From the BlogSubscribe Now

How to Stop Procrastinating

This probably won’t come as a surprise to those who know me well, but I have to confess: At times, I am a total procrastinator.

Most people say I don’t seem like the “type” to procrastinate, whatever that means. But I kind of understand why they say that. I’m an overachiever and a perfectionist. I made good grades in school. I always meet deadlines unless there is a damn good reason not to. Yet I can’t deny the fact that, in certain situations, I put things off for ages.

Why I Procrastinate

I’m unsure what to do. I noticed this a lot when I was still working at my crappy job. When I had adequate training in a particular task, I was always done on time, if not early. But when I didn’t, I knew I was going to have to either (1) spend time figuring it out or (2) ask someone for help. And I hate asking for help, but that’s a whole other post.

The benefit: You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve avoided a serious screwup by putting off something I didn’t know how to do. Like the time I avoided filling out disability paperwork for a therapy client – turns out the way I thought I was supposed to do it was completely wrong.

I don’t want to do something. Obvious, right? This is where cleaning my house comes in. I hate doing it, I will always hate doing it, and I just plain don’t want to. So I don’t – that is, until the house is such a wreck that I won’t even let anyone come in.

The benefit: When I do break down and clean, I go all out. I spend a whole day busting my ass to make everything spotless. And that feeling is much more rewarding to me than “Yay, I dusted.” Also, to be honest, sometimes avoiding something I don’t want to do gets me out of it. Yeah, I said it.

I have too much going on at once. At the risk of making the “I’m busy” excuse, sometimes there really are too many things happening in my life at one time. When I’m overwhelmed, it’s simply not possible to get everything done.

The benefit: Juggling multiple stressors and responsibilities means I have to streamline whenever I can, helping me stay organized.

How to Stop Procrastinating

I don’t really think there’s a cure for procrastination – some people will always put certain things off until the last minute, and others would never do such a thing. That said, I do think there are ways to become a better procrastinator, if such a thing exists.

1. Create prioritized to-do lists.

My to-do lists save my life. I make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lists and prioritize my tasks in order of urgency and importance. I also allow myself a few things each day that can be put off until tomorrow; that way I tell myself “Well, I’ve already put off several tasks. I better get the other ones done.”

2. Make a schedule.

Lately I’ve become more and more rigid in the way I schedule my time. If I’ve scheduled an hour of work with no interruptions, that means I don’t check my email, I don’t answer the phone, and I don’t use social media. And I’m far more productive that way versus multitasking.

3. Ask for help.

As I mentioned, this is nearly impossible for me to do for a number of reasons (mostly involving my control issues and perfectionism). But I’ve been forcing myself to ask for help with at least one thing each week. For example, last week I got a request to do a project on a very strict timeline that I just couldn’t meet. So I referred the person to a designer friend and asked for his help. I won’t lie – it hurt a little, but in the end it was a good thing for the client, me, and my friend.

4. Acknowledge uncertainty and make a plan. 

For those to-do list items that I’m nervous about or unsure of, I break them down into a specific list of steps I’ll take to get rid of the feeling and move on. For example, I need to schedule my son for an eye exam. Not a big deal, but I’ve been putting it off because I need to check his insurance coverage (he hasn’t been since this plan started in January), make sure his optometrist is in network, find out the best time for him to miss school for the appointment, etc. So I added those items to my list instead of the ambiguous “make appointment” and it became easier.

5. Be mindful of the potential risks.

I try to look at the positive aspects of my status as a procrastinator (as evidenced by the benefits I listed above). But I also have to remember the times when putting things off has affected me (or someone else) negatively. Like the time I was writing a 40-page paper for grad school two days before the due date and my computer crashed. Yes, I lost the whole paper. Yes, I ended up getting it rewritten in time – but I didn’t sleep for about 60 hours. Memories like that help keep my procrastination from getting out of control.

Are You a Procrastinator?

