How to stop procrastinating?

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    • #140839

      Hi everyone,

      I need to stop procrastinating. I find that I will work but only when the deadline is upon me and there’s that last minute panic. I don’t know exactly how to deal with this but it seems that there are some mindset changes, tricks that can help. Do you guys have any general advice for this?

      Additionally, I have OCD and one of its side effects is perfectionism, which also results in a lot of procrastination, since just thinking about completing my tasks gives me anxiety. I’m studying mathematics and physics, and I do love the subjects, but I procrastinate a lot, because it takes a lot of learning, lots of struggling, to understand a topic. As a result, I often find myself working on it the night before its due and then I resort to just looking up answers which obviously won’t help me learn. I want to find a study group but I’m socially anxious and it seems people find me kinda weird 🙁


    • #140850


      I feel your pain (as will most of us here). My two tips are:

      1. Tell yourself to learn just one thing that you didn’t know before. Pick a problem to work, and learn it flawlessly. There is elegant beauty in math and physics; just let yourself enjoy it and do it for the sake of learning whenever you can. (If you can do this, sometimes you’ll start early, which takes the last minute pressure off).

      2. One tip from another poster on this forum was brilliant. Ask yourself what is one thing that you can do to get closer to your goal today? For example, go to your study, then open the book, then pick another small thing that will get you closer to your goal. Write down the steps beforehand if that helps.

      Again, I know what you’re referring to, and it tormented me all the way through my dissertation defense and well into my first year as an Assistant Prof. I think you’re wise to try to deal with the issues now.

      Good luck. I believe in you!


    • #140885
      Penny Williams

      There are several articles on Procrastination on ADDitude with strategies to try for improvement:

      Why Do I Procrastinate? ADHD Excuses — and Solutions

      What Kind of Procrastinator Are You?

      I am also a perfectionist (Thanks anxiety!). I have been doing a lot of mindful work over the last few years to accept that perfect doesn’t exist and that good enough is actually great for my mental health and stress level, and that it truly is GOOD ENOUGH.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #141517

      I’ve been diagnosed with OCPD, and one quirky technique that has actually helped me, is to attempt to turn the perfectionism against itself and focus on process instead of product. Like most perfectionists, I instinctively and counter-productively tend to feel a strong compulsion towards attempting to achieve a perfect end-product. However, I remind myself that if the *process* takes me 4 times as long as a typical person and causes me 10 times as much anxiety, then the *process* has completely failed to even approach perfection. Ironically, I am failing to be a perfect perfectionist if I can’t even perfect the process. A “flawless” end-product that tortures me and runs behind schedule or threatens to run behind schedule is a actually failure. I tell myself that a “good perfectionist” would have learned how to perfect time-management.

      I like this approach because it’s not attempting to snuff out that internal compulsion that will no doubt be with me for life, it’s attempting to harness it. Instead of fighting my own nature, I’m trying to spin it into a strength.

      A good, short mantra is “a good plan today is worth more than a perfect plan tomorrow”.

      Ok, stop reading this rambling post, and go dig into a productive process! Now!

    • #141556

      I don’t have OCD, but this is something I have struggled with too. I think everyone who visits this site struggles with this, as it goes with ADHD. A lot of the problem is, if you don’t get a diagnosis as a child and are taught coping strategies, it can be hard to learn how as an older child/teen or adult these strategies retroactively.

      First off, find out which kind of procrastinator you are, as linked a couple posts above. If you are the type that seems most common (chicken), then a lot of it is being overwhelmed. If you fall under perfectionist, you can still get overwhelmed.

      Second, learn to change the way you think. You need to realize that you don’t need to work on your whole thesis, but write a sentence. A lot of the problem is just getting started. Also, you need to realize that you are not perfect. That is ok. When I need to do laundry, I started thinking of just sorting it real fast, pick my most urgent load, and put in washer, THEN put that in dryer and start my second most urgent load, etc. Saying you’re going to start a load of laundry is less daunting.

      Third, learn to develop a system of organization. Many ADHD people will swear that the Bullet Journal is a great system. I have been working on using it and even though I’m not proficiently using it 24/7, I do use it more than not. It has taken me a couple months to get this far, but I have already gone from being unproductive to getting more done. Some people prefer digital systems, and I do use it for reminders: “Hey Siri, remind me I have a therapy appointment tomorrow at 7:30 in the morning.” Boom, done. I remembered my therapy appointment on a Monday morning at 8!

      Forth, get some help. I love to occasionally read Mark Manson’s site. He has a lot of good free content, and his perspectives have given me a big help. One article is There are a few more. He is crude, but honestly he puts things in a way that hit me. Also, I started seeing a therapist. If you don’t know much about psychology, a therapist may be a great option if you have access to one.

