For those procrastinating while you should be working, this is a compilation of great tips people have sent us on how to overcome procrastination and be disciplined. Here’s the question I went out asking people:
For those who have successfully overcome their habit of procrastination, what would be your main tip you can share?
There were some fantastic responses to that, and I’ve listed and summarized the best ones below. Have a quick read through these points and I’m confident there will be at least 1 or 2 comments that will resonate with you and make a positive impact on your life, as long as you implement them.
- Stop relying on motivation, which is temporary, and focus on developing positive habits instead (link)
- Speaking of developing positive habits, the best way is by being consistent (link)
- Reward yourself (link, link)
- Commit to working only for 10 minutes, then after 10 minutes you’ll probably find it easy to continue (link, link)
- Keep a weekly goal journal (link)
- Write things down, break them up, and set actionable goals (link)
- Have just 1 priority that you focus on at a time (link)
- Aim to complete projects early (link)
- There are apps that can block you from time wasting websites, like StayFocusd (link) (EDITORS NOTE: I’ve used StayFocusd myself, and it works)
- Time management tools also work (link)
- When you’re stopping work, don’t stop at the end of a step, but stop right in the middle of something (such as in the middle of writing a sentence). Then when you have to start work again you’ll find it very easy to get going again (link)
- Stay on top of organization (link)
- Think of your life like a hotel, in terms of whatever rooms you don’t sell in a night you’ll never get back. This mindset will make you want to do everything you can each day, and not leave things till the next day (link)
- Think about this phrase: “Do something your future self will thank you for” (link)
- Start your day with the hardest task, one that you’d normally procrastinate on (link)
- Subject yourself to peer pressure by publicly stating your intention to complete a task (link)
- Always remember why you’re working (link)
- Stop rationalizing your laziness and fear (link)
- Procrastination can rise from perfectionism, so leave out trying to make things perfect until well you’re on track to finishing and ahead of schedule (link)
My number one tip for people struggling with procrastination is to stop relying on motivation to get things done. If you rely on motivation to do the important tasks in your life, you are bound to fail. So how do you do this? You do this by forcing yourself to develop a habit. Once the habit is developed, you will no longer feel the need to wait till you get the motivation to get stuff done. Think about it like how you don’t need motivation to eat or take a shower. It’s because you do it everyday that your mind no longer requires any motivation to execute it. The truth is that you can do this with anything. This may be difficult at that start but once you force yourself to develop a habit, you will realize that you are no longer waiting for the right time or the motivation to get things done. I have successfully formed habits that have saved me from being a slave to motivation. I hit the gym at 5 am everyday without thinking about how motivated I am or any other excuses.
--Mathew Abraham, Robot Powered Home
A good old reward system should do the trick. Self-reinforcement is scientifically proven to help increase a person's behavior. Get something done and then give yourself a reward, big or small, that you enjoy. It could be as simple as allowing yourself to play one round of your favorite mobile game after studying one chapter for an exam. This should help you overcome procrastination.
--Joe Wilson, MintResume
My #1 tip to overcoming procrastination is to set a timer for 10 minutes and only have to work on a task for that amount of time. By the time it goes off, you're either invested in it or you've made enough of a dent to make it easier to go back to later.
--Maggie Kelly, Organizing CU
The way I beat procrastination is through a weekly goal journal. By keeping track of your weekly goals you'll have a birds-eye view of your progress, which helps to keep you motivated and focused. As well as a visualization of how your current task will help your bigger picture. All it takes is 10 minutes on a Sunday night. Define what your #1 goal for the week is, and write that out at the top. You can even include progress checkpoints (i.e. if you need to study 10 lectures, then write out 1-10, and cross each out as you go). Below that include any 'Bonus' goals as check boxes. These are like a to-do list - not your main focus, but great if you get them done.
I run a content marketing business, and these journals are key to help me keep on top of things. I track everything in a quality notebook that I carry with me everywhere. It's a process I picked up from my old boss - the company CEO and one of the most productive people I've ever met.
Here's an example from my weekly goals journal.
--Mike Greenberg, Mythology Source
I am managing a team and as a leader, this is the best way to discourage procrastination among individuals: REWARD. We can also do this strategy the same way we want to grant a reward to ourselves after a hard day’s work (or no matter how small an accomplishment is).
Rewards for such positive action don't need to be grand but make sure to provide a stimulus that would encourage them to work on their designated tasks. Say, for instance, you can offer a free gift card for those who would be able to submit projects earlier or a commendation of that particular person while in a meeting.
I apply this same strategy to myself. I make sure to reward myself every time I manage to accomplish something. It could be in the form of a movie at night, a burger, or a single purchase at a mall. However, when you do this to yourself, keep in mind that you need to observe consistency to maintain your mindset of “receiving” a reward after a positive action such as fighting procrastination.
--Oliver Baker, Intelivita
The best tip I have to overcome procrastination is to be consistent. This means studying/working at the same time and doing so for the same number of hours every single day.
Making this a habit is the best to overcome procrastination because the action of studying/working at that time for that certain number of hours becomes so automated that you automatically do so without much thought.
