I’ve struggled with chronic procrastination for over a decade of my life and if you’re struggling with it too then I’ve got 15 proven ways to stop procrastinating for you that are certain to help you get moving.
Why Are You Procrastinating?
But first, why are you procrastinating?
Tony Robbins says that we either take action to gain pleasure or to avoid pain and the majority of people will usually do more to avoid pain than they ever will to gain pleasure.
Essentially you’re procrastinating because you’re trying to avoid some perceived pain. That could be physical pain or a painful emotional state such as fear, inadequacy, boredom, embarrassment and so forth.
For example what I particularly struggled with for a long time was the fear of failure and even the fear of success.
That resulted in me unconsciously putting off taking action on my meaningful projects that could have led to failure or success. I was still working, but I would do “safe”, low level work that would pay the bills but wouldn’t really help me achieve my goals.
Whilst the strategies below are proven to beat procrastination, if you’re persistently struggling to achieve your goals then I would highly recommend trying to figure out the root cause.
15 Ways To Stop Procrastinating
1. Eat The Biggest Frog First
Do the hardest task first. Not only will you feel better for the rest of the day but every task after that will feel easier too.
Whilst it’s natural to put off these “frogs” until the end of the day what’s most likely to happen is that when it comes time to doing them you’ll have less energy or willpower to do it.
2. Do The First 5 Minutes
Typically starting a daunting task is the hardest part so to overcome this and get going just do the first 5 minutes.
Anyone can do the first 5 minutes right? Just set your timer for 5 minutes and start.
What you’ll find is that the task is not as bad to do as your imagination made it out to be.
Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, don’t think of the task on a macro level. Just do the first 5 minutes.
3. Reward Yourself
We’re hardwired to avoid pain and so when the option of immediate gratification comes up we’re most likely to take it instead of doing what needs to be done.
A great strategy to overcome this is to set up a reward system. If done right you’ll get your work done and still have fun.
One way of doing this is doing 3 x 15 minute time blocks and then rewarding yourself with one 15 minute time block for an enjoyable reward. What makes this even more effective is that you give yourself points or colour in a square to represent your progress.
Giving yourself a simple visual representation like this will surprising keep you motivated. It becomes like playing a game.
Bonus Tip: You can use “gamification” apps like Habitica, LifeRPG, Task Hammer, Epic Win and SuperBetter for this.
4. Fill In Your Calendar
The less free time you allow yourself, the less likely you’ll be to put off tasks.
By this I mean that if you have 3 tasks on your to do list and from experience you know they’ll take about 3 hours then make sure you have the rest of the day filled with other tasks or activities.
If you don’t, what is most likely to happen is that you’ll distract yourself with all sorts of things throughout the day, leaving the tasks until the end of the day where the chances of them not getting done are high.
5. Prioritize Tasks And Projects
When I was procrastinating on doing my meaningful projects I was doing so by doing a lot of work, but small, easy tasks that where within my comfort zone.
Whilst the small jobs were paying the bills they weren’t moving the needle as it were.
To make sure you don’t procrastinate on the important stuff, the stuff that will really make a difference to your life, make sure that you prioritize your do to list.
6. Shorten Your Daily To-Do List
It might be that you have too many items on your to do list. What typically happens when you don’t complete your list by the end of the day is that you feel demoralised and lose your motivation.
Left with a mountain of work to do which will carry over to the next day its easy to feel overwhelmed which then starts to make you question your process…which then eats up even more time…ever experienced that?
If you have more than 7 items on your to do list then you may be setting yourself up for failure.
7 items is a realistic, achievable and rewarding number of tasks to do which can still create progress. Completing your to do list every day will fill you with the confidence and motivation to keep going.
7. Apply Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
If you give yourself 2 hours to complete a task it will likely take 2 hours.
First of all you want to be setting a time limit to every task on your to do list. This allows your brain to see that there is a defined end point, even on the tasks you don’t enjoy.
Second, cut your estimated time so if you think something will take 25 minutes to complete, give yourself 20 minutes to complete it.
Setting time limits like this will keep you more focused and less prone to distractions.
8. Ask Others To Set Your Deadlines
I hope i’m not contradicting myself with number 7 on this one but here goes…
How many times have you set yourself a deadline and then not live up to it? I don’t know about you but I have done it countless times, typically unrealistic and rather optimistic deadlines too!
When you set yourself a deadline and don’t meet it, it prompts to guilt and feeling stressed, causing you to fall further behind.
