How to stop yourself from procrastinating

I expect that if you’re reading this you already know what procrastination is, and that you are guilty of doing it regularly! But just in case that’s not the case, the definition of procrastination is ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’. Most of us have things that we procrastinate. Some people do it all the time, so much so that their lives are full of last-minute panics because deadlines are looming. We all know that it’s not a good or useful thing to do, so why on earth do we do it?

Why Do We Procrastinate?


There are so many reasons that we procrastinate but what it basically boils down to is balance. To get something accomplished, we need motivation. However, sometimes a task can have demotivation factors or negative feelings attached to it. The decision to get something done versus procrastinate is often a simple balance of positive and negative. When the positive is heavier, we’ll just do it. When the negative outweighs the positive, we tend to procrastinate.

Balance positive and negative

So it’s often less about laziness, lack of self-control or poor time management, and more about poor emotion management. If the negative emotions outweigh the positive, we give in and do something else that makes us feel good instead. But what that essentially does is bring feelings of guilt or shame, therefore associating the task with negative emotions, as well as causing a problem for ‘future me’. When we choose to procrastinate, it’s like we think that ‘future me’ is better able to cope than ‘present me’ so we delegate it to ‘future me’ and forget about it. This may lead to ‘present me’ feeling better, but poor ‘future me’ is probably going to have an even harder task because of a tighter time pressure.

Examples of Demotivating Factors

As previously mentioned, there are many reasons that we procrastinate, and if you know what the specific reasons are, you’ll be more able to overcome these barriers. Have a look at this list of demotivating factors and see which of them you can relate to. You might even want to add a few of your own.

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the task
  • Feeling anxious
  • Fear of failure or negative feedback
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Being indecisive
  • Lacking in energy
  • Having a condition that affects your concentration, mood or energy levels
  • Finding a task unappealing or boring
  • The task itself being too vague or abstract
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Rewards either non-existent or too far in the future

What’s Next?

What's next

Once you know the reason that you’re procrastinating, you can find a solution. For example, if a task is overwhelming break it down into several smaller sub-tasks. If you’re a perfectionist, accept that this task will not be perfect (not everything can be perfect). If you find it difficult to concentrate for long periods, set short times to work on the task and remove all distractions.

Here are some other useful techniques to help you get the task done:

  • Give yourself simple little rewards for each step along the way (e.g. a cuppa, slice of cake, or 10 minutes of candy crush!)
  • Do something you enjoy alongside the task, if that’s possible (e.g. listen to music or a podcast)
  • Remove distractions and temptations (e.g. mobile phone or your pet)
  • Set deadlines along the way and mark your achievements
  • Ignore your negative feelings and just get started
  • Accept that things are not usually perfect
  • Visualise success (what does achieving the task look, feel and sound like?)
  • Don’t focus on what you’re feeling. Focus on the end goal
  • Ignore your negative feelings and just get started
  • Commit to just a few minutes, and trust that momentum will help you to continue for longer
  • Prioritise and consider deadlines
  • Make yourself accountable (e.g. tell a friend what you’re doing and get them to ask you about it later)
  • Think about poor ‘future me’ having to do it in a last minute panic
  • Forgive yourself when you do procrastinate (this will reduce the negative feelings associated with the task)
  • Believe in yourself!

Hopefully this has helped you to figure out why you procrastinate things, and how you can change this. If you have any questions, ideas or tips, please comment below. If you found this helpful, please share it with others.

Now, it’s time to stop reading and get on with the first thing on your list that you’ve been procrastinating for ages! Good luck – you can do it!

Make things happen
Stop procrastinating

Ruth Lowe
Personal Concierge based in Southam, Warwickshire
07928 553658
Twitter: @UKTimeFairy