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How to stop procrastinating. Best tips backed by science.

pro-cras-ti-na-tion noun: the action of delaying or postponing something

Almost everyone procrastinates at some point or in some areas of their life. And so, most of us ask ourselves the same question: “how to stop procrastinating?” Of course – we are all different – we face different situations and have different reactions to them. Something to keep in mind is that there’s a thin line between occasional reluctance and having a problem with proceeding any further. When we do something on occasion, it really seems safe. With the habit of procrastinating, though, your risk an emotional spiral of self-doubt, shame, and the feeling of failure. It might impact your self-worth too.

Speaking about different kinds of situations. There are the ones that are about deadlines – we have to write a paper, finish up the yearly taxes, or our project is due in 2 weeks. But there are also ones without a specific deadline date. Those couFOLLOW-UPld be: taking care of our health, working on our relationship, trying to find out what we want in life, etc.

Somehow the deadline makes everything a bit easier because the majority of people out there usually get it together sooner or later. Because they have to. Otherwise, there are consequences. The deadline is the end of some sort, and after that finish line – the tension drops, and one can proceed with other challenges. With the lesson learned. Or not.

The ‘non-deadline’ situations are much more tricky. Sometimes people struggle throughout their life wanting to change something. And those can be dramatic stories. Often ending up with anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and all sorts of psychosomatic symptoms.

Of course, the goal of this article isn’t and can’t be – to heal people. But if at least one person will use any of those tips and thoughts on procrastination – I’ll have succeeded.

Gathered below, you’ll find some summaries grouped into REASONS, TIPS, and FOLLOW-UP TIPS. Go ahead and give it a read:

So why do we procrastinate?

The most common REASONS are:

  1. Out of fear (of the unknown) or that the end product of your work will not be perfect. In most cases, it only has to be good enough, but this concept isn’t finding acceptance from many.

  2. You expect the project to require a lot from you, and you realize it will be hard work, and you try to escape this.

  3. It’s unclear to you how to start.

  4. You don’t have your priorities straight. If you’re building your own company – you can forget about Netflix for a while. Your leisure in the amounts you’re used to will have to wait. First things first – because that’s how it’s done.

  5. You get distracted easily. (Social media, other people, your own thoughts)

  6. You choose to do simple chores/tasks. Because they are easy. But in fact, it’s just another form of avoiding your main or most problematic task.

  7. You lack motivation. Because you don’t really want to do it, because you don’t have your priorities straight, but also due to stress, fatigue, or previous unsuccessful experiences with this task.

  8. You decided to do too much too soon, and very quickly, you get overwhelmed and discouraged, unable to do much more.

Willpower might not work. But the systems do.


So here we go. What you may want to do intellectually:

  1. Know yourself and your priorities – that’s BASIC. You have to know:

  2. Your goals – what you want to achieve – whether it is to finish school, to be rich and famous;), to build a house, or anything else. You have to know where you’re headed.

  3. The purpose of what you’re doing. As long as you can connect it to your goal – you’re golden.

  4. Time at which you’re most productive. (You may be the one working best in the morning, or rather at night). And finally:

  5. Methods that work for you, that fit your personality and your lifestyle.

Next up: Tips on the actual work:

  1. JUST SHOW UP. I’d argue – this one is the one to rule them all;). It has a lot in common with the 5-second rule actually:) You just have to show up. You don’t need to be perfect, finish up, or excel in everything every time. But if you do show up – you have started – everything already seems more manageable, doesn’t it?

  2. How to eat an elephant? – I absolutely love this epic question and the answer to it is even better: Q: “How to eat an elephant”? People usually say – “it can’t be done, it’s too big, its skin is too thick, I don’t have all the necessary tools” and so on and so on. All valid responses, but the brilliant answer is: A: “It’s easy. One bite at a time.” That’s it! Baby steps. You don’t have to do it all at once. If you are to write a book – how about starting with one page? If you are to declutter your home – how about starting with that one drawer? One bite at a time!

