Top 10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating – Part Two

“You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin

In yesterday’s post, “Top 10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating – Part One,” we began to identify common obstacles to getting undesirable tasks completed.  We all struggle with some form of procrastination from time to time.  What matters is recognizing your own personal patterns and tendencies regarding procrastination and making the decision to break out of vicious cycles.  The longer that we avoid doing something necessary, yet unpleasant, the more likely it is for feelings of guilt, dread, and anxiety to interfere with daily functioning.  Use this present moment in time as an opportunity to break the cycle of procrastination.

Davis and colleagues (2008) suggest five more ways to stop procrastinating:

(6) Double Your Resistance

What activities or behaviors do you typically find yourself engaging in when you procrastinate completing a task?  For example, do you tend to surf the internet, watch TV, or call a friend when you have a looming task that you would “rather not” complete?

Whatever your typical avoidance behaviors are, make the choice to exaggerate them.  Really lean in to and intensify whatever your common methods of resistance to undesirable tasks are.  Do these behaviors in a ridiculous and extreme manner.  Notice yourself becoming bored with or turned off by these behaviors.

(7) Take Responsibility for Each Delay

When it comes down to it, only you are responsible for how your time gets spent.  It can feel at times as if we have little control over our time, but in actuality, behaviors are choices.  No one forces you to get out of bed and go to work.  You make that choice because you want to get paid, you want to succeed, or you genuinely love your work.

Notice how you allow delays to enter into your life and make the choice to take responsibility for allowing them, rather than seeking to externalize and displace blame.  If you allow yourself to become sidetracked in an avoidance behavior, take responsibility for this as well.  Write down how much time you actually spent avoiding the task and notice how much progress could have been made on completing your task with that time.  Taking genuine responsibility for actions makes it more likely that you will make more mindful, mature, and effective choices in the future.

(8) Tie a Distasteful Activity Onto One You Know You Will Do

Make things easier on yourself rather than harder on yourself.  This sounds simple, but so many of us make life unnecessarily difficult by getting in our own way and acting in self-sabotaging ways.  For many people, self-destructive behaviors are really about much deeper issues that can be related to passive aggression turned toward the self.

If you find yourself putting off things that you “know” you should do, find a way to shape your schedule in a way that will make it more likely for the task to be accomplished.  For example, if you are avoiding exercising and making up excuses to yourself,  find a gym or yoga studio that is conveniently located near your home and work that has class schedules that are realistic for you.  Create an environment and routine for yourself where it will be less likely for you to come up with excuses for why you “can’t” accomplish your task(s).

(9) Reward Yourself for Doing Unpleasant Activities

Make the choice to provide yourself with healthy incentives for completing undesirable, boring, or difficult tasks. Make sure that your rewards are congruent with your true values and are healthy rewards that are in your best interest.  For example, at a residential treatment facility for adolescent girls where I once worked, the senior staff would provide the girls with the “reward” of ice cream if they completed their exercise routine for the day.  This is completely counterproductive!

Don’t take away from the progress that comes along with completing your task(s) by taking steps backward and doing something that might “feel” like a reward, but is simply not in your best interest.  Check in with “wise mind” if you are having difficulty with telling the difference.

(10) Finish Things

Avoid starting new tasks until you have completed a reasonable segment of your undesirable task.  When you have too many “pots on the stove” at once, it can become distracting and overwhelming.  It is also far more likely that tasks will start to gather dust and be forgotten.  When there are too many open projects at once, it can be difficult to do anything with excellence.

However, some people are successful with this style of working, so the important thing is to be honest with yourself about what patterns of accomplishing tasks have proven to be successful to you in the past.  If you have historically experienced success with multiple ongoing projects (and have completed them), then this may not apply to you.

If you tend to become scattered or overwhelmed, it may be more productive for you to accomplish important segments of tasks before starting new ones.  Immense satisfaction can be derived through the successful completion of projects… particularly difficult or pleasant ones.  If you tend to procrastinate heavily, you may be missing out on the potential to experience this satisfaction.  It is up to you.

Which of these ten ways to overcome procrastination are you willing to commit to practicing?  Tools to stop procrastinating are ineffective if they are not put to good use.  Rather than allow yourself to “know what you should do,” make the choice to apply your knowledge and begin making real behavioral changes.  If the idea of applying these strategies to beat procrastination feels overwhelming, pick just one strategy and apply it to your habitual pattern of procrastination for one week.  Begin to make small changes to your regular way of handling procrastination and build on these successes.  As always, it is up to you.

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Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R., & McKay, M. (2008). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Featured image: Time by alancleaver_2000 / CC BY 2.0


  1. James on November 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I get your point, but is ice cream really so bad as to be “completely counterproductive” as a reward for exercise? It seems like it would be better to exercise and eat ice cream than to not exercise at all. What if the reward had been frozen yogurt instead?

    • Laura on November 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

      James – I believe that for those adolescent girls, using ice cream as an incentive for exercise was sending them the wrong message. For those girls in particular, a big focus of their treatment at the facility was to be learning healthy life skills to carry with them into adulthood. In this context, it felt irresponsible to me for the adults to be teaching the girls that this was an appropriate “reward” for physical activity. In general, it seems to be that any type of “reward” should be something that generally does not negate progress that was just made. For example, if your “reward” for saving money for this month was that you “got to” buy something “fun,” this seems equally counterproductive. These are the types of examples to which I was referring. I think that rewards can be used in wonderfully positive and effective ways – it is just a matter of finding a reward that does not take you away from progress or from reaching your set goals. Thanks for your comment!

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