Every once in a while, we may be tempted to procrastinate.
Getting back on the task after that may prove to be difficult.
Hence we asked 14 experts for the best tips on how to stop procrastinating.
Below are the 23 tips we’ve gathered.
Dave Popple PhD
President, Psynet Group
Here are some ideas:
Do the worst first.
Start your day with the things you dislike when you still have the willpower to do them. As the day wears on, so does our willpower. (For a deeper explanation of this, see Roy Baumeister’s research)
If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately.
Procrastination is often due to feeling overwhelmed by several small tasks. Keeping that task list low by doing things immediately makes it less overwhelming.
Read related article: Best Productivity and Time Management Books
Connect rewards to getting things done.
The rewards of procrastination are immediate but the rewards of achievement are farther away. Humans respond more effectively to immediate rewards so attaching a reward to getting things done evens the impact.
For example, I will negotiate with myself that I will have a nice glass of wine that evening if I get the work done but if not, then water.
Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Counselor, The Authentic Path
What is the underlying issue?
Many times, procrastination happens when we are faced with a challenge that we don’t know how to tackle.
It can also be a sign of perfectionism. Remember, your first draft isn’t your final draft. Aim to get something on paper, anything on paper, and you can always go back and revise.
Other issues can be: Do you have the resources you need for this project? Do you have the skills? A process/procedure?
Try to figure out the reasons you feel blocked and work to set up a schedule for yourself as well as a method for tackling the project.
Set a timer.
When I was in high school, I was required to take 2 years of a foreign language. I decided that I should study for at least 3 hours a day in order to make any progress.
I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t study at all. No surprise, I almost flunked out of my French class. Something had to change. I decided, as pathetic as this sounded to me, to study for only 10 minutes a day with laser focus.
Some days I could learn a lot of words and some days the words were more difficult to remember. None of that mattered. All I had to worry about was studying for 10 minutes/day.
I couldn’t believe this strategy worked. It worked so well in fact that I took 3 years of French in high school, acing my classes; majored in French as undergrad and lived in a French-speaking country for 3 years.
All of this by studying for 10 minutes a day. You really can conquer the world in 10 minutes a day.
Cut your goals in half.
As my example above demonstrates, many times we set our goals too high. So high that we feel defeated even thinking about them so we do nothing.
Whatever your goal is, cut it in half. At least in half. Or, find an amount of time that is not overwhelming to you. Many times you will find that once you get going you will want to keep going.
Build in wiggle room.
If you have a deadline, build in some wiggle room. Life happens. The kids get sick. You get sick. You are called into unexpected meetings. Set some fake deadlines to keep yourself from falling behind.
We are all so busy that we tend to move from one project to the next without taking time to celebrate our victories. You can celebrate by going to the movies, buying a book, having dinner with friends, whatever it is that acknowledges that YOU DID IT!
Celebrating your victories will help you the next time you have a challenge and are tempted to procrastinate. You will remember how you how you completed that project or reached that goal.
You could even set up your celebration in advance as a deadline. Meaning you must have this project done by such and such a date because you’ve already scheduled your weekend away as a reward.
Founding Principal, Project Management Essentials LLC
When I work with clients to improve their work, I make four recommendations:
#1 Deconstruct the work into small, discrete packets. Break large deliverables into many, manageable items where you can quickly see and measure your progress.
For example, if you estimate that it will take 2 weeks to complete a task, break that down into achievable goals that you can complete every day.
#2 Make the work visible. It is easy to avoid and ignore work on the task list on your computer or in a project schedule. I help my clients create a simple board on their office/cube wall.
The first column represents the things they need to do, listed in priority order. The second column represents the things they are currently working on. The final column represents the completed work. Each task is written on a Post-It Note and is moved from the To Do, to the Doing, to Done.
#3 Limit the number of things you are working on at once. Focus on completing work rather than starting work. Specifically, limit the number of items in your Doing column. The smaller the number, the more quickly you will get things done.
