How to Beat Procrastination: Effective Strategies You Can Start Using Today

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity. We all do it from time to time. It’s the reason for the dirty dishes in the sink, the pile of dirty laundry on the floor, and the unpaid bills you desperately are trying to avoid.

Even the most successful people have problems with procrastination. It’s not what ails us, but rather what we do about it. If it is not dealt with, it can easily lead to disaster. But there are ways to stop it. Here are 5 simple tips that can help you stop procrastinating and get more done.

The next time you want to procrastinate, remember these tips, break procrastination down, and take action.

What is procrastination? Understand the problem

Procrastination is defined as the act of delaying or postponing a task or work until a later time. It can affect anyone at any time.

Procrastination can be caused by several factors. It can be triggered by an emotional state, such as boredom, depression, anxiety, or stress. It may be caused by a lack of skill or knowledge in a task, fear of failure, or it may even be caused by the amount of effort required to complete a specific task.

We are all guilty of procrastinating to a certain extent. We all have those days where we find ourselves doing something other than the task we were meant to do. It’s the nature of being human. However, procrastination can be a serious problem if it becomes a habit. As a matter of fact, there are many people who suffer from procrastination on a daily basis, which makes it extremely difficult to lead a normal life because of it.

It’s important to identify why you are procrastinating. It’s different for each one of us. That’s where the next tip comes in.

Identify why you procrastinate

Procrastination is one of the most common problems in the world. We all have our own reasons for not doing something that we should be doing from time to time. This is normal. However, it becomes detrimental when it is at the cost of our career and personal future.

As a means to stop procrastinating, we must understand why we are procrastinating. We get influenced by our environment, and we let other people determine our behavior too often. When you’re procrastinating, you need to ask yourself why you are doing so. Asking why will help you determine the root of the problem.

Here’s what to do: take an inventory of your daily habits as they relate to procrastination and write them down. You’ll be surprised by what you find. For example, is it that you don’t have the time? Are you too busy with other things? Or are you simply not interested in doing something? Then you have to ask yourself why. The reason this works is that it’s not just about doing a task but doing a task that will get you closer to your ideal life.

The best way to stop procrastinating is by starting from the root cause of the problem and by taking action on it.

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The best way to stop procrastinating is by starting from the root cause of the problem and by taking action on it. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify the real reason why we procrastinate. It’s easy to look outward and blame others, but here’s the challenge. Look inward and you will find the answers.

Quite often we get overwhelmed by the number of things that need to get done so it is just easier to keep putting them off. This is one of the biggest reasons why so many procrastinate, but there are others we need to examine as well.

Some people find themselves procrastinating because of distractions, while others procrastinate because they find it hard to get started.

Therefore, the best way to stop procrastinating is to identify the reason why you are procrastinating in the first place. Start by tracking your daily habits. How are you spending your time? How much time is spent on unplanned activities? How much time during the day is being wasted?

Assess your tracked activities daily and weekly. Look for patterns. And keep asking yourself why. Getting to the root cause is like peeling back the layers. Once you have identified the reason, it is easier to take the necessary steps to stop procrastinating.

Pinpoint your triggers towards distraction

So far, we’ve defined procrastination and identified the causal factors. Now we need to look at what triggers procrastination and keeps it going. Is there something specific in your environment that moves you away from getting your work done? Are you easily triggered by a phone call or text message?

According to Nir Eyal, the author of Indistractable, we have both external and internal triggers. The external ones being “…the pings, the dings, the rings, anything in our outside environment that can lead us towards distraction”. He says that people look outside of themselves, and they think that the phone buzzing is the reason they are distracted from their work. However, it turns out that the opposite is true.

“…90% of the time that you check your phone, you are checking your phone because of an internal trigger”

Nir Eyal, the author of Indistractable

According to Eyal studies have found that “…90% of the time that you check your phone, you are checking your phone because of an internal trigger”. He continues, “An internal trigger is an uncomfortable emotional state that we seek to escape from boredom, loneliness, fatigue, uncertainty, stress, or anxiety. We look for an escape from these uncomfortable sensations. Distraction overwhelmingly begins from within. And we have to understand this point first, because look, whether it’s too much news, too much booze, too much football, too much Facebook, we will always get distracted by something”.

So, if we think about that for a moment and we examine our own reasons for procrastinating can we then say that we are trying to escape from something that is uncomfortable.

To simplify it even further think about this. If you have planned to do something and you choose to do something else, then you are being distracted. Period.

Here’s a great example from Eyal. He says, “For years, I would sit down at my desk, and I would say, okay, I really have to work on that big project today. Okay. I really need to focus. I’m not going to let myself distract you. Get distracted. No more procrastinating. I’m going to work on that project right now. Here I go. I’m going to get started, but first let me check email, right. Let me just do those easy tasks on my, to-do list”.

Does that sound like you? I certainly can relate. I often purposely avoid the bigger tasks that require more effort and try to get the smaller ones out of the way. In my head I have convinced myself that this is “my strategy”, but it is nothing more than a cleverly disguised distraction tactic.

“…even though you may be checking things off your to-do list if it is not what you had planned for at that time then it is still a distraction.”


While you may feel that you are getting a lot of work done, and maybe you are, the truth is that you are avoiding what you should be doing. Eyal continues that even though you may be checking things off your to-do list if it is not what you had planned for at that time then it is still a distraction.

