How to Stop Procrastinating
By Ladies Get Paid Founder & Author Claire Wasserman. Follow Claire for more career tips, or purchase The Ladies Get Paid book. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Tips to Complete Your Tasks
I am the world’s worst procrastinator. Or maybe the world’s best? Either way, I’m extremely good at it, and I desperately wish I wasn’t. It may come as a surprise to some of you since from the outside, I look like I’ve accomplished quite a few things. And I have! But the moaning, groaning, and self-flagellating it took to get all those things done was not pleasant. I’ve always struggled with procrastination, but the pandemic really kicked it up a notch (or three). That being said, the best thing to come out of the worst experience is that I finally learned how to stop procrastinating. Will I always struggle with it? Probably. Do I now have the tools to deal with it better? Yep. And now you do, too.
Here are 11 tips to learn how to stop procrastinating:
1. Ask yourself the why
To learn how to stop procrastinating, you first need to learn why you’re procrastinating. Start by tracking when, where, and how you procrastinate. You’ll discover patterns of thought, behavior, and modes of distraction that you can now create action plans to address.
2. Break down your task into micro-tasks
Microproductivity is a proven way to stop procrastinating. The concept is to break down tasks into a long list of very small tasks that you accomplish quickly. Not only will it make things less daunting and easier to get started, but your brain will also give you a sweet, sweet hit of dopamine each time you complete a task.
3. Visualize yourself completing your task
Research shows that visualizing yourself doing something, it will train your brain to learn how to actually do it efficiently IRL. Next time you need to stop procrastinating, close your eyes, and create a mental image of yourself completing your task. For example, today I sat down at my desk with my cup of coffee, closed my eyes, and imagined myself finishing this blog post. You’re sitting here reading it, so I guess it worked!
4. Block things off on your calendar
Timeblocking is a powerful way to stop procrastinating. By blocking your tasks out on your calendar, you’ll manage your time more efficiently, and set boundaries so you won’t be interrupted and break your momentum.
5. Be realistic about how long things actually take
I tend to start feeling bad and lose steam when something is taking me longer than I expected. Before starting any project or task, be honest with yourself about how long it will take you to accomplish, and add buffer time so that you don’t feel defeated if you don’t finish on time.
6. Remind yourself of your “why”
If you can remind yourself of a compelling inner motivation, like reminding yourself you want to ask for a promotion or provide for your family, you’ll find it easier to follow through.
7. Keep a “done” list and plan out how you’ll reward yourself along the way
I keep all my to-do’s in Todoist, but keep my priorities next to me on Post-it. (Nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing shift off with a Sharpie). Not to compare us to dogs, but we learn easier with treats! Reinforce your positive behavior by planning when, what, and how you’ll reward yourself. If it’s a long project, don’t wait until you’re done, you need some encouragement along the way.
8. Get an accountability buddy
Studies show that people are 65% more likely to complete their goals when they share them with another person. Your accountability buddy can be a friend, family member, or coworker, or you can use an online platform to find someone to share your goals with. Make sure to hammer down what your specific goal is, a timeframe, and how you’ll check in with each other.
I am OBSESSED with Focus Mate. You sign up for 25 or 50-minute time slots and get paired with a random person. You state your goals for the session, decide if you want to keep your camera and mic on, and then when the alarm goes off, you check back in and share your progress. It’s super simple but has been game-changing in terms of my procrastination and productivity. Plus, I’ve met people from Shanghai, Augusta, Oakland, Casablanca, Berlin, London, and Berlin!
9. Set 25 or 50-minute time limits
Setting a time limit makes your tasks easier to manage and stop procrastinating. Setting time constraints helps you to be more efficient and focused, and will ensure you’re taking the appropriate amount of time to finish a task. 25 and 50-minute sprints are proven time limits for increasing how quickly you get your tasks done.
10. Count backward from five
This tip is from Mel Robbins who discovered that counting backward – 5-4-3-2-1 – is an extremely helpful way of forcing her to take action. And yes, we do mean like when you watch NASA launching a rocket. Action begets action, and will jump-start your momentum. Capitalize on that brief moment before your brain starts to override your decision, and get in your flow!
By implementing these 11 tips, you’ll stop procrastinating, complete your tasks, and feel accomplished at the end of every day.
11. Stop beating yourself up
You can’t muscle your way through to motivation. Why? Because procrastination isn’t about lack of self-control, it’s actually about self-preservation. Hear me out. Whether it’s in the form of a tedious task, or the potential for rejection, avoiding something is avoiding pain. And so yelling at yourself like drill sergeant isn’t going to do anything but make you feel bad. Instead, treat yourself with compassion and use these times of procrastination as an opportunity to better understand yourself and what you need to do, be, and feel better.
Now that you’ve learned how to stop procrastinating, let’s take it another step further and improve your productivity. Check out our How to Be Productive Office Hours with Claire Wasserman on the Ladies Get Paid YouTube Channel.