#4 Review your status daily. Every day review the items on your list. If you are not making progress, ask yourself why? Address the things that are impeding your progress.
Professional Organizer/ Productivity Consultant | Owner, Organizing Buzz
6 ways to stop…PROCRASTINATING…No Really!
#1 Set daily goals.
Setting daily goals the night before will set you up nicely for your day ahead. Create a task list and the goals you want to achieve. Share it with someone so you are responsible to complete those goals!
Read related article: 22 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important for Success
#2 Set boundaries.
People know it is NOT ok to interrupt you between certain hours. Put a sign on your door that between the hours of 10 am – 11 am you are not available, leaving you that hour every day to tackle a specific task.
Maybe that’s getting back to calls you need to make or emails to respond to or writing the proposal that is due. People will soon remember you are not available during that same time each day.
#3 Your environment matters.
What does the space around you look like? Is it an area that is sparking creative ideas and does it inspire you to work or snooze?
Keeping your space clutter free and putting things around you that will inspire you to get into the mode of getting your tasks and goals done.
Things you love, pictures, memories that bring a smile to your face, inspiration, these are the things that should surround you NOT clutter!
#4 There is never a perfect time.
Stop it now, forget waiting for that perfect moment in your day to get it done, it will never happen. There is never a perfect time, you need to determine WHEN you will work on it and get the goal/task done. Schedule that time!
#5 Just do it.
Inspiration is what fuels my fire, great quotes from great leaders, determination fuels my spirit, tap into what gets YOU going. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee? A brisk walk? A great book of quotes? Reading a great story on someone you admire? Maybe a good motivational speaker on YouTube? Whatever will spark you to get it done! JUST DO IT!
#6 Picture the outcome.
Picture the task done! Yay you finished the one task you were putting off, now doesn’t that feel great! Reward yourself, go out for a drink or pizza, because trust me, there will always be the one task we will want to keep putting off. My suggestion, do it first. Don’t allow procrastination to be the thief of your time!
Management Consultant | Author | Speaker
Five Ways to Avoid Procrastination
- Remember to plan accordingly before you begin a task.
- Consult with the right people that have knowledge in the area before you begin.
- Do not wait too long to gather all you need to begin.
- Consider the small milestones to accomplish to build to the ultimate completion of a task.
- Begin. Just beginning a task will cause you to complete it.
To keep stop procrastination, the best way is not to focus on the distractions, but to get everyone to be very deliberate about productivity.
In short, what you intend to achieve in the day. You can do this by writing out a short action list – which is different from a to-do list as it’s only the things you actually intend to do that day.
These actions should be ordered in the sequence you intend to do them and should be broken down so that each is expected to take less than an hour.
Then, the challenge is to start on the first one and stay with it until it’s done. It’s important to recognize here that important work is usually hard!
It’s generally challenging in some way – whether it involves some uncertainty, a hard decision, or something else that is difficult.
This means that we are ultra-susceptible to procrastination and distractions as our brains are looking to escape somehow!
Acknowledge these feelings and stay with your task anyway! Perhaps you can set a timer where you commit to working on this thing for 40 minutes (Pomodoro technique).
Then, when you have finished your action, reward yourself with a break – check social media, respond to emails, read an article, or chat with colleagues. Having completed an action, you can now do this guilt-free before starting on your next action!
Business Owner | Life and Business Coach
Procrastination isn’t just about not getting stuff done; it’s about not finding the motivation to get stuff done.
Sometimes we procrastinate because it is a task outside of our natural value set and sometimes it can seem like the time just isn’t right.
Either way, the cure for procrastination is what I like to call nested motivations.
We have to ask ourselves, “What would I get if I completed this task?”
There is the obvious answer about crossing it off the list or not feeling the weight of it anymore. But if you can ask that question enough times, you may find a deeper motivation.
Because what is crossing something off a list about? Freedom. Accomplishment.
So now ask yourself, “What will you do with that freedom or accomplishment?”