Furthermore, when the time comes when you always start studying/working, your brain switches to 'study mode' or 'work mode' immediately. As a result, you become more focused, efficient and productive.
--Clovis Chow, TimeOrganizeStudy
I struggled with chronic anxiety for nearly two decades and during those years I procrastinated a lot. Since overcoming anxiety I've learned that procrastination is in fact a common problem for many people suffering from anxiety-related conditions.
That's because anxiety is characterized by excessive worry and fear, symptoms that are likely to cause and worsen procrastination.
People also procrastinate because of low-confidence, distractions, and low-value.
Taking all of that into consideration, the no. 1 tip to overcome procrastination is to write it down, break it up, and set actionable goals.
If you write down your end goal, then think about interim steps, and set actionable mini-goals, you can stay focused, start to see value in what you are doing, and create a clear plan of action to prove to yourself that it can be done realistically. This can help you overcome procrastination and relieve anxiety.
--Sandra Glavan, Amosuir
A significant part of procrastination is mislabeling priorities. My suggestion is to have one priority. Just one. Everything else is not a priority. The definition of priority is a thing that is regarded as more important than another and by that definition, you can't have multiple priorities.
When you tick off that priority, then something else rises to fill that space. I personally look to spend a minimum of half my time each week on my top priority. If it's something I finish, then I pick up the next item on the list. Things might change and I have to pivot, but clear communication with your manager should let you know exactly what is top priority. At the end of the day, I ask myself if I've put enough time toward the one priority. If not, I make sure to block out time the next day, no excuses.
--Stephanie McDonald, Zapier
My best tip for overcoming procrastination is to build a mindset - that you will complete the task or project assigned to you 24-48 hours before the deadline. It is a good practice as you will have enough time if revision is needed. Set up multiple alarms or reminders if necessary. When you get used to the flow, you’ll realize how rewarding it is, feeling that you accomplished things - and that you are always on top of your tasks.
--Steve Johnson, Boot Mood Foot
GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA… the biggest barrier to productivity
One of my favorite productivity/ organizational hacks comes with the help of an app called Stay Focusd. When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10 minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.
--Lori Cheek, Cheekd
I have always had a hard time getting started, once I get started on something, really anything I can get on a good roll but taking that first step is always the hardest. About a year ago I stumbled on a trick that seems counter intuitive but I promise it works. When you stop working for the day or even when you are stopping to take a break, don't stop at the end of a step, stop in the middle of doing something. For example if you are writing a blog post, instead of taking the break at the end of a section stop mid sentence. If you are doing wood working and have to cut 20 pieces to length, stop at 15. The trick here is that when you get back to work you have an easy spot to start up. You already know what you are doing and you just have to finish it. By the time you get to the end of what you were doing, you will be on a roll and can carry that momentum into the next task.
--Dave Morley, Rockstar Recruiting
Set up a goal - ten minutes of work for one hour of doing other stuff. I know what you're thinking - How is that a solution?! Ten minutes isn't enough to do anything!
But that's just it! While ten minutes aren't enough to do whatever it is you need to do, it's more than enough to get you into the groove of getting to work. And in my experience, the key to beating procrastination is to get the ball rolling - once you start working and get into the groove, you forget all about any other distractions.
Do I still find myself procrastinating from time to time? Yes, I'm only human, after all. But it's much, much better than it was before. And, at the end of the day, you shouldn't beat yourself over the head about goofing off from time to time. You just need to make sure it doesn't affect your life in a negative way. And the Ten minutes of work method has definitely helped me in that regard.
--Velin Dragoev, KeenFighter
In my experience working with clients of all ages, procrastination is directly linked to whether or not we believe our actions to be aligned with our goals.
When we have a clear goal and see a clear path towards it, we are more likely to feel inspired and motivated to take the right actions. But, when we lack focus, when our goals feel out of reach, or when we don't have a clear vision for what we want to achieve, no action feels right. This causes us to procrastinate, as we (often unconsciously) don't really believe our work will have the impact we want.
Given that frame of reference, it is easy to see why we're procrastinating more now. With everyone stuck at home, and the world seemingly in a state of constant chaos, it becomes difficult to believe that we are, in fact, still moving towards our goals. When we confront this belief day in and day out, it drains us, and we become physically unable to take the right actions.
The solution is to step back, clear our minds, and reset our intentions. There are many exercises for doing this, including many great meditation and mindfulness practices. When we can clear our minds of the negative clutter, we start to see ourselves in relation to our goals once again, and we are more likely to feel motivated to take productive action.
--Kyle Greenfield, The Joy Within
To avoid procrastination, my number 1 tip is to have your time management tool. It will let you view all your tasks/projects, and you can manage what is to be of high or less priority. What I use is Todoist - and I like the feature that it will keep sending a notification if the deadline is near or if you are already overdue on a project.
