How to Beat Procrastination

Do you find yourself saying “I don’t have time” or “I’m running out of time”.  I occasionally hear myself saying this and I have to remind myself that I do have time.  I have the same amount of time as everyone else, what’s important, is how I use my time.  If you find you don’t have enough hours in the day, read on, because I may be able to help you figure out why!   

We all get the same amount of time during the day and yet others seem to do more with it.  I’ve had points in my life where I thought I couldn’t get any busier than I was at that moment in time, but I was wrong, I got busier.   Looking back, I now know something I wasn’t so aware of back then; I have a tendency to procrastinate.

Do you Procrastinate?

On the whole, I am now quite good at my time management and this is mainly due to the realisation of how much I use to procrastinate.  When I was University, I’d sit down to do my revision and within 5 minutes I’d decide it was ‘tea and toast time’.  Does this sound familiar to you – putting important or urgent tasks off for something less important? Do you procrastinate?


“The action of delaying or postponing something”

The bad news is, you are procrastinating if you put off doing things that should be done that moment in favour of doing something else more enjoyable or you find more comfortable doing.  I was procrastinating when I got up after 5 minutes of revising for my exams at university and went off to make myself a cup of tea and toast; I delayed my revision for something which was more enjoyable.  The good news is, you can do something about it.  We all procrastinate to some degree but some people do it more than others, sometimes to the point where it can disrupt their lives and prevent them from fulfilling their potential.

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today”     Benjamin Franklin

Procrastination is essentially a habit and like all habits it can be broken.  By following the three steps below, they will help you recognise when you are procrastinating, work out why you are doing it and finally, give you strategies to help you stop procrastinating.

First Step: Learn to recognise when you are Procrastinating

Below are some useful indicators that will help you determine if you are procrastinating:

  • Leaving an important item on your To Do list for a long time or swapping it from one To Do list to another.
  • Reading over e-mails several times without actually starting to work on or deciding what action to take with them.
  • Sitting down to start something important or of high priority and getting up almost immediately to make a coffee (sound familiar – sitting down to revise and almost getting straight back up to make a cup of tea and toast?).
  • Filling your day with tasks of ‘low priority’ from your To Do list
  • Agreeing to do unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, so filling your time getting on with these tasks rather than the important ones that need your attention.
  • Waiting for the ‘right time’ or ‘right mood’ to get on and do the tasks that need to be done.

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”     Napoleon Hill

Second Step: Work Out Why You Are procrastinating

The reason behind your procrastination could lie within you or the task or both.  Determining the reason will help you overcome what ever it is that’s holding you back.

One reason you may procrastinate over a task could be due to how unpleasant you find it.  A good way to get over this is to do it as quickly as possible, get it over and done with.  Another reason for procrastination could lie in your organisational skills, do you organise your time as efficiently as possible?

Third Step: Adopt Strategies to Stop You From Procrastinating 

Once you’ve worked out you are procrastinating you can put a strategy in place to help you break the habit.  After all, procrastination is just a habit and like all habits they can be broken.  Try out the tips below as some of your anti-procrastination strategies:

  • Create your own rewards.  For example back at University, I use to reward myself for a mornings revision by watching a TV programme I wanted to watch at lunchtime.
  • Work out the consequences of not doing the task
  • Ask someone to check you’ve completed the task.  This is the basis of all self help groups like weight watchers – peer pressure works!
  • Use a To Do list.  I found using Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle really helped me prioritise my To Do list and cut down my procrastination significantly.

Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle

List all the things you have to do or that need to be done, small or large or however unimportant you think or feel it may be.  Then allocate each item on the list into one of the following categories:


By doing this, it helps you quickly decide which activities need your attention and the ones which can wait.

NB – I found using “not important” and “not urgent” didn’t really work for me so I changed it too “not so important” and not so urgent”.  Find what works for you. 

  • Focus on one task at a time but remember to give yourself breaks.
  • If you find a certain task over-whelming, break it down into smaller tasks.  That way you will feel a sense of achievement each time you cross a task of your list, rather than getting to the end of the day and not being able to cross of anything.
  • Set yourself time goals for all or certain tasks.

Busy times ahead…..

With Christmas just around the corner, things tend to get a bit busier.  I don’t know about you, but every year I say I’ll do my Christmas shopping early to avoid the crowds……you can probably guess how often I’ve actually done it!   So this year I’m not going to procrastinate, I’m going to get on and do it.  What about you, what do you normally procrastinate over?  Why not make this Christmas the Christmas to get those tasks struck off the To Do list early.  You never know, Father Christmas may just reward you….or, just to be safe, why not reward yourself.  You deserve it.

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”    Bil Keane

I have found by knowing I procrastinate really helped me.  I still have a slight tendency to do it but now I notice when I’m doing it (well most of the time….no-one’s perfect).  So, when I notice I’m procrastinating, I’ll stop and ask myself why I am avoiding the task.  Sometimes the answer I get surprises me, sometimes I don’t like the answer but either way I figure it out and the task gets done.  If you notice yourself avoiding certain tasks, ask yourself why…..and be honest with yourself.  You might be surprised by how much more you achieve in a shorter space of time.

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