      Fifth, change is small. One thing I read on Mark Manson’s site is that we don’t change that fast. We are like the Titanic trying to avoid the iceberg, and the rate of full turn is not enough to avoid it. But that proves a point: we are creatures of habit.

      Six, start small, and start early. We have an attention budget (queue mindfulness and pomodoro timers here), and it is full in the morning. Also, starting small things will lead to bigger things. Every morning, make your bed. Every morning, take a 5 minute walk around your block or up and down the street before you get in the car. Every morning, take five minutes, stop and enjoy your coffee in the quiet.

      Seven, change the mental script. It takes 5 compliments to outweigh 1 negative comment. This applies to ourself. We are our biggest enemy. You have ADHD, you are not ADHD. You have procastinative habits, you are not a procrastinator. Get that tone out of your head. You will still be procrastinate in a year; heck, even neurotypical people procrastinate to some point. Once you take emotion out of your tasks, they don’t seem so daunting. Realize that your best work will happen probably in the first draft, not in the fifth.

      ADHD people tend to put their best work due to higher creativity in the first attempt. For example I used to practice public speaking 30-50 times, but I eventually realized a stupidly simple outline plus two practice sessions was all I needed and it sounded great.

      Eight, take time everyday to look at your calendar/to-do lists. Also, take time at the beginning of the week to do so. Most neuro-typical people do this or realize they need to do this automatically.

      Nine, just do something sloppy. It’s better to do something sloppy and start a week or two ahead of the due date versus the night before. A C is better than a F.

      Ten, set the bar at zero, not 100. If you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed. Yes, you’re still responsible for your own actions, but not expecting great actions but terrible actions will lead you to get your brain out of it’s own way.

      Eleven, get help. Whether it’s a friend who can just slap you in the face, a therapist, a tutor, ADHD coach (highly recommend!), or a support group, GET HELP!

    • #141609

      I just started reading a book by John Perry called The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing and am finding it both fascinating and helpful. I’m only halfway through it but feel like he’s describing me and helps me understand why I do these things. He gives tips for working around oneself to actually get things done, and I think they’ll work! Plus, he’s very funny. A recommended (short) read!

    • #141787

      I’m also a perfectionist with ADHD and some compulsive tendencies. Similar to others, if I can identify the smaller steps and just take one smaller step, I can usually get a lot done. However, I tend to overthink and get overwhelmed, and I do start building up how great the final result has to be, to the point where I’m paralyzed.

      When I’m successful, I catch myself imagining the amazing final result, stop, and circle back to write out the smaller steps and just tackle the first one. If I’m not sure which step to start with, really I can just pick one and see how it goes.

      If I can acknowledge that I’m avoiding working on something, I can also usually find a way to trick myself into starting on it. Also, it makes a big difference if someone else is holding me accountable, so I’ll try to see if I can get someone else to hold me accountable for getting it done, or I’ll try to find a compelling reason why I have to do it now, not later.

      At 36 years old, I still procrastinate on a regular basis, but less and to a lesser degree than I used to. I try to remind myself that I need time to try things out, make mistakes, and get feedback from others, so I don’t have as much time as I think.

      Ultimately, I procrastinate the most when I feel like I can’t possibly do the thing I need to do, or do it well. In those cases, if I can question why I don’t feel like I can do it or do a good job, I have a better chance of getting started. But, sometimes, it’s still just going to be me working on something at the last minute—at least I can still get it done, and do a good job!

    • #141789

      I’m in the same boat. I’m two classes away from a math degree, and I’m frozen! I don’t understand why it’s taking me so long to get started. I’m taking Differential Equations again because I got an incomplete last spring, and it turned into an F when I didn’t finish the work. To make things worse, (generic) Adderall stopped working, so I stopped taking it. I’m back on a low dose, but I still don’t get that initial burst of focus like I did the first few months I was on it.

      At this point, I’m trying to get motivated to open the book. I’m way too close to graduation, to stop now.

    • #142059

      Zenzi, you may need a stronger dose. Also, who is the manufacturer that makes your generic addy? You might need to try a different brand, or even a different pharmacy. Sandoz seems to be the best.

      Also, take yourself away from your degree or your assignment. You are not a failure, it is one of those things you just need a second or third try to get it. A failure gives up and stops. Focus on the assignment in front of you, and just tell yourself you need to just do 5 minutes of it. Stop what you’re doing now, and do 5 minutes of your homework. Set a reminder on your phone to do 5 more minutes later today, then set a reminder maybe after dinner to do 5 more minutes of homework. Repeat for the weekend.

      Read the posts above too!

      Lastly, ask someone for help, maybe a friend who can push you in the right direction.

      Hope that helps!

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