Research shows that when other people set deadlines for you, you actually perform at a higher level and are less likely to procrastinate.
If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur get an accountability partner or ask you clients to set a reasonable deadline for you.
9. Be Accountable To Someone
We can leverage our need to avoid pain by getting an accountability partner.
When you’re accountable to someone you’ll usually get things done because you don’t want to let them down.
When I had a personal trainer at the gym I didn’t ever fail to get up at 5am and get to the gym because I knew someone was waiting for me and I didn’t want to let them down.
Whilst you can tell friends and family or post something on social media I think the best form of accountability comes from using websites like Beeminder or Stickk. These are websites where you have to pay the price for nothing completing your tasks.
Whilst they are a negative way to motivate yourself and I don’t recommend using this as a long term strategy, it can be the boost you need right now.
10. Leverage Your Peak Energy Times Of The Day
Your energy levels can affect your tendency to procrastinate so it’s worth identifying when your energy levels are are their peak to make the maximum use of that time.
To do this just keep a hourly log for 2 weeks, rating your energy level from 1-5 (with 5 being the highest).
Whilst it may sound so basic its something that you may never have considered, yet can make a massive difference.
11. Take Small Steps
Whatever project you have to do you’ll have a better chance of completing it if you break it down into its smallest steps.
It’s not that breaking things down will lesson the amount of work or time involved, but it will give you clarity and change your perspective.
When you focus on the small tasks rather than the big project you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed and you’ll also feel a great sense of accomplishment.
12. Get Rid Of Environmental Distractions
Most people think that distractions cause procrastination but its actually the other way around. We first choose to procrastinate and then look for a distraction to give our attention to.
If you’re in an environment where you don’t have many outlets for your attention you’ll just work because you’ll just deem it to be the best use of you time and attention. There will literally be nothing better to do.
I switched from working from home to working from a co-working space. It made a big difference to me actually getting things done because when I’m in that space I’m there to work. If I was at home I have so many things that I could give my attention to.
13. Get Rid Of Digital Distractions
Even worse than environmental distractions are digital distractions like social media and apps and that’s because these have been designed to be seductive and instantly gratifying.
A study conducted by Timothy Pychyl, author of Solving The Procrastination Puzzle, found that 47% of the time people spend online is spent procrastinating.
The best way to deal will digital distractions is simply to eliminate them. Cut them off completely. That means unplugging from the internet and turning off your phone.
14. Use A Time Block Method
I like the Pomodoro Technique and I highly advise you start using something similar.
Essentially you just want to work in focused blocks of time.
I will either do 25 minutes of focused worked with a 5 minute break or I will do 50 minutes of focused work with a 10 minute break. After a couple of sessions of intense focus I’ll take a longer break for 30 minutes.
Using a technique like this makes it easier to get started and will keep you more focused on the task at hand.
15. Purge The Negative Self Talk
If you’re anything like I used to be then then your negative self-talk is usually in the form of self-criticism to the point you pummel your self-esteem to nothing.
When you have low self-esteem it becomes difficult to act on anything worthwhile.
Lots of people, maybe even you included literally talk themselves out of doing things.
To remedy this the simplest method I have found is pick some positive affirmations about yourself and repeat them for 10 minutes in the morning in front of a mirror, whilst looking into your eyes.
I know that sounds a bit weird but I think just the commitment to stand in front of a mirror and look into your eyes as you say these statements gives them a lot of power.
It won’t make you feel good overnight but try it for 30 days and let me know how it goes.
Figure Out Why You’re Procrastinating
If you’ve been struggling to make progress on a goal for a while its worth taking the time to do some introspection and figuring out why you procrastinate.
As I mentioned before, whilst the tactics above are all great and are proven to work you’ll find things so much easier if you identify your limiting beliefs or whatever else is stopping you from taking action.
If you don’t then I know from my own experience that you’re very unlikely to even use the techniques above.
To get started on this process keep a small journal for 2 weeks and whenever you feel as though you’re about to procrastinate or realised that you did procrastinate just stop and ask yourself what’s preventing you from taking action in that moment.
This process is just a really simple method to help identify some patterns and triggers. Once you identify the trigger you can then take action to resolve it.
Did You Find These 15 Ways To Stop Procrastinating Useful?
I hope my 15 ways to stop procrastinating were useful and that you actually apply as many of them as you can immediately in your life.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you found this post useful please share it with others.