9 Tips to Overcome Procrastination

Wendy LoewenPersonal Growth1 Comment

procrastination - time management

What things are you a pro at avoiding? Or more gently said, what things do you mentally move to tomorrow? What are the tasks you should do that you just don’t seem to find the time for, the will for, or the interest in doing?

We all have our list. These are the things we find a way to justify into the realm of some day, or at least not right now. If they happen to also be the things you should be doing, then you just might be a procrastinator.

According to Joseph Ferrari, an expert on procrastination, there are 5 markers of a procrastinator. Read them and see how you fare.


Do you…

  • over-estimate the time you have to do a task?
  • under-estimate the time to get the task done?
  • think you will be more motivated tomorrow, next week, or next month?
  • believe that to do a task, you need to feel like it?
  • think your work will be suboptimal if you are not in the work mode?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, then you may be a procrastinator. 20% of the population believes they are chronic procrastinators, so you are not alone.

Unfortunately, this knowledge doesn’t make procrastinating any better: stuff still isn’t getting done. How do we tackle our own lack of get-to-it-ness?

Here are a few nudges to help us overcome procrastinating.

1. Start

Begin. Anything that moves you in the direction of the task. Open the file; walk into the room; initiate the conversation; just begin. Interesting how far we get when we make a start. The jobs we never start are the same ones we are sure not to finish.

Once we start, we are in a proactive stance. We are engaging. The first step is a big part in overcoming procrastination.

2. Have Goals

Know what you need to do. Once you have identified the tasks, identify the payoff for getting them done. Add to this the finish line, the date or time you will complete the task, and now you are beginning to make headway. Complete your goal setting by allocating the time it will take to complete, double the time you think it will take, and now you are making good inroads.

Goal: Painting the home office
Payoff: Welcoming place to work
Date: This weekend
Time: Saturday 9 am – 2 pm + Sunday 1 pm – 6 pm

3. Don’t Over-Commit to Other People

Keep your commitments to yourself and the goals you set. Some of us struggle with saying no to others and end up taking on too much. Sometimes it is out of the desire to help others; sometimes it is because we fear being rejected or thought of as incompetent.

If you find yourself constantly saying yes to other people, you will inevitably be saying no to your own goals and putting off what you need to do.

4. Be Honest

If you are putting off tasks that you know you shouldn’t, be truthful and acknowledge this. We often tell ourself half-truths that keep us from looking at our lack of initiative.

I’m just too swamped.
My boss gave me the task last minute.
Someone else would do a better job. I’ll get to it later.

The fact is, it is on our plate and we are not getting it done.

5. Keep Emotions Out of It

Procrastination can be understood as the natural act of deferring a negative experience for that of a more pleasurable one. Believing that we will feel like it later is delusional. If it is a task we don’t like, we may never feel like it.

Productivity is not always about feeling like it, it is about doing it. Thoughts such as I’m not up to it right now or I work best under pressure keep us from being effective in our personal and professional lives.

6. Know Your Distractions

Procrastination is the act of exchanging high-priority actions for those of lower importance. When we define procrastination this way, we see that we may be getting some things done. But if we are working on less important tasks that are keeping us from those of higher priority, then these lower priority tasks might be our distraction.

Added to this are the more obvious distractions of daydreaming, email, conversations with co-workers, and the bathroom. Both kinds of distractions keep us from the actions that will help us be successful.

7. Count the Cost

Procrastination wastes time. Time is spent, but not invested. It is easy to procrastinate – we all do it – but when it is a consistent pattern the costs are high. Our lack of productivity affects others. They may have to pick up the slack and work at the last minute to get things done. Procrastination may also cause us to sacrifice on high quality work as we race to finish a job.

8. Know What Is and Is Not Procrastination

Putting off certain tasks might be good prioritizing. Being productive is not just about doing; it is about doing the right things at the right time. Are you giving your time to what matters most? Are you keeping a clear sight of where you are heading?

If you can answer yes, then you may not be doing particular tasks, but you might be keeping focused on the big picture. And that is a good thing.

9. Just Do It

No one can overcome procrastination for you. I really wish that a scent, a good massage or an app would do it. There are supports, but after the bells, whistles and reminders, you are the only one who can make the change and overcome procrastination. So the next time you feel like putting something off, even if it is just till tomorrow – don’t.

And now that you are done reading this blog – get to it!

Wendy Loewen
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute Inc.

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Content of this blog may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute Inc.

  • Karin Janzen

    This is so true for me. I have the same mess that I have been looking at for weeks! Everyone in a while I will push myself to get started, but then stop for a break due to health reasons, but never seem to get back to competing the task. The mess gets bigger and more overwhelming. I am going to try setting a timer on my breaks. I know how much time I need, just 10-15 minutes, and see if that helps keep me “on task”.