How to stop procrastinating, right now

How-to-stop-procrastinating-right-now

Tomorrow- a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.

So, it goes something like this; you know you need to get something important done, but you don’t do it right away. You first check your email, then your Instagram feed, next thing you know it’s two hours later and you find yourself watching cat videos on YouTube.  Meh, I’ll just do it tomorrow. Happens to the best of us, doesn’t it?

Procrastination is all about instant gratification- we’re putting off our less urgent tasks in favor of those that are not only less urgent, but also more pleasurable (if you are not yet familiar with instant gratification monkey, you NEED to check out this article on waitbutwhy.com). It’s all about feeling good right now.

Truth is, most of us procrastinate; some to a greater degree than others.

TACKLE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TASKS, FIRST THING IN THE MORNING

Or… as soon as your schedule permits. When you have a lot of work to do,  try to take care of most important tasks right away. The things that are on top of our to-do list are pretty much always most difficult and time-consuming ones and probably… less pleasant than others. This is also why we always put the important stuff off, for as long as we can. Because they’re “blah” and often feel uncomfortable. BUT, the sooner you start working on those “big” tasks, the sooner it’ll all be over with (realizing this a few years ago would have definitely saved me a couple of all-nighters I pulled off back in college).

I also like this strategy when it comes to working out; as soon as I get home, I wash my face, change my clothes and start my workout. It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it, I know that once I start doing something around the house or sit down, I’ll go from “ehh, I don’t feel like it” to “I’ll just do a double session tomorrow” and skip my workout. Do you know how many times I’ve told myself this? And can you guess how many “double sessions” I did the next day after making that promise to myself? You got it. Zero.

For the first couple of weeks it felt almost as if I was forcing myself to do this (well, I kinda was) but after a while, it simply becomes a habit. Your willpower is like a muscle: you can train yourself to control those immediate “wants” and “needs”.

WRITE THAT STUFF DOWN

In an era where smartphones have pretty much become extensions to our limbs, I still love me some pen and paper (remember those?). Sure, there are quite a few apps you can download with all sorts of list-making, task-reminding, alarm-ringing capabilities, but I still like to write my to-do lists on my planner. Old school style. You don’t have to be a very busy person to create a to-do list; it can include tasks as simple as: do laundry, take the dog to the vet, finish that English essay, get groceries, etc.

Because you write those things down you can focus on the important tasks, keep yourself organized. To make things even better, you can always make your last point “have a glass of wine” or “read a book”, so you know that once you complete your to do list, you’ll get to reward yourself by doing something you like.

REMEMBER that making the list alone just isn’t enough. To some of us, the simple task of writing a to-do list feels like an accomplishment. Sorry, it’s not. You need to plan effectively. Give yourself realistic goals. The key is to actually get the work done, so that you get to cross those tasks off your list. Starting is the most difficult part and in order to not feel overwhelmed, you should aim for slow progress. There’s no need to be perfect. Whatever it is you have to get done, remember that you don’t necessarily have to finish it, you don’t have to do it extremely well- you just need to start. That’s the important part.

THE 20-10 METHOD

As soon as you start working on that most important task, spend 20 minutes “unprocrastinating”. During those 20 minutes, you are not allowed to browse the internet, check your phone, or turn on the TV. After the 20 minutes are up, you can either continue working, or allow yourself a 10-minute break, during which you can check your email, Twitter, or Instagram feed. This will be your reward for doing your work. Once the 10 minutes are done, go back to working on your task for the next 20 minutes, and so on.

To help you with this, you can set up the timer on your phone or use a tool like this one, that will let you know when the time is up. When doing this, it’s important to stay mindful of any distractions or urges to stop, and not let that Instant Gratification Monkey take over.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Telling yourself things like “I work better under pressure” or “I don’t feel like doing this right now, I’ll just do it later” shows a lack of responsibility. Do you really think you work better under pressure, or is it something you only tell yourself as an excuse? The main reason why we procrastinate is because we love that comfort of distractions, that escape. We don’t know how to postpone pleasure. One of the ways to overcome this, is to let go. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Let go of that fear of discomfort, do what you need to do, and once all your work is completed, you can indulge in as much comfort, as you wish.

