≡ Menu

Do You Make These 3 Common Mistakes and Get Lost in Procrastination?

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.”
Martin Luther

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
Karen Lamb

Year after year, one of the most common question people email me about is this one:

“How can I stop procrastinating?”

I am no stranger to procrastination either. I used to do it a ton when I was in college and my results, stress levels, self-esteem and happiness suffered for it.

So today I would like to share three common mistakes that I did every week back then and what to do about them.

1. You overload your to-do list.

One very common reason why you may procrastinate that that the to-do list for your day is endless. You take one look at it and feel an itch inside of you to just run away. To escape. And so you procrastinate because you can’t even see an end to all the things you have to do.

What to do instead:

To overcome this issue you have to limit your list.

Make it really short – 2-3 of the most important tasks –- and just focus on doing them and you’ll reduce those urges to procrastinate a whole lot.

So how do you reduce and unclutter the to-do list to just the most important tasks?

I usually ask myself this question:

What would I work on if I only had 2 hours for work today?

Or this one:

If I was just told that I had to go away for a vacation tomorrow and it would last for a whole week then what would I spend today doing?

Try them both and see which one works the best for you.

2. You don’t break projects or tasks down into smaller steps.

When you look at a big essay or report you have to write or a 3-month long project you need to get done then it is easy to feel overwhelmed and to give into the urge to escape onto Reddit or Facebook.

What to do instead:

Break it down. Break down your essay or project into small steps. Then just focus on taking action on one small step. When you are done with that step move on to the next one and focus on only doing that small step until it is done. The small steps will add up quickly.

If you still wind up in procrastination while trying to get started with that one small step then set a small time limit.

Focus on writing for just 5 minutes on your essay. Or spend 5 minutes on creating the plan for how the project will work.

If the 5 minute commitment still makes you procrastinate don’t beat yourself up. Take an even smaller step instead and just work for one or two minutes.

Do what you need to do to get started.

Because getting started is – in my experience – the hardest part. After that it is usually pretty easy to keep working and to find some enthusiasm in the task. Or at least in the fact that you are moving forward and will pretty soon be done with the small step you are on right now.

3. You don’t put up limits for the obvious sources of distraction.

If you make it too easy to escape onto Facebook, your favorite forum or into your inbox to see if something new is going on there then you’ll probably spend a fair amount of time procrastinating in those places.

What to do instead:

Set limits and create a small ritual.

I bunch all of my checking of email, Facebook, Twitter etc. to one small session at the end of my workday. I do all the checking and replying in those places once a day.

Am I able to do this every day? Nope. But I do it maybe during 90% of my workdays. And that prevents a whole lot of procrastinating.

Also, if possible, try working early in your day with no internet connection at all. I usually try to get an hour or two of writing done in the morning before I even connect my computer to the internet.

If you procrastinate quite a bit via your cell phone then put it in your bottom drawer while working. Or if possible, put it in silent mode and then place it in another room and just check it a couple of times a day while you work.

You can also remove your favorite places from your bookmarks and favorite apps for procrastinating from your smart phone. By doing this you won’t have your favorite procrastinating places staring back at you whenever you use your browser or phone.

And it becomes a little harder to reach favorite websites – you have to punch in the address in your browser – than it used to be. It might not sound like much but I have found that these small obstacles have also helped me to reduce procrastination online in the past few years.

Image by anieto2k (license).

Print Friendly
If You Enjoyed This Article, Get Email Updates (it’s Free)

Join over 71,794 awesome subscribers today and get practical happiness tips and personal development advice in your inbox.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margaret May 2, 2013, 2:01 am

    Procrastination – the word still rings in my ears after more than 50 years – because it was one of my father’s favorite ‘prods’ when we looked like we were doing nothing. ‘Procrastination is the thief of Time’ he would regularly chide.

    Not sure how effective it was then but I do appreciate your comments on doing things better now. Personally I think that there are way too many distractions clamoring for our attention in this modern world. Many of which have little or no value but unless you have an effective filtering mechanism they all take a small but finite time to process – and then the day is gone.

    For a more humorous but very relevant dissertation on procrastination I recommend reading A.A. Milne’s poem ‘The Old Sailor’ from the Christopher Robin/Winnie The Pooh book ‘Now We Are Six’ – and incidentally my copy is dated 1948 so the problem has always been around.

    It starts with
    ‘There once was an old sailor my grandfather knew
    Who had so many things which he wanted to do…’

    And ends with

    ‘And so in the end he did nothing at all,
    But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl…’

    The intervening lines are worth your time to read.

  • Rosie May 2, 2013, 7:52 pm

    I constantly have to battle procrastination. I’m getting good at pushing my self. My goals always spur me to take action.

  • Shari May 3, 2013, 3:03 am

    I am so glad I found your site. I am the Master of Procrastination, which I am not proud of. Thanks for the tips. I’m starting now. Really.

Want to Make a Real Change in Your Life?

Then join over 71,794 people and sign up for the free Positivity Newsletter. You’ll get 2-3 emails per week on how to:

- Live a Happier and Simpler Life.
- Boost Your Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence.
- Reduce Stress and Get The Most Important Things Done.
- Improve Your Social Skills and Relationships.

Your information will not be shared. You can unsubscribe at any time.