enter the right mindset that they need for work.
Both options are perfectly acceptable, so you should try them both in order to figure out which one works for you, while keeping in mind that each of them might work better in different scenarios.
Start with a tiny step
Deciding to start with a tiny step can sometimes give you the motivation that you need in order to stop procrastinating, especially when your problem is that the tasks that you need to deal with feel overwhelming.
For example, you can sit down intending to only write a single sentence from your thesis, or you can go to the gym without even intending to work out. Then, if you don’t want to do anything beyond the tiny step that you’ve taken, that’s okay, but you’ll usually discover that getting started was the hard part, and that once you’ve started engaging with the task, it becomes fairly easy to keep going.
This concept is sometimes referred to as the 2-minute rule or the 5-minute rule, to signify that you should set out with the intention to work on whatever it is you need to work on for just a few minutes. However, you can commit to other blocks of time too (e.g. 10 minutes), and, as noted above, you can choose to commit to other units of work (e.g. reading a chapter out of your workbook). If you do decide to implement this concept using a time limit, consider setting a timer first, which could help you convince yourself that you’re only committing to a small amount of time.
Immediately complete small tasks
One way to avoid procrastinating on small tasks is to simply get them done as soon as you find out that you need to do them, whenever it’s possible for you to do so.
This concept is sometimes referred to as the 2-minute rule, to signify how short a task should be for you to choose to take care of it immediately. However, it’s up to you to decide how small a task needs to be for you to implement this rule, and the important thing isn’t necessarily how long it takes, but rather whether you will benefit from taking care of it as soon as you figure out that you need to do it.
Note: this concept represents one of two possible versions of the 2-minute rule. The other version, which is covered in the previous entry titled ‘start with a tiny step’, suggests that you should bring yourself to get started on tasks by committing to only spending a small amount of time on them.
A bottleneck is a task that is causing you to procrastinate on a number of other tasks, because you can’t move forward on them until you deal with the bottleneck first.
A bottleneck can be a bottleneck for a variety of reasons, including practical reasons, such as because you simply can’t analyze your data until you’ve finished collecting it, as well as mental reasons, such as because you really want to finish dealing with a specific project that you were working on before you move on to the next one.
If you notice that one of your tasks is a bottleneck and that you’re procrastinating on it, it can be highly beneficial to find a way to eliminate it somehow. There are several ways you can go about doing this:
- Just get it done. This is obviously the best course of action, and might be doable if you use some of the other strategies which are available in this guide. However, if you find that you’re still stuck on with the bottleneck after a while, it’s better to use a different approach instead.
- Postpone it. Sometimes, it can be better to postpone the bottleneck in order to allow yourself to focus on other things in the meantime, and then return to it once you’ve had some time to clear your mind.
- Modify it. Sometimes, you might be able to change the bottleneck in a way that will either allow you to get it done or ensure that it is no longer a bottleneck.
- Delegate it. Sometimes, you might be able to delegate a bottleneck task to someone else, who will be able to handle it for you, and who will give you the peace of mind needed in order to move on to something else.
- Eliminate it entirely. Sometimes, you can decide that a certain task just isn’t that important to do after all, and that you can simply delete it from your to-do list and ignore it entirely, especially if it’s preventing you from making progress on more important things.
Different methods for dealing with bottlenecks will work better in different scenarios, based on factors such as your personal abilities and the nature of the task at hand. The most important thing is to realize that the task that you’re dealing with is in fact a bottleneck, and to then find the approach for overcoming it that will work best for you.
Switch between tasks
If you find yourself procrastinating on something because you’ve reached an impasse and you now feel stuck, consider switching to a different task for a while before returning to the old one.
Doing this is beneficial even if it would ideally be preferable for you to work on the original task, since it’s better to get something less important done than to do nothing at all, and since shifting between tasks at your discretion can help you become “unstuck” when it’s time to return to the original task.
Sometimes, taking a short break can help you clear your head, recharge mentally, and find the motivation that you need in order to get back to work.
For example, if you’ve just finished an assignment, and are procrastinating on your computer instead of getting started on the next one, you will probably benefit more from simply getting up from the computer and stretching your legs a little
Note that this approach can often work better if you leave the environment that you were working in, and take a break somewhere else instead. This helps your brain to shift from “work mode” to “break mode”, which could make the break feel more refreshing, and which could help you get back to work once you’re done.
