17 Best Methods For Overcoming Procrastination

By Patricia Oelze

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC

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Procrastination is a huge problem for many people in the workplace, the home, and in schools and universities. In recent years, more psychologists have been exploring the elements behind procrastination in an attempt to understand the phenomenon further and help people overcome it.

Some people believe procrastination has benefits. However, a comprehensive study done in 1997 examined university students and their tendency toward stress and illness. The study found that while there are short-term benefits to procrastination, they tend to lead to long-term undue stress and added illness. In truth, procrastination is a self-defeating act that leads to more problems than it initially solves.

The first step in solving any problem is to recognize that you have one. Recognize that you tend to procrastinate and examine the how and why of the practice. Only then can you overcome your obstacles. These 17 best methods for overcoming procrastination will help you get more accomplished, reduce stress, and be more successful.

Recognize How You Procrastinate

Procrastination takes many forms. You may not even realize that you are procrastinating at times. The following practices often lead to procrastination, which leads to added stress. Examine your daily practices to determine how you are procrastinating so that you can put a stop to these practices.

The most common way people procrastinate is by changing focus to another task because they simply don't want to do the task before them. However, you may also be procrastinating if you spend a lot of time on email or social media, fill your time with unimportant tasks, or wait for the right mood or conditions to tackle a task.

Recognize Why You Procrastinate

You also must recognize why you procrastinate so that you can change your mindset. The why of your procrastination could be as important or more important than the how of your procrastination.

Common reasons for procrastination are not enjoying the task at hand, being unorganized, being overwhelmed by the size of a task, or fearing success. Being a perfectionist is another reason for procrastination, as is poor decision making.

One study tried to determine the underlying causes behind procrastination. They found that the common conceptions of people procrastinating because they were lazy or rebellious were erroneous. Instead, they found that the vast majority of procrastinators do so because of being adverse to a task, delaying a task, impulsiveness, a lack of motivation, and a lack of organization.

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Forgive Yourself

Experts agree that before you can stop procrastinating, you have to forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past. It is important that you acknowledge that you have been procrastinating, then forgive yourself for it and prepare to move forward.

It can be hard to forgive yourself for procrastinating if you have put off something really important that has caused bigger problems and stress. However, it is important that you do forgive yourself. If you do not, you will be likely to continue procrastinating due to a feeling of self-defeat and failure.

Commit To The Task

Commit to getting the task completed. This may sound like a simple way to stop procrastination, but sometimes committing yourself to a task you've been avoiding can be rather difficult. You must accept that you have to complete the task eventually, and simply buckle down to get it finished.

When you commit yourself to get the tasks done that you've been avoiding, you will be deciding no longer procrastinate. And, by doing this, you are putting yourself in a new frame of mind that will help you to be more productive.

Reward Yourself

It is important to reward yourself for a job well done, and it is a great way to motivate yourself to get difficult tasks accomplished. Rewards don't have to be huge. If you've wanted to see a particular movie, decide that you're going to see the movie when you've completed the project you have been putting off.

You can also use smaller rewards. For example, you could tell yourself that if you complete this task, you will spend thirty minutes playing your favorite video game. Or you could reward yourself with time spent with your loved one because your to-do list will be complete, and you won't have to feel guilty about leaving work unfinished.

Peer Pressure

Having someone hold you accountable is a great way to stop procrastinating. Peer pressure does work. Tell a friend or coworker about your goals for the day and have them check in on you to see how you are doing. They can help keep you focused and on track and berate you when you start procrastinating again.

Consider Your Why

Most people need a reason to do something. Consider why you need to accomplish the task that you have been procrastinating. Maybe the project will put you in line for promotion, or maybe the term paper will earn you that A and raise your GPA.

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Understanding what you will get out of completing the task, in the long run, can help motivate you to complete it. Overcoming procrastination is mostly about willpower and determination. Having a solid reason for why you must complete the task gives you that determination to keep you going.