I was almost scared to write this post. I have a vision in my head of people going, “Oh my gosh, you terrible person!” But I have a feeling I’m not alone. So if you’re a fellow procrastinator, what circumstances cause you to put things off? What do you do to manage better? And if you aren’t a procrastinator, feel free to rant about the ones you know – if nothing else, maybe it will motivate the rest of us. 🙂


  1. When I am procrastinating and I KNOW I'm doing it I take a ten minute break and do something naughty-like eat a cookie or ice cream. Then I say, because I already had the treat I have to get the work done and just power through it.

  2. I'm always procrastinating. And then I always regret it! I always think I'll have more time later to do things, but of course that is NEVER the case.

  3. I always procrastinate on household chores. I loathe them all. It's sad that the take home point from this whole post for me was that I'm glad you are taking your son to the eye doctor. I really need to get a life!

  4. I am with you in the procrastinators unite… tomorrow! group. I procrastinate most when I don't have solid goals set, when I feel like I don't know how to get something done right and when I get frusterated. I also procrastinate on larger tasks that would be nice to have done but aren't necessary and on things I hate doing. You definitely are not alone.

  5. I think it's human nature to procrastinate. I find that setting a time limit helps me — okay, you can do nothing for the next 14 minutes, but then, you need to get out of bed and get moving!

  6. 100wordson says

    I am a procrastinator. Always have been, though I also got good grades and pretty much have never missed a deadline. On some level, the pressure of the deadline helps me to focus. Otherwise, I'm just way too easy to distract. If it doesn't have to be done in the next couple of hours, than I have at least the next couple of hours to think about it, right?
    One thing that works for me is to give myself deadlines. Even though I know I'm the one who set them, the deadline still helps me focus.
    But my house only gets cleaned if people are coming over, and ususally, the vacuum doesn't even make an appearance until about 30 minutes before they are supposed to arive.

  7. I either procrastinate because:

    1. It’s not like I HAVE to do it at that moment, it’s not that important.

    2. It’s not work (at work, I make sure I get things done asap).

    3. I completely forgot about it because I didn’t write it down.

  8. I never thought of that but that's definitely one of the reason I procrastinate, not know how to do something. So I just put it off until I have limited time and just force myself to figure it out while feeling like a big ball of stress. Not good. Something I need to work on definitely.

  9. For me, procrastination happens when either of these three things happen:

    1) I don't want to something that's really boring or unpleasant, yet the immediate consequences aren't so bad if I put it off a little bit

    2) I am feeling rebellious

    3) I am overwhelmed

    The last one is the reason that gets in my way the most. I get so wound up with wanting to plan to get things done that I might overplan to-do lists and delay getting started. I'm learning that at times it's best to just jump in and do things, and then plan later.

  10. I don't think I could procrastinate; I would feel horrible! My problem is making a goal and either accomplishing it way too early or not at all because it was too easy or too big respectively. Maybe I need to procrastinate a little until I find just right goals.

  11. I was going to post a comment, but then I just figured I would do it later …. 🙂

    I am terrible with procrastination. I'm not sure why. I'm not afraid of confrontation or hard work. Sometimes I just really DON'T want to do it! I guess the six year old in me still gets his way every so often. The to-do lists really do help a ton! Once I start marking things off, I want to get them all off!

  12. I found myself overwhelmed at work when I first started. So now I make two to-do lists. A before lunch and an after lunch on. Whatever doesnt get done on the pre-lunch list gets rolled over to post lunch list and at the end of the day whatever is on the list gets rolled over to next day. It makes it less overwhelming because I can clearly see where I'm spending my time

  13. I am semi horrible about it. Sometimes I manage to do things on a timely manner and others…well not so much. I have a deadline to have a report out for work a few days after the 15th–but leading up to that report, I have to do other things to make sure I can have all the data needed. Since I don't need it until the 15th….usually it's done on the 14th. It's usually because, while important, I have other things to do with a more pressing time line.

  14. I'm a huge procrastinator! Either I don't feel like doing something at the time (this can last days), or I have so much to do I get overwhelmed and end up not really doing anything at all.

    I'm really good at finding busywork for myself to make me feel like I really am busy. Most the time, I'm probably just f*cking around and not really accomplishing anything.

    I'm right there with you on housecleaning—it's the one of the worst tasks ever. 🙂


Join the Discussion!