Procrastinate in a productive way
It’s sometimes possible to get a lot of work done while you’re procrastinating on something important, a concept that is referred to as productive procrastination or structured procrastination. Essentially, this means that when you feel the urge to procrastinate on a task that you need to complete, you can accept that urge, and delay working on your original task by working on something else instead, that you find less aversive.
For example, if you find yourself procrastinating on writing an essay, then instead of wasting time passively browsing social media, you can work on some other task that you don’t want to complete, such as washing the dishes.
This technique is especially beneficial when you need a break, either in general or from a specific type of task, because even though it means that you’re not getting your highest-priority task done, doing something that isn’t at the top of your to-do list is still better than doing nothing at all.
However, it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t become a way to enable long-term procrastination, and to make sure that the tasks that you’re working on while procrastinating do have some value, and aren’t just a meaningless way to waste time and achieve a false sense of progress.
In addition, make sure to recognize situations where you simply need to take a break, and then take one, instead of dragging things out by trying to be productive during times where the circumstances are against you.
Try to reach a state of ‘flow’
A flow state is a state where you become completely immersed in the activity that you are engaged in, to the point where you lose awareness of anything but the task itself. This psychological state, which is colloquially referred to as “being in the zone”, is an optimal state in terms of productivity, since it allows you to focus on your work and enjoy it.
To get yourself to this state, try to create the right conditions, by working during times of peak productivity during your daily cycle and by removing external distractions, in order to help you fully immerse yourself in the task at hand.
Since being in this state is so beneficial, and since it can be hard to get there, if you do find yourself in a flow state don’t stop working unless you absolutely have to. You can often accomplish more in a few hours of flow than in weeks of procrastination, which is why this mental state should be appreciated as much as possible.
Figure out what you’re afraid of
People often procrastinate because they’re afraid of something, whether that thing is doing badly on a task or getting negative feedback from others. Identifying the reason why you’re anxious about a task can help you cope with the issue at hand, and get you to start doing the work that you need to.
For example, if you realize that you’re procrastinating on starting a certain hobby because you’re worried that the people involved in it won’t like you or that you’ll embarrass yourself, you can talk to people in the community in order to address these fears, which will allow you to overcome your fear of starting.
Avoid a perfectionist mindset
Perfectionism, which is the tendency to view anything that has flaws as unacceptable, can cause people to procrastinate in several ways:
- Perfectionism can cause you to delay getting started, because you’re worried that you won’t be able to produce work that is good enough.
- Perfectionism can cause you to continue revising your work endlessly, because you keep finding minor flaws in your work.
- Perfectionism can cause you to avoid releasing your work or making it public, because you’re afraid that it’s not absolutely perfect.
Realizing that you’re procrastinating because of your perfectionism is the first step to dealing with this issue. Once you’re aware that this is a problem, you must internalize the fact that it’s okay for your work to not be absolutely flawless, and that you shouldn’t let your fear of making a mistake cause you to procrastinate.
Specifically, if your problem is that you can’t even get started, then you need to accept the fact that your work is never going to be perfect, especially at first. Try to get something done, even if it’s of low quality during this initial stage.
If, on the other hand, your problem is that you continue revising your work endlessly or that you avoid releasing your work, try to get feedback from people that you trust, who can give you an honest assessment of the quality of your work.
Furthermore, you can also ask yourself what are the consequences of releasing work that isn’t absolutely perfect, and then follow this up by asking yourself how bad these consequences are, and how they weigh compared to the potential benefits of finally getting your work out there.
Make unpleasant tasks more enjoyable
In general, the more unpleasant a certain task is, the more likely you are to procrastinate on it. As such, by making unpleasant tasks more appealing, you reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate.
There are many ways you can make tasks more appealing. For example, if you need to clean the house, you can put on music that you like, and try to time yourself to see how much you can get done in just 10 minutes of work, in order to make the otherwise boring task of cleaning the house more fun to do.
Focus on the goal instead of on the task
One way to increase your motivation to work on tasks that you view as boring or unpleasant is to focus on your end goal instead of on the task itself.