Completing a daunting task allows us to do something else, to feel a different way, to imagine something new. It gives us space to think and breathe! “Now I can go play soccer with my friends without anxiety.”
By nesting our motivations into higher motivations like freedom and accomplishment—or playing soccer with friends—we can find the will to do what needs to get done. We see the longer-range outcome. And that helps even menial tasks more bearable.
Consumer Protection Lawyer
Most of the time I catch myself procrastinating its when I need to complete (or seriously starting) a short-term project with a clear deadline, I found that promising myself a reward for completing the project usually provides an extra boost.
The reward can be as simple as taking a couple of hours to enjoy an activity, purchasing a small item, or a weekend trip. I’ve found this often provides needed extra motivation to complete fairly well-defined projects with short-term deadlines.
For longer-term projects, such as writing a book, it’s helpful to remember the people who will benefit or how the income will help meet personal goals.
Atty. Bonnie Yamani
Owner, Yamani Law
I have struggled with procrastination since I was in grade school and throughout most of my adult life. At one point I was even prescribed medication to treat adult ADHD. I looked far and wide to find a better way.
First, I start with a complete brain-dump to-do list.
I typically do this on a weekly or daily basis, but I also use a calendar to contemplate monthly and annual tasks, such as scheduling doctor’s appointments or car maintenance.
I will even break some tasks down even further into sub-tasks. This keeps all the tasks neatly cataloged so I’m not anxious about my agenda (sometimes if I feel I have a lot of stuff to do, I won’t start anything).
Next, I pull up my calendar and I start “scheduling” my tasks as if they are actual meetings.
I would never show up late to a meeting, so this mentally triggers me to “show up” on time to start my tasks.
If I feel I can’t get started, or I have the urge to do something else, I take a moment to visualize a time where I procrastinated and how I felt when I was rushing to get something done, or even worse, how I felt when I showed up for something unprepared.
Then I visualize a time where I didn’t procrastinate and how GREAT I felt to get it done. This usually kick-starts me.
Once I’m finished with the task, the first thing I do is go back and cross it off my to-do list.
It’s a very satisfying/reinforcing feeling to see items get checked-off my list. If it was a big, time-consuming project, I’ll reward myself, even if it’s just sitting down to read a book.
However, I don’t agree with rewarding myself after routine tasks. Constant rewarding ultimately circles-back in the form of procrastinating on starting the next task.
Of course, I haven’t reinvented the wheel either. I swear by time-blocking and the 2-minute rule to keep me going.
Professional Counselor | Founder and President, Parenting With Personality
One of the most helpful things you can do is to figure out why you are procrastinating.
Each personality style procrastinates for different reasons. So you might consider if you are procrastinating because:
- you are distracted by things that are more fun that you’d rather do.
- you have a plate full of things you are already multitasking and it doesn’t feel as important.
- you are struggling with the details, doing it good enough, getting it perfected, etc.
- you are undecided about how to do it or lacking the energy to get started.
Once you have figured out the why, it is much easier to figure out what to do. You see an effective tip to overcome procrastination has to tackle the motivation behind it.
So the tip can then be specified as well:
- plan how you can reward yourself with something fun after completing the task you are putting off.
- write a to-do list and put the item you are procrastinating at the top, allowing yourself to address other issues only when it is done.
- decide a planned time that you will proceed with outlined steps and also a stopping point, where you will consider it done and as good as you could do.
- figure out how you might break down the task to small manageable tasks and then decide how to reward yourself with little breaks or rest between the steps.
In this way, you can see that the tip fits the struggle!
Owner, Organizing CU
Procrastination always comes down to wasted time, no matter what you do or who you are.
Two major procrastination issues are not planning the time you could have and wasting the time that you do have.
The best way to schedule your time is to always plan your next day, making sure to schedule all the unpleasant tasks that are necessary that you don’t want to do.
Think: reviewing spreadsheets and cleaning bathrooms. When they’re on the schedule, you are much more likely to get them done.
