Procrastination

Stop. Procrastinating. Now.

Some days, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get started. Here’s how to stop procrastinating — yes, right this second — and get your brain back in gear.

Man with ADHD procrastinating and thinking about something else

How many times a day do you try to work yourself up to tackle some undesirable task? If you’re like me — several. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that is never started, so I’ve come up with some tricks to stop procrastinating and prod myself to get moving:

1. Put yourself in jail. If I feel pressure to jump in and finish something in a rush, and therefore can’t bear to start, sometimes I pretend to put myself in jail. If you’re in jail, you have all the time in the world. There is no reason to hurry, no reason to cut corners or to try to do too many things at once. You can slow down and concentrate.

2. Ask for help. This is one of my most useful Secrets of Adulthood. Why is this so hard? I have no idea. But whenever I have trouble getting started because I don’t know exactly what to do, I ask for help. I’m amazed at how much help I get.

3. Remember that most decisions don’t require extensive research. I often get paralyzed by my inability to make a decision, but by reminding myself that, often, one choice just isn’t much different from another choice, I can get started. Also, I try to identify a knowledgeable person, and follow whatever that person does.

4. Take a small first step. If you feel yourself dismayed at the prospect of a chain of awful tasks that you have to accomplish, just take one step today. Tomorrow, take the next step. The forward motion is encouraging, and before long, you’ll find yourself speeding toward completion.

[Free Handout: Stop Procrastinating!]

5. Suffer for 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes, and 15 minutes, day after day, adds up surprisingly fast. That’s how I finally dug myself out of a crushing (if virtual) load of digital photos. Fifteen minutes at a time.

6. Do it first thing in the morning. The night before, vow to do the dreaded task. Get everything ready — any phone numbers or information you need, files assembled, everything ready to go. And the next day, at the first possible moment, just do it. Don’t allow yourself to reflect or procrastinate. This is particularly true of exercise. If you’re tempted to skip, try to work out in the morning.

7. Protect yourself from interruption. How often have you finally steeled yourself to start some difficult project, only to be interrupted the minute you get going? This makes a hard task harder. Carve out time to work.

8. Remember, work is one of the most pernicious forms of procrastination. Pay attention to the amount of time you spend working on tasks you dislike. If you feel your life consists of going from one dreaded chore to the next, you might be better off figuring out a way to avoid some tasks. The fact is, you’re unlikely to be happy or successful when every aspect of your life or job is a big drag. Don’t accuse yourself of being lazy or a procrastinator, but ask, “What’s making this so difficult?”

On the other hand, novelty and challenge, as uncomfortable as they may be, do bring happiness. The chore that feels onerous today may give you a huge boost of satisfaction tomorrow, when it’s behind you. It’s good to keep that in mind.

[Your Never-to-Do List: How You’re Wasting Time Every Single Day]

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  1. I procrastinate because I tell myself lies, and then believe them. “This won’t take long,” for example. Or, “I’ll only do this one, and then quit.”
    Also, I exaggerate the difficulty of what I need to do, and it becomes more aversive than before. Or I think of all the things on my to-do list, and all of them produce even more anxiety than one. Or I can’t decide which to do first, because that would be neglecting something else.
    I have written a hypnotic suggestion to deal with that, and haven’t had time to record it (more procrastinating?) However, when I went to bed, I hypnotized myself and just said, “Everything in that suggestion is true for me.”
    It “kind of” worked. However, I got started on a “should do” task, but picked one that was more attractive than the others, which was “cheating.” I was concerned with catching an internet swindler, and wasted half a day getting everything done, including a trip to the police department and a notary public. O.K., I did air up some tires and paid the rent, and emailed somebody about some checks, so that’s better than nothing.
    I had let the checks stack up since 2015, and now most of them are un-cashable. I did what I could yesterday and today, and got a third of them ($750) cashed, and if the email works, I’ll have about 2/3 done.
    It did give me an idea for improving my hypnotic suggestion, and adding something about not just picking a “need to do” task because it is attractive, but to pick something because it is important for other reasons.
    Eventually I need to write a suggestion about reducing Facebook time. I’ve done that the last couple of days, and if I can keep it up and improve some more, that will take me a long way toward my goal.

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