For example, if you’re procrastinating on an assignment because it’s boring, make sure to not just think about the task itself when you’re trying to get yourself to do the work, but rather think about your underlying reason for wanting to complete it, whether it’s to get a good grade, to get a promotion, or even just to be able to relax without feeling guilty.
Note that this approach, which involves adopting an outcome focus, is generally most effective when you are averse to the task at hand. Conversely, there are situations where it can be more beneficial to adopt a process focus, which focuses on the task instead of on the goal, such as when you have a high fear of failure, since focusing on the task at hand can distract you from that issue.
Reward yourself for your accomplishments
People often procrastinate because important tasks that are rewarding for them in the long-term are less appealing than meaningless behaviors that are rewarding in the short-term. As such, you can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate by associating rewards that are pleasant in the short-term with actions that are good for you in the long-term.
For example, you can decide to take a short break and watch some TV for every chapter that you read in preparation for a test, or you could eat a small piece of chocolate as reward for every task that you complete while working on a project.
Similarly, you can also make your accomplishments more rewarding by doing simple things such as writing down every task that you complete throughout the day, and then going over them at night to see how much you managed to get done.
Note that you can reward yourself either for getting started on a task, for completing it, or for working on it in general.
Forgive yourself for past procrastination
Forgiving yourself for past instances of procrastination can help you procrastinate less in the future.
For example, research shows that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating on past exams procrastinated less when it came time to study for later exams.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should constantly forgive yourself for ongoing procrastination while you’re engaging in it, since this could cause you to lose the drive that you need in order to want to change.
Minimize the impact of relapses
As you’re trying to overcome your procrastination problem, there might be times when you end up slipping, meaning that you might end up procrastinating despite your attempts to avoid doing so.
These relapses can happen to anyone, as they are a natural part of the long-term process that you have to go through in order to overcome your procrastination, and while you should certainly strive to avoid them as much as possible, messing up on occasion won’t automatically ruin your attempts to change.
As such, while you should try to minimize your relapses as much as possible, which you can do by using the techniques which are outlined in this article, it’s also important to learn how to deal with them when they do happen. Specifically, your goal is to cope with your relapses in a positive way, which will allow you to move past them with as little issues as possible.
For example, a positive way to deal with a situation where you’ve procrastinated is to tell yourself that you made a mistake, and to then figure out how you can avoid making the same mistake in the future, before returning to your work.
Conversely, a negative way to deal with a situation where you’ve relapsed is to say to yourself that you’ve already procrastinated for an hour, so you might as well waste the rest of the night procrastinating now.
Accordingly, if you do end up relapsing when you’re trying to stop being a procrastinator, there are several things that you should do:
- Accept what happened. Avoid trying to deny that you’ve procrastinated or trying to justify it, and instead take responsibility for your actions, even if you wish that you had acted differently.
- Forgive yourself for your mistake. Avoid beating yourself up over what happened, since obsessing over it is just going to make you feel bad, and will make it harder for you to return to your work.
- Figure out what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Try to assess the situation, so you can figure out what caused you to procrastinate, and how you can avoid falling for the same issue in the future.
- Figure out how to fix things and get back to work. Once you’ve accepted the issue and figured out how to prevent it from happening again in the future, decide on the best course of action that you should undertake right now in order to get back to work, and then implement it.
Improve your emotion-regulation skills
- Use adaptive emotion-regulation strategies. Adaptive strategies are strategies that allow you to cope with negative emotions in a positive way, which helps you to overcome them. For example, if you’re anxious that you’ll do badly on an upcoming test, talking to a friend who can help you calm down is considered an adaptive coping strategy.
- Avoid maladaptive emotion-regulation strategies. Maladaptive strategies are strategies that cause you to deal with negative emotions in a negative way, which prevents you from overcoming them. For example, if you’re worried that a project that you’re working on will be unsuccessful, avoiding it entirely is considered a maladaptive coping strategy.
Your goal in using adaptive strategies and avoiding maladaptive ones is to improve your ability to deal with the presence of negative emotions, such as anxiety, and to tolerate the absence of positive emotions, which you might experience, for example, if the task that you need to complete is unrewarding in the short-term.
One basic technique that you can use to accomplish this is to intentionally acknowledge the presence of negative emotions or the lack of positive ones, and to then remind yourself of your mental toughness, and of your commitment to perform the task at hand.