This is not easy to do- especially if you’re a life-long procrastinator. Try doing this with something simple, like washing your dishes right away after dinner, instead of telling yourself that you’ll do them tomorrow morning. Start today. What’s one small thing that you can take care of today, to make your tomorrow less stressful? Maybe you were putting off the task of sorting through your mail? Does your email box need cleaning up? Something as simple as prepping lunch or your outfit for the next day is a great place to start.

how-to-stop-procrastinating

Whether it’s something as simple as not washing your dishes right away, or putting off writing that college paper until last-minute, believe it or not, you can stop procrastinating. All you need to do is focus on some self-regulatory skills. What’s in it for you? Less guilt, less worry about not getting things done on time and gaining control over your life. The feeling of going to sleep at night knowing that you took care of every single thing you needed to take care of that day, is pretty amazing. That can be something you can use as your motivation, something to look forward to at the end of each day.

When I think of procrastination, I don’t only think of “tasks” or my responsibilities. I also think of how many times my sister has asked me out for dinner and how many times I’ve told her “let’s do it next week” over and over again, because I’m too busy working or doing something else. There are many things in our lives that are priceless. Time happens to be one of them.

Ask yourself this:  “if I’m procrastinating right now, what am I doing to my future-self?”


If you’re interested in learning more about procrastination, I highly recommend you watch this lecture by Dr. Pychyl.

This is a revised version of a post I published a few years ago.

  • Rebecca Ellis

    I can always remember being a procrastinator throughout High School and often College. I hated assignments, so I’d leave them as long as possible then end up stressing out the night before about it. I really like your 20-10 method, and I know this will help my boyfriend – he’s trying to finish a practical tonight x

    http://www.sheintheknow.co.uk

    • I’ve done the same. I once wrote an assignment that was supposed to be written over the course over 10 weeks, in one night haha. Don’t miss those days :)

  • Ahh I’m definitely a procrastinator. At work, I do try to make sure to do the hardest tasks in the morning and save quicker, easier tasks for the afternoon. At home, I’m horrible though. I am so tired from work I just put on my pajamas and let my house get all cluttered :( I should try the 20-10 method for home!

    Jenn │ Beauty by Jellybean

    • I try to do most of my house chores during the weekends, there never seems to be enough time during the week haha :) I don’t blame you though, I often feel the same after coming home!

  • Trecee Hutchinson

    This is so helpful and much appreciated. I sometimes struggle with Procrastination at work especially!

    Trecee

    http://www.treceefabulous.com/

  • “I work better under pressure” – Guilty of saying this every. single. time.

    Emily | http://emilytrinh.com

  • Victoria

    I definitely just read this post while procrastinating (avoiding writing a research paper), haha. Thanks for the tips, though. I definitely need to remember this for next time! :) Btw, I also agree that writing everything down in lists doesn’t always work like it should.

    -Victoria | treelinedavenue.com

  • The 20-10 method is something I’ve been unconsciously doing for a while now. I’m making 2017 a project for myself to actually be responsible adult for once, and social media is such a bane of existence, yet at the same time I cannot part with it so I compensate by giving myself sets of goal to achieve before indulging myself with some cat videos.

    Selene Addicted

    • Social media love stealing time from us haha ;) I find that time-blocking helps me a lot. I give myself a certain amount of time just to catch up with Instagram or Pinterest, set up a timer and once the time is up, I go back to working on whatever I was doing. btw, cat videos are the best haha :)

  • I wish I could do the 20-10 method, I just don’t think it works for me. Unless I’m hours into tasks I find I’m really in the flow at about 20 minutes and stopping then would be totally destructive because I would procrastinate starting again haha. I guess I need to work on that! Xx

    Frances Kayleigh | Beauty Fashion Lifestyle

    • I think that once you’re “in the zone” and actually do the work there’s no need to use the 20-10 method since you’re already getting stuff done ;) I definitely do agree that once I put all my focus into something, stopping can be very unproductive, especially since you’re risking being distracted. x

  • I am definitely the best person to get things done – just not in a pretty way. 2am is probably my peak think time. But at least I gave up on pretending I am working; if I know I won’t start before 8 or 9pm, I just don’t go anywhere near my laptop, and avoid all the wasted time staring at the blank Word page. It is just the worst. Nothing gets done and I cannot relax either.

    • My productivity depends on time of day too! I think I work best at very early hours like 4 am lol. I just love peace and quiet and my mind seems to work much better early in the morning. So true about wasting time, too, such a great point! I used to do that so often, without even realizing that I was actually wasting a lot of time just starting at the screen.