If you have any long-term tasks, break them up into realistic chunks that you can accomplish in shorter time periods, such as an hour or two.
If you have a term paper due, you shouldn’t just sit down the night before and write the entire thing – you outline and then start writing one chapter at a time.
Same with your goals at home or work. If you want to declutter your kitchen, start with just one drawer.
Sometimes our to-do lists are out of control and feel never-ending, especially around the holidays. You need to prioritize your schedule and remember that you cannot do it all at once.
Since multi-tasking is wildly inefficient, it is helpful to put all similar tasks together so you can perform them better. If you need to clean multiple rooms of your house, try doing all the dusting at once, then all the vacuuming, instead of tackling each room at a time. At work, try to do all your report reviews at once and all the return phone calls at one time.
There are a variety of time wasters out there that make an hour pass in seconds (I’m looking at your social media!), but the main one will continue to be alerts on your phone.
Turn them off during the day. Keep them off at night. Try it for just a few days and see if you missed anything. The other big time waster is email. Check your email only at specific times during the day, between the batch scheduling.
Finish a task before looking at any new emails. Unless you’re looking for an immediate response to your current project, it will only distract you.
Lastly, clear off your desk. If you only have the important papers on your desk for the current project, you will be less likely to get sidetracked.
Now go get some stuff done!
Digital Marketing Consultant | Author, How To Get Her To See Your Logic
Usually, we procrastinate on things we really don’t like to or want to do.
Sometimes its too overwhelming and we don’t know where to start so we don’t at all. The best way of addressing this is by breaking things down into more digestible bits and pieces.
You can either break it down into time bits. Set a timer for 25 minutes and push aside all else (includes emails and calls).
Focus just within that 25 minutes and stop when the timer goes off. Having an end insight help us feel not so overwhelmed and doesn’t make the task feel like a never-ending task.
Remember to give yourself a 5 -10 minute break and maybe even a small reward after each 25-minute session. You can repeat this after your break to as many session as you feel you can handle.
Or if you have the time, leave it till the next day so that you slowly chip away at the work. Before you know it, it’ll be complete.
Another way is to plan task-based instead.
Break down the work into reasonable segments ideally around 1 hour worth of work max. This way once you reach the goal, you give yourself a reward and move on to something more pleasant.
Rewarding is always a good incentive and positive reinforcement of encouraging yourself to take action.
It helps to offset the frustration and help mark a milestone in your project. It will also help shape our willingness to tackle difficult tasks we continue to procrastinate with.
For this to be even more effective as a long-term plan. Get someone to keep you accountable. Set check-in times and conversations so that even when you feel like giving up, they will keep you on track.
Last tip is to look at the to do to see if you can delegate a task.
Some things aren’t worth your time and attention and may be able to be outsourced at a much cheaper rate freeing yourself to do more important things and actually end up lowering your cost because you get to focus on the things you enjoy.
I motivate myself to get things done and not procrastinate in 3 ways:
#1 Today might be my last day on earth.
I am conscious of death, not in a depressing negative way, but in an empowering & positive way. It is a gift to be alive in a world that is so easy to die. I keep death close to my heart and knowing that the next second I might not be here pushes me to finish the things I need to finish.
#2 I can impact other people’s lives.
I am privileged to work in health care where the little things you do can impact many lives. That always motivates me. The thought of empowering people to live healthier and happier motivates me to get shit done.
#3 Others are working hard.
From the food we eat, farming, our caregivers and medical doctors, we are alive and happy because there is a big network at work. Everyone is at work to help me have a better life. I have to work hard to return the favor.
Founder, My Millennial Guide
The biggest way to stop procrastination is to be self-directed.
Those who are tempted to procrastinate should take initiative and organize their own work. You are the only person who can make changes in your own life that stick so you have to both motivate and monitor yourself.
Whatever you tend to procrastinate on, be it scheduling meetings, managing projects, prospecting clients, managing finances, marketing your product or service, and so on… being self-directed is essential to getting it all done.