Furthermore, you can also attempt to mitigate certain negative emotions such as stress or anxiety by thinking about the issues that you are worried about, and then assessing the likelihood that they will happen as well as the degree to which they will affect you, in order to determine whether your worries are exaggerated and unjustified.
Self-compassion involves extending sympathy to yourself in situations where you feel bad about mistakes that you’ve made. Research shows that self-compassion can be beneficial when it comes to procrastination, since it is encourages the use of healthy emotion-regulation strategies, that can reduce the likelihood that you will procrastinate, and can help you deal with the negative emotional impact of your procrastination.
Self-compassion is comprised of three primary components:
- Self-kindness. This is the quality of being kind to yourself, rather than critical, during tough times.
- Common humanity. This is the quality of recognizing that imperfection and suffering are a part of the shared human experience, rather than something that isolates you.
- Mindfulness. This is the quality of being able to possess a balanced and non-judgmental approach when dealing with your emotions, instead of being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings.
There are various techniques that you can use in order to increase your self-compassion.
One such technique is to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, which can help you accept the fact that it had happened to you. Furthermore, in order to help yourself internalize this concept, you can, for example, think about situations in which other people have made similar mistakes in the past, or about how you would react if a friend of yours made the same mistake.
However, it’s also important to make sure that your self-compassion doesn’t turn into an excuse to continue to engage in procrastination. As such, when practicing self-compassion, you should always ask yourself whether doing so is helping you cope with your procrastination, or whether it’s encouraging you to procrastinate more in the long run.
Develop self-efficacy and a positive outlook
Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to carry out the actions needed in order to achieve your goals. This belief is crucial to your ability to self-regulate your behavior, which is what allows you to successfully avoid procrastinating.
Self-efficacy is strongly related to being hopeful and having a positive outlook on your situation, which can also help reduce your tendency to procrastinate in some cases, by doing things such as increasing your motivation to work and reducing your fear of failure.
Being hopeful involves two primary types of thinking:
- Pathway thinking. This represents the belief that there are strategies that you can use to solve your problems.
- Agency thinking. This represents the belief that you can successfully pursue the strategies that can be used to solve your problems.
Essentially, you want to develop a strong sense of self-efficacy and hopefulness by increasing your belief in your ability to find viable strategies that you can use to pursue your goals, as well as in your ability to successfully utilize these strategies.
You can accomplish this by doing things such as going over your past successes in your mind, and by reminding yourself that even if you have made mistakes in the past, you’ve managed to learn from them and are now better equipped to deal with any similar obstacles that you might encounter.
It’s especially important to do this in situations where you find yourself beginning to slip into a downward spiral, where past failures cause you to have a lower sense of self-efficacy or to experience hopelessness, which can cause you to procrastinate if you feel that there is no chance that your efforts will lead to success.
At the same time, it’s also important to remain realistic, and to not let your belief in your self-efficacy or your optimism cause you to procrastinate. This issue might occur, for example, in situations where you postpone important tasks unnecessarily because you believe that you will have enough time to finish them right before the deadline, or because you overestimate your ability to avoid procrastinating again when it’s time to return to those tasks in the future.
Visualize your future self
Visualizing your future self can help you reduce your tendency to procrastinate, in several ways:
- It can help you increase the degree to which you care about your future self, by increasing your temporal self-continuity, which is the connection between your future and present selves.
- It can help increase the degree to which you care about the future consequences of your actions.
- It can help increase the perceived value of the future outcomes of your work.
Visualizing yourself at a future date is referred to as episodic future thinking. It can involve, for example, imagining how you will feel a few months from now, once you receive a high grade on a project that you need to work on in the present.
When visualizing your future self, you can either focus on the positive outcome that you will experience if you follow through on your commitments, or on the negative outcomes that you will experience if you continue to procrastinate.
Furthermore, you can choose whether you want to visualize your future self from a first-person or a third-person perspective, meaning that you can either try to see future events as taking place directly through your own eyes, or you can try to see them through the eyes of an external observer.
Regardless of which option you choose when it comes to visualizing your future, make sure to commit to this visualization, by making it as detailed and as vivid as possible. The more you feel connected to your future self, and the more you care about them, the better you will be able to motivate yourself in the present, and the more likely you will be to successfully overcome your procrastination.