--Dave Pedley, yourcub.com
My main habit for overcoming procrastination is staying on top of organization. To achieve ultimate organization, I like to break up my schedule by category. I time batch all of my meetings back to back to eliminate unnecessary distractions and breaks. Once I'm finished with my meetings, I move onto my tasks for the day. I try to spend a certain amount of time on each task every day. It's vital to keep pushing each project along instead of getting caught up on just one. Having a strong team around me that challenges me and keeps me going is inspiring. It helps to keep me on my toes, avoid cabin fever, and break up the day a bit. More importantly, remembering to remain positive, starting my day with some positive affirmations goes a long way.
--Brandon Monaghan, Miracle Brand
A habit I have applied to my daily work routine to help with overcoming procrastination is to run my business like a hotel. Whatever rooms I didn’t sell last night I will never get back, no matter how many rooms I sell tomorrow. Meaning I should never leave anything I can do today for tomorrow. I have learned throughout my career to finish my work before going home, never leaving it for the next day. This method allows me to prioritize my work and work effectively throughout the day. Once I am done with my work, I am able to check out and have a clear piece of mind knowing that I worked my hardest and finished everything to the best of my abilities.
--Jonathan Bass, Whom Home
In work and in other aspects of life, sometimes I struggle to push through boring tasks before I can move on to the more fun and exciting aspects of a project, so I procrastinate. A particular phrase gives me the kick in the pants I need to avoid procrastination:
Do something your future self will thank you for.
Since we procrastinate out of perceived self-interest, or the avoidance of pain or discomfort, trying on this thought reminds me that if I don't push through now, I'll inevitably need to face it later. It's in the best interest of future me to do it now!
--Rebecca Graham, Best Company
My tip on overcoming procrastination when it comes to work specifically is to start your day with your hardest task that you would procrastinate on. It will take the decision-making aspect out of if you should tackle it or not if you just make that your routine. Then once it's behind you, even if you just knock out a portion of the task, the rest of your day is less daunting and you're less likely to procrastinate throughout the day.
--Andrea Barnhill, Socratik
My number one tip for overcoming procrastination is to subject yourself to peer pressure. Publically state to colleagues your intention to complete a task you really don't want to do - or face their judgment if you don't! My work associates regularly practice this on our in-house chat groups - and it works!
--Jenny Abouobaia, Clever Touch Marketing
Without further ado, hope you keep this in mind: ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR WHYs. This is an inner voice that would keep you grinding and bustling even the days are gray and redundant. Why are you working? To put food on your family's plate, to pay the bills, to avoid loans and debts, to save for emergencies and the list goes on. Why are you studying well? To achieve great marks, to retain your scholarship, to have a good position in the internship, to attract future work opportunities, etc. We all have our WHYs, our reasons. Always remember them to fuel your passion for gettings things done properly on time. Let us remember that we cannot touch the same water twice, an hour wasted is a time you cannot return. It doesn't mean that we're fanatic, we just know our priorities and set things not behind, but ahead of time to get things under control.
--Owen Drury, ODDigital
The best tip I can offer is to stop rationalizing your laziness and fear.
Every time I procrastinate, it’s because I’ve convinced myself that something else is more important. For instance, I’m very guilty of convincing myself that I didn’t sleep well enough the night before, which gives me the excuse to sit on the couch for an extra hour in the morning.
In reality, it’s just fun to sit on the couch. It’s warm, cozy, and doesn’t require any efforts.
I’ve rationalized my fear a lot throughout my life, too. For years I wanted to quit my job and start my own business, but I always ended up convincing myself that I didn’t have what it takes to run a business. Turns out, I do!
Learn how to spot those rationalizations. You have to be very in tune with your internal dialogue, and you have to know how to force yourself to make moves when your brain is trying to prevent you from doing so. But once you can do that, it’s much easier to overcome procrastination.
--Lorie Anderson, Mom Informed
I've noticed that for a lot of us, procrastination comes from the reach of perfection more than laziness. Imagine having this big task ahead, and wanting every single detail to be impeccable... until you have so many things to think about that you get discouraged and fall out of action!
My advice is to set a clear goal, cut your projects into smaller bits, prioritize the most impactful actions, and focus on what brings you closer to your goal. Only when you're on track and ahead of time can you go back in to review and improve your work.
Look at your reach of perfection as a way to reward yourself for respecting your schedule, not as a necessity!
--Marie-Helene Couette, Didacte
It might sound a little crazy, but gamification is a huge motivator for me. Basically, I turn my work day into a game or a mission. I admit... sometimes it takes some imagination. But, let's say I have 10 things on my to-do list for the day. Once i have completed two items off that list, I tell myself that my day's "mission" is 20% complete. Then, I reward myself with a 10 minute break, a snack or reading a few news stories from my favorite news outlet. Every time I complete 2 or 3 to-dos, I consider that "a level beaten," and I reward myself again. In a video game, you might get rewarded with bonus points or extra lives. In real-life, a yummy iced coffee or a walk around the block works for me. Once I've reached 100% completion, I have won the day! I don't always win either, we all "lose" sometimes. But, there's always tomorrow. And, that's the fun of the game!
--Jessica Wise, HelpSquad
Now GET BACK TO WORK!