Procrastination is a way of life – you can either pull it off or you can’t. Some people have no idea how to make it work while others seem to always be able to pull off a miraculous recovery just before the deadline. Still, life tends to catch up to all of us sooner or later, so it’s always better to stay on top of your shizz than not.
If you want to get there but aren’t sure how, these 12+ former procrastinators are here to share their clean little secrets!
#1. Write it all down.
Start a journal. Write down how you feel. Try to figure out why you feel that way, write it all down. Write down how you want to feel. Write down what you need from life to feel that way. Write down what you need to do to get what you need. Rid yourself of distractions like social media. Just try to stay concentrated, focused on this one little thing. Write in your journal every single day about what you’re doing, what you did, what you’re gonna do. If you focus on constant introspection, eventually you will catch yourself observing your own self-destructive behaviours. As long as you just keep writing everything down, becoming more aware of yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your cognitive dissonance will decrease and you will begin to have more control over your being. By writing you may be able to determine what your intentions are. Awareness of intent will allow you to steer and direct yourself in a more precise way so that your behaviours align more closely with your intentions. Whatever you do just never give up, it might take a few tries to get the hang of keeping the journal consistently but that’s just part of the uphill battle. Another pointer is that you should realize that your environment is a reflection of your mind, and your mind is extremely powerful. If your environment is chaotic, you should address that (ie. if you have a chaotic messy room, clean & organize every little detail). Hope this helps.
#2. Separate the work.
Negotiate with yourself to have the job done. You have 14h of work that needs to be done. Work in blocks of x hours and stop for y hours to do something you enjoy to help you relax. This can only be done when there is enough time.
Separate the work in steps/goals to make fit with the time blocks and have a fixed timeline to help you stay stressed, i mean, focused.
#3. What you aim for.
Say for example you want to draw more. Set aside 30 minutes each night for drawing, nothing else. Keep the amount of time small, and time it on your phone. Doesn’t matter how you feel, even if you sit there and draw a single line, you set aside the time.
Over time you’ll fall into the habit. 30 minutes every night, it’s not hard. Say you increase it to an hour, you find it’s not that hard to stick to. You keep going, and again you find its doable. Not easy, but doable. Eventually it becomes normal, you fall into it again.
This point right here is what you aim for, because this is where you’ve disciplined yourself. You don’t just suddenly wake up and instantly become organised, you have to push yourself into the schedule, until it’s like brushing your teeth in the morning.
Thing is that example? That technique can be done with anything. Want to learn how to code? Hour a night learning. Want to be more confident in public? Spend an hour talking to yourself in the mirror (and before you criticise i suggest trying it. You’ll be surprised at what it shows you.) In my case it was writing, an hour a night, whereas before I would be playing League and Overwatch all evening.
Giving yourself set times to do things makes it a lot easier to stick to those times.
#4. It works for me.
Your question describes me to a T. I don’t know how well this works for others, but it worked/works perfectly for me. I got really sick of my own procrastination and BS and tried many different approaches with minimal success until I started the following: I wrote down 5-10 really really big long term goals (basically my dream life, no holding back here, you gotta want it bad). These goals are nothing new, and writing them down helps some, but the next step is the key. For each goal I break down what I need to do/achieve on a yearly basis, then monthly to achieve the yearly, then weekly to achieve the monthly, then daily to achieve the weekly. This is empowering as fu*k, because you immediately understand exactly what you need to do on a daily basis in order to reach your dream life down the road.
This wasn’t incremental for me. It was like an epiphany.
If this works or has worked from anyone else I’d love to hear about it.
#5. Be honest with yourself.
When I decided upon a career in medicine, I was a slacker who got ok grades and did well on standardized tests.
I looked at where I wanted to be (a doctor) and laid out a step-by-step way of achieving that goal.
I was just starting as a sophomore in college when I firmly committed to the goal, and I planned the next three years, including what classes to take and what my goal grade was for each class (I didn’t say A for everything, because I wanted to be realistic and not lose sight of the end by trying to be impossibly perfect).