Adopt an external perspective
If you’re struggling with a procrastination problem and you’re not sure how to deal with it, it can sometimes be beneficial to try to view the situations from a different perspective, since this can help you develop better insights into it, and might allow you to cope with your emotions better.
For example, if you don’t know how to get yourself to start working on an idea that you have, you could use self-distancing language when thinking about the situation, by asking yourself “what should you do” instead of “what should I do”.
Alternatively, another thing that you could do is imagine what you would say to a friend if they came to you asking for advice on a similar situation.
Find someone who can hold you accountable
Finding a person who can hold you accountable for your actions can help you stop procrastinating in some situations.
For example, you could tell a close friend that you’re trying to get yourself to finally start working on a project that you’ve been meaning to work on, and that you will give them $5 if you haven’t finished it by the end of the weekend.
The person who holds you accountable can be anyone that you trust, whether it’s a teacher, a colleague, a parent, or a friend. The better they can hold you accountable, the more their assistance will motivate you to do your work.
Note that there doesn’t necessarily have to be any tangible award or penalty involved in the way that the other person holds you accountable; if you care enough about their opinion of you, sometimes even wanting them to be proud of your actions or wanting to avoid disappointing them can be all the motivation you need.
Find a role model
Finding someone who you admire, based on factors such as their values, actions, or accomplishments, and then trying to emulate them, can help you regulate your behavior better by increasing things such as your internal drive to persevere in the face of obstacles.
For example, if you have a specific role model in mind, and you find yourself in a situation where you know that you should work but you feel a desire to procrastinate, ask yourself what your role model would do if they were in the same situation, or how you would feel if they could see you now.
Seek favorable peer influence
The people that you spend time with can have a huge impact on your ability to avoid procrastinating.
For example, when it comes to positive peer influence, being around people who are willing to work hard to pursue their goals can motivate you to do the same, and encourage you to hold yourself accountable for your actions.
Conversely, when it comes to negative peer influence, being around people who tend to waste time and not do anything meaningful, can cause you to view your own procrastination as legitimate, or it can cause you to dismiss the value of your goals.
As such, there are two things you should do with regards to seeking favorable peer influence:
- Seek positive peer influence. You should try to spend time with people who have a good influence on you, since being around them encourages you to engage in positive behaviors and to pursue your goals.
- Avoid negative peer influence. You should try to minimize the amount of time you spend around people who have a bad influence on you, since being around them makes you more likely to engage in bad behaviors and less likely to pursue your goals.
Build a social-support network
A social-support network is a group of people that you can rely on to give you emotional, informational, and practical help.
For example, a close friend or a study partner are two types of people that you might include in your social-support network.
Social support can be beneficial when it comes to reducing procrastination in some cases. The nature or size of your support network isn’t crucial, as long as you have the support that you need.
Furthermore, you can also benefit from having a significant personal network, which includes people who share your situation in some way, but who you don’t necessarily expect to help or support you. For example, your peers in the classroom or your colleagues at work could both be considered a part of your personal network, as can other people who are working on similar things as you.
This type of network can be beneficial even if the people in it don’t help you directly, because being aware of them can help you feel motivated and set realistic expectations for yourself.
The stages of breaking the procrastination habit
There are five main stages in this model:
- Precontemplation. During this stage, you’re either unaware of your problem or you have no intention of taking action in the foreseeable future in order to fix it.
- Contemplation. During this stage, you’re aware that you have a problem, and you intend to do something in order to fix it, but your intentions are still relatively vague, as you don’t yet know what you will do about it.
- Preparation. During this stage, you plan to undertake a specific course of action in the near future in order to deal with your problem.
- Action. During this stage, you begin to course of action that you’ve prepared, in an attempt to address your problematic behavior.
- Maintenance. During this stage, you no longer engage in the problematic behavior that you’ve been trying to address, but you continue to undertake actions which are necessary in order to ensure that you don’t relapse.
If you’ve decided to read this guide, then you were probably aware that you have a procrastination problem, but you were unsure what you can do in order to cope with it, meaning that you were stuck in the contemplation stage. However, this guide should have given you the tools that you need to move on to the preparation stage, and from there to the action and maintenance stages, respectively.
