7 ways to move beyond procrastination

Almost everyone is held down by what some call the silent killer. Procrastination strikes everywhere. We all want to avoid the pain or discomfort of doing something we feel is boring, stupid, pointless, hard, complicated, risky, possibly really emotionally painful and so on.

But even though we know that we will have to do it eventually and that we're just deluding ourselves we still put it of. Often with reasons we know deep down are weak and we really just made up. We get stuck in a vicious circle of doing too little of both what we want and what we don't want. We get stuck. Here are 7 ways to squash procrastination and move forward.

1. Recognize that there is more pain in procrastinating than not.

If you have procrastinated a lot (like me) you might have discovered that:

You procrastinate to avoid doing something that is boring, hard or something like that. You want to avoid that pain.

But after having some experience with procrastination you'll probably realize that procrastination itself causes your more pain than actually just doing what you were supposed to. Realizing the true amount of pain in the two choices will make it easier to get things done.

2. Force yourself to do it before you really absolutely have do.

And your self-esteem will go up. And the next time you feel like procrastinating remember that you forced yourself, but that you felt better when it was done. There was a nice reward when you were done. Whenever you feel like procrastinating remember this to get you to start moving forward.

3. Create a flow.

Instead of doing nothing, begin with doing something. Clean your desk, take out the garbage, wash the dishes. Just stack a couple of simple actions to create a flow, a momentum. When you're in the flow, in that forward motion, getting started with what you have to do will be much easier. Also, cleaning up can get you too feel more motivated. A messy work-environment seems to often reinforce procrastination.

4. Get some leverage.

Sometimes we procrastinate on things that aren't just dull tasks in the office or school. Maybe you are stuck, not able to take the next step fearing some deep personal pain. If you are thinking about changing jobs or career or taking a next step in a relationship you are probably focusing on what could go wrong. Instead, get some leverage to both push and pull yourself forward.

How to: Take a pen and a piece of paper. Write down as many things as you can come up with that you will miss out on, not just now but the next few years if you don't take this step now. Really dig down into yourself and feel that pain that you will feel not just tomorrow but in a year and the next five or ten years.

Then write down all positive and wonderful things you will experience if you take this decision and move forward to where you want to go. Think about them and write down all those things you will experience and feel, not just in the next few days but in one year, in two, in five years or ten. Get the stick and the carrot to work for you. And put the problem in a longer time perspective to really give it an emotional punch.

5. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

Don't look at everything you have to do. One of the common sources of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. Break it down into smaller tasks. Write them down as a list on a piece of paper. Focus on just getting that one small task or part of the big thing done. Then move on to the next. Take it one step at a time and don't think about the rest. Before you know it you'll be half way there.

6. Change your beliefs.

The problems that repeatedly put you into a procrastinating state might disappear if you change your view on reality. Examine your beliefs. Ask yourself if you could see things in a more beneficial and effective way for yourself.

Realize you can choose you beliefs about yourself and the world. The past is not the future. You don't have to hang to limiting beliefs based on past experiences if you don't want to. You are here right now and you choose and can change your habits.

7. Make a small deal with yourself.

Here is an effective one I first heard from Ed Bliss (well, actually now that I think about it I probably first heard it from a teacher back in school about ten years ago. It kinda rings a bell).

Here's how you go about it: Promise yourself that you'll work on something for just 5 minutes. After those 5 minutes you can do something else if you want to. But make a note on your schedule when you will come back to the task and work another 5 minutes with it. As Bliss notes, not matter how unpleasant a task may be, you can often talk yourself into working 5 minutes on it.

I've found this one to be effective to make a dent in those tasks you have put of for a longer while. After you're done with those first 5 minutes the next 5 minutes will feel a little easier. And after that the next 5 minutes will feel even easier. Or maybe you raise the bar to 10 minutes of work. Getting some actual work done on that task, if only for 5 minutes, gives you a rush of exhilaration. Making a game out of how much work you can get done in those 5 minutes can also be a small but in its own way fun challenge.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Join the 80,000 people that subscribe to the Positivity Newsletter and you’ll get practical tips on happiness, self-esteem, productivity and more each week.

You’ll also get these three guides for free:

  • 21 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School.
  • 7 Steps to Stop Being So Lazy.
  • 10 Things You Can Do When Life Sucks.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • opus_orangerie

    damn neat an article…………..

    i have A.D.H.D. i often end up procrasting after not being able to focus on one activity properly.i’d be glad if you could let me know more info to avoid procrastinating.
    the worry being i’m great with the iq factor but my mind refuses to settle in one place.

  • Procrastinator

    I should have been doing homework but I read your article. Good or bad? :P

  • I suffered a frontal lobe brain injury years ago and my short
    term memory gets hooped from time to time leading me to
    procrastinate as I just don’t know where to start. The 5 minute
    increment idea is one I can certainly get on board with right
    away. They are all super. Thank you so much.

  • Joe

    I’ll read this article later.

  • Great post, I personally use number 5 a lot. Im currently writing a new post for my web site that I just cant seem to get done.

    Sometimes when a task seems daunting you just don’t want to do it, but if you make a commitment to do a little each day you will accomplish it.

  • Rain

    most of your article are good.. but i am thinking, is it true that those person who learn and expert about the where they sound expert when he himself are victim of it in many ways also until they find out the answer.. and whenever they write an article about it, it was like he is writing it for himself.. well just a thought…

  • Procrastination is the largest contributor to lost productivity and missed deadlines. Create a daily schedule for yourself which outlines routine tasks that must be done on each day. By setting up a specific time of day or week to complete these tasks, you will no longer have them hanging over your head, nor will you have to worry that you could inadvertently forget about them, and their deadlines would come and go.

  • Dude, you write some great articles. I take inspiration from them. Thanks

  • thanks for sharing this! i badly need it. :)

  • Sheldon

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll try these and see if they work

  • This is an awesome article, especially tip 7! In my life I’ve always had a different way to end procastination that looks a lot like tip 7, but is kinda different. I think it will complement this article, read it at: http://thenewscienceofhappiness.blogspot.com/2009/09/warmup-principle-how-to-end.html

    (in that article I gave you credit by the way as inspiration because this article inspired me to clear out my thoughts on this subject)

  • Thanks for the tips. I’ll try these and see if they work

  • Jasmine fernandes

    thanks for the info… i really like them.. very useful