  • Nadia

    LOVED this post and the very last sentence/question was just spot on! Everything we do (or don’t do) now reflects what our life will be in the future, and that’s kind of “sobering”. In a very good way!
    We all procrastinate from time to time, and it’s probably more than normal, esp because we are bombarded with notifications and all these distractions calling our name. In my case, when I feel like I am getting totally distracted and procrastinating, I stop everything I am doing (basically, just snap out of it haha) and concentrate on that most (unpleasant) difficult task I needed to do yesterday (or in a worst case scenario, last month!). Focus, focus, focus. I think I am super guilty of the point 1 you brought up, lovely. 90% of the time I would put off the most important/difficult task. This is a great reminder to tackle it first thing in the morning or whenever I get a chance!
    xox Nadia
    http://www.mielandmint.com

    • Thank you so much Nadia! We’re surrounded by so many distractions these days, that is so true. Starting with the most difficult tasks isn’t easy, but most of the time I literally force myself to do them and try to get them out of the way haha :)

  • I never knew how much I was procrastinating until I had kids and everything needed to be done in their nap time. It is amazing how much you actually get done in one hour when you just get started!
    That helps me at work a lot too, I try to start the biggest task right when I am at the desk at 7, because once it is 9 am the telephone keeps ringing and I can’t really concentrate anymore. That way I have the main task out of the way and can do small things in between.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • oh I bet! I try to do the same at work! Once things get busy, I do find it a little more difficult to concentrate so it makes sense to do the biggest task first, early in the morning.

  • Natalie Redman

    Procrastination is so prominent in my life. I need to get into an organised state of mind!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

    • I find that starting with one thing at a time works best- try to do it all at once and you’ll feel too overwhelmed. x

  • Who else agrees that their marks in university would have been way better if they didn’t procrastinate? I wish I could go back and really plan and organize and then see how my marks are!

    http://thedianaedition.com

    • I actually once wrote a 20 page paper in one night (when I had 3 months to do it) and still ended up getting with an A haha BUT it was just so stressful and such huge pressure. Things would definitely be easier if I avoided putting everything off until last minute.

  • I agree that getting things done in the morning helps! Whenever I get to work and dive right into my important tasks I feel so much more motivated to stay on track all day. Great post!

    http://www.insearchofsheila.com

  • What a great post! I procrastinate so bad…I really like the idea of the 20 10 technique. Thank you for sharing https://wordpress.com/stats/day/whimsicalwolfblog.com

  • Oh, how I love this post! I do procrastinate… sometimes. I will definitely try this 20-10 method.

    • Thank you so much Ana! I think we all tend to procrastinate at times :) Some of us are just better at it than others haha ;)

  • Zorica
  • Such a great post as I have missed not checking in on them! I so agree with the 20-10 method as that really is so important. I have time out and although it has taken me ages to catch up, I do feel better for it.
    Kelly xx
    http://www.KELLiLASH.com

  • Sophie Jane Cheval

    I always seem to put off packing my brekkie and lunch the night before, as well as choosing my outfit for the next day as all I want to do after getting home and making dinner is relax! But my mornings would run so much smoother if I did this, will trial it for the week :)

  • Great points made here, Paula! I find I do much better if I just start getting to work right after I have a quick breakfast. If I give myself just a little time to procrastinate, then I won’t get anything done until later. I also tend to not take breaks, because a small break can turn into a huge one, and then I’ve lost a bunch of time. Still looking to find a way to balance it all.

    Ashlynn | http://thecrimsoncardigan.com

    • Thank you Ashlynn! I love getting the important stuff out of the way. Small breaks don’t work for everyone, that’s definitely true. Once I’m in the zone, I can’t let myself stop and lose that focus- so it depends on what I’m working on. x

  • I sometimes feel like I am a queen of procrastination lol I get distracted so easily and working from home at times can be extra tough, I need to stick to your tips!

    Naya // http://www.partyparrotblog.com

    • Haha :) I do some work from home, so I can relate. I just need to get things done early in the morning- it’s the only way I’ll actually finish everything that’s on my to do list.

  • Bernadette

    Such lovely tips! To do lists definitely help me stay productive. Nothing better then ticking things off a to do list.

    http://www.themakeupaficionado.com

  • The Sunday Mode

    Loved reading this post and I agree with a lot of it. Every morning right when I wake up while I’m checking my emails and socials etc. on my phone I get on the elliptical machine we have in our house and I just walk on it on a high incline for about 45 or so minutes. It feels really good to sort of get that over with right in the day too and get my body moving straight away without it feeling like a chore!

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

  • Really loved reading this post! I struggle so much with procrastination.. I always pass things off and say i can do them tomorrow.. I hadn’t heard of the 20:10 method but it sounds great getting a reward for getting some work done.. I’ll defo have to try it out

    Ronnie
    http://www.veronicabizzarri.blogspot.co.uk
    xx