When it came time for doing well on the standardized test (MCAT), I took a Kaplan course, including a pre-test. I scored at my goal on the biological sciences, just missed on the physical sciences, and stunk on reading comprehension. So, I dedicated 85% of my test prep on learning how to take the test by taking every single sample reading comprehension test they had.
I was at a top 20 school, 33 on MCAT (well above my goal score of 30), 3.4 GPA, and didn’t get into med school when I applied. So, I went to my state school and asked for a meeting to figure what went wrong. They said that my personal statement made me sound depressed, and they screen for that kind of thing. My father had died from a long illness during my junior year, and I wrote about the effect that his death had on my life and how it motivated me. I guess feelings are bad in doctors?
After being initially angry that they didn’t bother interviewing me to find out, I sat down and did another step-by-step plan, this time, what to do to make myself into the most desirable med school applicant ever.
I worked as a research assistant for a year, and I wrote a “rainbows, sunshine and lollipops” kind of personal statement. Got into a bunch of schools, went to my state school on a full ride. At the end of med school, I was nominated for the top med student (5 out of 200) and matched at my top choice in one of the most competitive fields.
Tl;dr be honest with yourself. Create reasonable, achievable short-term goals to reach the long-term goal.
ETA: Thank you for my first silver!
#6. Out with the old and in with the new.
For me, it came down to emotional toll of procrastination and my desire to eliminate that as much as possible.
I realized that I was causing myself 2-3-4x the emotional stress and upset because of procrastinating, and my desire to “feel good” is too important to me to allow that.
For example, let’s imagine I have to make a difficult phone call about something stressful (just making up something that one might procrastinate over). Now, my normal routine in life would be to wake up, know i need to make this call, immediately feel an emotional reaction of dread and negativity at that thought. Then engage in something intentionally consuming so that I could try to make myself not think about the stressful thing, hoping that I could actually forget about it. Let’s say that I chose to instead clean the house. So, then during the entire house cleaning / avoidant activity, I would randomly get stabs of nerves/discomfort in my chest/stomach when I woudl randomly think to myself “BUT THAT PHONE CALL”… I would spend three hours doing house work and during that time I might think of the phone call 8 times, each time getting a stab of discomfort that would last a couple of minutes.
So now I’ve spent three hours of my day feeling nervous and negative about/because this phone call. AND I DIDN”T EVEN MAKE IT YET.
So I finally make the call. It takes seven minutes and it sucks. Afterwards, the relief is immense.
So, this is my OLD way of dealing with stuff. My old way was to spend 3 hours of unhappy and unpleasant negative emotions and physical reactions (nervous adrenaline dumping and stomach upset etc every time I thought about it) while procrastinating PLUS 7 uncomfortable minutes on the phone. So, 187 minutes of total shit feelings were created for myself, by myself. When I could have simply realized I had to make a shitty call, made the shitty call immediately, and only wasted 8 minutes of my day on feeling bad. Realizing this made me feel like I was my own worst enemy for awhile there, but it was what I needed in order to change I guess.
My new way of dealing with this – I wake up, realize I have to make a phone call that is going to be stressful. I think to myself “there is no way I’m going to let 187 minutes of my day get dedicated to this negative feeling. I’m calling right now so I can move on with my day, because feeling good is way more important to me than forcing myself to feel bad for the next few hours. I don’t have time for that shit.”
Likewise, now if I know I have to go deal with the DMV I don’t put it off until 2pm and spend the hours from 8am to 2pm dreading it – that basically turns the one hour DMV unpleasantness into 7 hours of DMV unpleasantness. Six hours of dread plus one hour of dealing with it. Why would I do that to myself?
Nah. Now I value myself and my happiness over my internal sabotage mechanism that pretends to be “procrastination”. that may be the word we use for it, but what it really is, is emotional self-harm, and now that I recognize that I’m not doing that to myself anymore. I prefer to not be unhappy as much as possible.