Rethink Inner Dialogue

The way that we think about a project can make a big difference in how quickly it gets completed. If you are thinking "I have to do this" you are essentially telling yourself that you have no choice in the matter. However, by changing that to "I choose to do this," you are empowering yourself to get the task done.

Your inner dialogue shapes how you feel about a project. Forcibly changing your inner dialogue can change how you feel about the task, which can help you overcome procrastination. If you can be more positive in your attitude about the task or project, you will find that it is much easier to tackle.

Stop Catastrophizing

One of the biggest obstacles to completing a task for many people is catastrophizing. You are catastrophizing when you think about how boring, difficult, or painful completing a task will be. Your mind expounds on these ideas until you make a huge deal out of something very small.

This is about changing your mindset. No matter how boring or challenging a task will be, getting it completed is to your benefit. Procrastination can lead to overwhelming stress and even illness, which is much worse than the task itself.

Avoid Perfectionism

Perfectionists are often procrastinators. Many perfectionists are waiting for the right moment or for everything to be perfect to complete a task. If things are not completely perfect, they will avoid doing the task until the time is "right."

Overcoming procrastination cannot occur until you overcome your perfectionism. You must recognize that things are rarely completely perfect. To get the task completed, you may need to make some concessions. Make your environment and timing as close to perfect as you can, but avoid waiting until everything is just right to complete tasks.

Cut Out Distractions

The environment in which you choose to complete tasks may be riddled with enablers for your procrastination. Email and social media are two of the biggest culprits. One of the best things you can do to stop procrastinating is to close your email and social media when it is time to complete a task. Turn off all notifications so that you can avoid the easy distractions.

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Think About Long-Term Benefits

Instead of focusing on how difficult or boring the task might be, think about the long-term benefits of getting the task completed. Any task you take on has a reason behind it. If you can overcome procrastination to complete tasks quickly, what else might you be able to do with your time? What benefits are there for you if you get the task completed on time?

Effective To-Do Lists

To-do lists, when utilized effectively, can help you stop procrastination in its tracks. Make a list of all of the tasks you need to complete at the beginning of the day. Then, prioritize that list so that the most important or difficult tasks are highlighted. As you check tasks off of your list, you will feel accomplished and successful. This not only keeps you organized, but it also keeps you motivated to keep moving forward.

Take Advantage Of Peak Times

When do you do your best work? Everyone has a time of day when they are more productive than other times. You might get your most work done in the mornings, or you might feel more revitalized after lunch. Whenever your peak time is, take advantage of it.

Your peak time is when you should be tackling the most challenging or important tasks. It will be much easier to get these tasks accomplished when you are functioning at your highest level. Scheduling difficult tasks for your peak times and then sticking to that schedule is an excellent method of overcoming procrastination.

Set Timed Goals

Setting timed goals puts you in a position of racing the clock. Even if you don't have a solid deadline for a task, setting a timed goal for the task will help you get it accomplished faster. You can combine this method with rewarding yourself. If you complete the task within the time you set for yourself; you get a little treat for your hard work.

Even if you have set deadlines for work, it is important to set personal timed goals. This will allow you to put yourself in a mindset to get the task completed before the deadline. Waiting until just before a deadline that is set for you add stress.

Break Up Large Tasks

Large tasks and projects can be overwhelming. When you have large tasks, break them up into several smaller ones. Smaller tasks are less daunting and easier to accomplish. Combine this method with timed goals, and you will be able to accomplish much more in a much smaller amount of time.

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When To Get Help

If these methods do not help you overcome procrastination, you might need to seek out additional help. There could be underlying reasons that you are not able to complete tasks. You could have problems with your attention span or memory. Or, you may simply not know how to manage your stress.

A therapist can help you identify the reasons behind your procrastination and help you overcome them. They will be able to teach you time management and stress management tools that will allow you to overcome procrastination once and for all.


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