Note that, in some cases, long-term maintenance of positive habits can bring you to the termination stage, which occurs when the negative behavior that you were trying to deal with has been completely eliminated, meaning that you are no longer prone to engaging in it.
However, for some people, it’s not possible to reach the termination stage, since the temptation to relapse into their old behavioral patterns remains there forever, which means that they will have to remain in the maintenance stage indefinitely. Furthermore, different people under different conditions will need a different amount of time for short-term anti-procrastination behaviors to turn into long-term habits, so while someone people might be able to overcome their procrastination relatively quickly, others might take significantly longer.
Nevertheless, the longer you manage to stick to your plan of action by instilling positive habits and avoiding negative behaviors, the easier it will get for you to keep going, and the better you will be at preventing yourself from procrastinating.
Experiment and reevaluate
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no single cure for procrastination: procrastination is a complex problem, and different people will benefit more from different solutions to it.
This means that there isn’t a single right way to get yourself to stop procrastinating. Rather, the best approach to dealing with this issue is to try and understand your procrastination as best as you can, and to then try out different solutions, until you find the ones that work best for you.
As such, you should think about the techniques in this article as the various tools and weapons that you can use in your personal war against procrastination, and then figure out which ones you want to keep in your arsenal and which ones you prefer to discard.
This guide gave you all the tools that you will need in order to combat your procrastination. Now the responsibility lies with you to implement what you’ve learned.
Overall, the most important thing to internalize is the fact that you cannot be passive when it comes to dealing with your procrastination. You have to actively try to improve yourself, and you can’t keep repeating the same mistakes and promising yourself that things will be different, without making any changes.
Unless you’re willing to put in the necessary effort, things will always stay the same. However, if you put in the effort, and if you work in a smart way by analyzing your problem and finding effective solutions, you’ll be able to stop procrastinating and start getting things done.
If you’re not sure where to start, do the following:
- Get a piece of paper or open a new document on your computer.
- Write down a goal that you want to work on for now. If you want, you can write down more than one goal, but don’t write so many that you end up feeling overwhelmed.
- Write down what you need to do in order to accomplish your goal.
- Write down how procrastination could prevent you from achieving this goal. This means that you should write down when, how, and why you’re likely to procrastinate while working toward your goal.
- Pick a few anti-procrastination techniques that you want to implement. Which techniques you should use depends on your goals, and on the nature of your procrastination problem. If you’re not sure which ones to pick, start by setting deadlines for yourself, using a to-do list, and breaking large tasks into smaller ones, followed by modifying your environment to make it harder for you to procrastinate, committing to start with only a tiny step, and adding a brief delay before indulging your impulse to procrastinate.
- Get to work. Start working toward your goal, by implementing the plan of action that you’ve formulated above.
Later on, you can add more goals that you want to pursue and more techniques that you want to implement. Right now, however, the most important thing is to make sure that you just get started.
The longer you wait, the less likely you will be to act on what you’ve learned, so start now, instead of telling yourself you’ll get started later.
Summary and main takeaways
- Procrastination is a prevalent and serious problem, that can negatively affect your life in various ways, but research shows that people can learn how to overcome it successfully.
- The first step to solving your procrastination problem is to set clear, achievable, and meaningful goals for yourself, which means that you should have goals that are well-defined, possible to accomplish, and significant enough to allow you to achieve notable progress.
- Once you’ve set your goals, the second step to solving your procrastination problem is to clearly identify the nature of your problem, by analyzing when, how, and why you procrastinate.
- Once you’ve identified the nature of your procrastination problem, the next step is to create and implement a plan of action which involves the use of various behavioral and cognitive techniques, that will allow you to avoid procrastinating.
- The anti-procrastination techniques that you can use include, among others, breaking large tasks into small subtasks, tailoring your schedule to your productivity cycles, gamifying your behavior, improving your work environment, making it harder for yourself to procrastinate, making it easier for yourself to get started, and eliminating bottlenecks.
Procrastination is a tough problem to solve, but if you’re willing to follow the necessary steps in order to create a good plan of action, and if you’re willing to then put in the effort in order to follow through on your plan of action, you have a great chance at being able to overcome or reduce your procrastination.
Overall, this guide has all the tools that you need in order to stop procrastinating; it’s now up to you to use them.