Edit: omg I just came home to find more gildings than I’ve ever seen, and SO MANY lovely comments and messages! Thanks so much everyone, and an obligatory RIP inbox, lol. Really, thank you! I never dreamed I would see the Reddit bot telling ME I had the most gilded post of the day!
#7. The 5 Second Rule
I have this really powerful rule for when I seriously don’t feel like doing anything but I KNOW that I have to do it… I call it my 5 second rule. I clearly tell myself what I need to do, where I need to do it etc. then I count down from five in my head. The MOMENT I get to one, I get the fuck up and do the thing that needs to be done. No hesitation, no second thoughts. I use it sparingly to maintain its power. It’s worked every time that I’ve used it.
#8. Learn to say no.
I worked for a boss who was a bigger procrastinator than me. His lack of action caused me so much havoc. He’d put off mundane decisions as long as possible then expect me to stay at the office all night and weekends to get the work done. And then he’d shit on my work. “You were here all night doing that? I could have done that in ten minutes!” No concept of time. And then he would keep piling projects on and want to know why I wasn’t making progress on all of it.
I figured out how to shut him up. Every morning I’d print out a prioritized list of every project he gave along with estimated amount of time to do it and estimated completion date and what I needed from him before I could start. I’d set that on the corner of the desk and he’d wander by now and then and want to know why something wasn’t done and I’d just point to the list.
Stopped working for him long ago but I still make the lists
The other thing is I learned to say no to people and to not over schedule my life.
#9. A video game of sorts.
I downloaded an app called habitica that turns completing tasks into a video game for sorts. For some reason the thought of losing XP points if I don’t so the dishes is enough to make me do the dishes. I think it was actually created for people with add and ADHD to focus on getting things done.
#10. The best reward.
i started to give myself rewards after finishing the tasks i was supposed to do, it was basically like training a dog, lmao. and i started telling myself that if i do at least a tiny bit of work every day, it would make me feel better. and if we’re talking rewards, the best reward was me being stress free.
#11. Don’t do the hardest task first.
Set goals and make a plan for those goals.
Don’t do the hardest task first.
For example, if you want to lose weight, don’t go crazy and buy gym memberships, protein powder, healthy eating recipe books and nutribullets. All that will happen is you’ve spent a grand on stuff that’s going to take up space in your life. You’ll just end up getting overwhelmed by all the stuff you have to do. Start slow.
Say this week you’re going to cut out soda. Stick with it and manage the sugar craving. Every time you complete something set a new goal. The following week cut out bread, and continue doing this until you have formed a new range of habits.
Accomplishing something is a war of attrition.
The main thing is you need to plan. If you have an exam to write tomorrow and you haven’t studied you are SOL.
Edit: just to add. You also need to manage the bad influences in your life. You need to surround yourself with positive influencers. Using my weight loss example, if you know someone who is healthy and fit, ask them for tips, ask them to join them at gym, get their advice on day to day aspects of leading a healthier lifestyle. If you are friends they will be more than happy to impart any wisdom they have.
#12. To the library.
When I was in university, I wasn’t studying nearly as much as I should have.
So I would go to the library and buy a chocolate bar to eat there. Everytime.
Eventually I started craving going to the library every night
#13. So much easier.
Yes, pretty simple honestly.
Life is just so much easier when I take care of the things I need to do as soon as possible.
I just came to the realization one day- if I have five things that I need to do by the end of the week, putting them off is just going to cause me to exert tons of energy stressing about them when I do not have to. there’s also a good chance I will forget something which will stress me out even more.
I still have to do them regardless, so why not just get them over with and get back to enjoying my life?
It’s my laziness that actually helped me beat it imo
#14. List everything.
Break down your day into a list. List everything you need to do, even if it seems small/easy. Start by accomplishing some easy tasks on the list, build up some momentum and confidence. Then tackle a bigger one. If it’s complicated enough, break down that task into another list. Compartmentalizing makes things seem less daunting.
#15. More anxiety.
I’m still a terrible procrastinator, but the one piece of advice that often helps is that the longer you put something off, the more time is spent being anxious about it.
Edit: Thank you for the Gold! My first!
I feel like change is possible!