  3. LISTS. Everyone knows them, right? And we should do them – by all means. Spend 5 minutes each evening and plan the next day. Spend another 20 minutes weekly and plan your week or further. It’ll help enormously! Just remember that most procrastinations love their lists. They sound so easy and doable. Coming up with the list is not the problem. Sticking with it is;) Also, there’s even more to the lists than most people think. Amazing facts about our brains might be of use here. You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon called a self-fulfilling prophecy. It may happen with our planning as well. If you haven’t done everything as scheduled – you might start being discouraged. It would not be a catastrophe if it happened once. But if it’s a regular thing,  you start to be convinced there’s something wrong with you. If, on the other hand, you’re able to see the list of the things you have done this day or this week, now that’s a different story. You may be a stay-at-home parent, who didn’t manage to clean the whole house and bake some more of that fresh bread everyone loves. But you did three rounds of laundry, some shopping, played with your kids, sent out some invitations, answered some emails, and so on and so on. You’d be surprised how much credit you DON’T give yourself. So why not consider WRITING DOWN what you did that day? I call this one “The DONE list”.

  4. 2-minute rule. If a task takes you only 2 minutes – do it now – not tomorrow, not in June – now – immediately. When you’ve eaten, put the plate in the dishwasher – not in the sink – you’re saving yourself sometime later on. When you undress, get your clothes to the laundry/ closet – not on the floor or that fabulous armchair of yours. It’s the little things. If you don’t let them pile up – you’ll be amazed to notice how much it relieves you of all the stress.

  5. The frog rule. Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Ain’t that true? The sooner, the better. First – start, then you’re done with it.

  6. Pomodoro technique. It is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It works great until you successfully create a new HABIT. You may use the original Pomodoro, or Forest apps – they are based on the same concept. Forrest also has an environmental component to it. The more time you spend focused, the more points you gain. After you reach a certain number of points, the folks from Forest will plant an actual tree for you – in real life.

– here’s a POMODORO link for Mac users:  and one for PC users.

– here you have the FOREST app for Mac OS

  1. 5-second rule – If you suddenly felt like doing one of the items on your list – you have 5 seconds to make it work. Otherwise, your procrastinating brain is going to flip on you and start making excuses. You start thinking it wasn’t such a good idea after all, and you’ll pass.

  2. Choose to love failure and success equally. Well – try;) We all fail from time to time. That’s how the game is played – no denying it. If you try (to deny it) – you’re on your way to procrastinating – because you go straight to the perfectionists’ team. If, on the other hand, you’ll treat the failures as valuable lessons of how to perform better, and how to prepare better – you’re on your way to succeeding more.

  3. Acknowledge that the difference between who you are and who you want to be is in what you do. It’s simple as that. You can talk for hours on end about how you’ll one day make it, how your business will bloom, and what an amazing parent you’ll be. One day. In the meantime – it’s just not happening. Fewer words – more action.

  4. Ask for help with something especially challenging; nobody said you had to do it yourself – all the way through.

  5. Come up with a small prize for yourself – because why not? It’s all in the brain. I’m not encouraging you to get a designer bag every time you do your laundry or write a page. I’m merely suggesting to recognize what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a phone call with a friend or an episode of your fav show – it might be worth your while. (As long of course as those prizes don’t take up more of your time than the actual work you’re doing;)

  6. Meditate regularly – or maybe even right before you start working? You can read some more about it HERE.

How to stay on top of your game?

Now that you have all those tips, you probably know that using them once or twice won’t change much. You need to START USING them – and only that will FORM A HABIT. Then and only then will you be able to improve your productivity, move closer to accomplishing your goals, and relieve some of that stress. But that’s not everything. Our brains are getting bored easily. We need to refresh our knowledge and our skills; otherwise, the same old schemes will bore us, and eventually, we might fall off the wagon. The best way to do this – to keep that brain of ours interested – is:

  • to stay inspired – watch ted talks, read books and blogs, know who your inspiring people are, and stick to them.

Speaking of inspiration – there’s this person – Tim Urban – you may want to see his TED talk:)


Do you procrastinate? Do you want to address that?

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