“And in fact, it’s the most dangerous form of distraction, because it’s the kind of distraction that tricks you into prioritizing the easy work, and the urgent work at the expense of the hard and important work that is essential for moving your life and your career forward,” says Eyal.

In summary, distraction, therefore, moves us towards some type of pleasure (even if it is short-term and has consequences), while the task at hand moves us towards pain and discomfort.

A distraction is anything that takes your attention away from what you’re trying to get done. It might be something as simple as watching TV or having conversations with friends that keeps you from focusing on your work.

So, what do you do?

You start by identifying your own personal triggers towards distraction. You see the type of triggers that cause people to procrastinate can vary from person to person. Some people find themselves procrastinating on certain types of tasks, while others on any activity.

It is therefore important to understand who you are and what your triggers are. Once you have identified your triggers, you can then overcome procrastination by removing them from your daily routine.

Create an action plan to beat procrastination

Procrastination is often described as a fear of failure. If we believe that we are not ready to do something or we think that we cannot do something, then it is easy for us to give up. According to Joseph Ferrari, PhD., Professor of Psychology from DePaul University, “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator. We all put tasks off, but my research has found that 20 percent of U.S. men and women are chronic procrastinators”.

So, if we consider that everyone procrastinates at least once in their life is it a problem? Well, there is a difference between procrastination and delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is choosing to do something that you want in the future instead of choosing to do something right now. Procrastination on the other hand is about avoiding the unpleasant task and this means that you are deciding to do something that you don’t want to do.

To beat procrastination, it is important to understand why you are avoiding tasks. The reason people procrastinate is not just because they feel they lack the ability or don’t want to get something done, but because avoidance has become a habit. And we all know habits are hard to break.

So, basically, procrastination is the act of putting off doing something you should be doing. If you can do it right now, you will instead, wait until the last minute to even start. It’s a negative habit that can cause you to miss out on valuable time and opportunities. Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do right now to beat procrastination.

The best way to break this nasty habit is to set realistic goals and give yourself a deadline for those goals. You should write out a plan of action and a list of things that you need to do to complete each task. You can also get someone else to keep you accountable.

This may not be a great answer for everyone but try to change your perspective of the tasks that you need to complete. This can be easier said than done, so it is important to reframe your mind and change how you think about the tasks at hand. If you are analyzing your tasks from a positive perspective, then it will lead you towards taking action and completing each task in a timely manner.

Here is the 5-step action plan to stop procrastinating:

1. Make an action plan for your tasks

2. Get rid of the triggers that make you procrastinate in the first place

3. Create a breakdown of your tasks, sections by sections if necessary

4. Stick to your work schedule and time allocation wisely – this is one way to avoid slipping into an automatic-pilot situation where you complete low-value tasks first and with time left over, tackle bigger but more important ones last (meaning you won’t even be able to start the big ones!)

5. Make sure that your healthy habits help keep you disciplined – for example, make sure that when you put something off, you make an appointment with yourself to follow through on the task at a later date

Closing Remarks

Procrastination is something that virtually everyone has dealt with at some point in their lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of the day and forget about the things that you need to do, but in the long run, procrastinating can lead to many problems. Therefore, you must be prepared to take this challenge head-on.

Take the time to understand why you are procrastinating. Track your daily habits so that you can see not only the tasks that are getting done, but as well what you are avoiding. Know your triggers and avoid those. Make your goals small and specific. Create a plan of action and stick to it. Set realistic deadlines for yourself, instead of postponing tasks to the next day. And, most importantly, be accountable to yourself so that you can take on this challenge and succeed in conquering procrastination.

Frequently Asked Questions, Answered

1.     What are the top reasons why people procrastinate?

Feeling overwhelmed: They are overwhelmed by the amount of work that they must do. You can fix this by breaking the tasks into smaller, manageable parts. What is it that needs to get done? What are the steps to get there? Write it down. Use a planner or checklist and then just go for it.

Too many distractions: Sometimes people don’t want to do the work because other things distract them. Emails, social media, friends messaging, and so on. Staying on task can feel like an uphill battle. Turn your phone off, block the time in your planner and get to work. That’s the only way to get things done.

Disorganized: Some people are disorganized, which is why they are unable to finish their work. Organize your space, decide one day to do one thing. Do it, and then move on to the next. Make a plan and stick to it.

2.     What makes it hard for you to get started on something?

Most people procrastinate because they have a strong emotional connection to the task, or they are afraid that if they start the task, it will be difficult and take up a lot of time. To become more productive, you must find ways to make the task at hand less emotional and more fun. Tell yourself that no matter how hard the task will be, you are going to make it fun. Be disciplined and learn how to say no to procrastination.

3.     How to get yourself motivated even when you don’t feel like it?

Motivation comes from the same place as a purpose in life. It is very hard to motivate yourself without a purpose. That is why you have to set a goal, something to aim for. Until you set a goal, you cannot be motivated to achieve anything.

Setting a goal will change your life because without a goal you will spend your days just wasting time. Make your goal SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

4.     Do you think procrastination can be a good thing?

Yes, absolutely. In some cases, it can help to identify a bigger underlying issue, such as depression or anxiety. While in other cases you may discover that overwhelm shuts you down, or that you are simply not organized. Regardless of the reason, it is important to identify the cause. Once you know where it comes from you can create a plan that addresses the root of the issue.