Top 5 Ways to Beat Procrastination

Aimee Simone, Associate Editor

Face your procrastination head-on and get working with these suggestions.

Face your procrastination head-on and get working with these suggestions.

1. Start Anywhere

Getting started is the hardest part of any task, but once you do, you will be more likely to finish the job, according to a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect. The theory explains that we are more likely to remember unfinished tasks—and want to complete them—than finished tasks or ones that we never even started. The simple action of starting a task can help to combat procrastination, so get started!

Although starting a task can be intimidating and overwhelming, you do not have to start at the beginning. If you are having trouble getting started, try starting anywhere. Ignore the most difficult parts of the project and begin with something easy. Once you get started, you will feel compelled to attack the harder portions of the job in order to finish it.

2. Make a Plan

We often avoid tasks because they seem large, daunting, and impossible to finish. Jobs can also seem abstract; we think about the overall aims of a project, rather than the tangible steps we need to take to achieve those goals. Breaking an assignment down into smaller components can help us see the small, achievable tasks we can complete.

Planning, however, can also be a form of procrastination. When preparing to start a task, take some time to plan how you will complete it, but beware of over-planning to avoid the actual work.

3. Find Your Motivation

When we do not care about a task, procrastination comes easy. Placing value on a task will make it seem more important to get it done, and focusing on it will become easier.

If you find yourself procrastinating, take a few minutes to think about why the task is important. What is your motivation? For jobs that are unpleasant or do not seem particularly important to you, like cleaning, think about the consequences of not completing them, and then they may seem more valuable.

4. Accept Imperfection

Procrastination can creep up when we have doubts about ourselves and our work. If we are afraid of failure or are pressuring ourselves to produce perfect work, the task becomes more overwhelming, and we are less likely to start. Your work will most likely go through several stages before it is finished, so do not judge yourself too harshly before it is fully developed. Combat doubts with more doubts. Doubt your doubts, give yourself a little pep talk, and get working.

5. Practice Forgiveness

If you’ve already wasted a good amount of time procrastinating, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, forgive yourself. A 2010 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, found that students who forgave themselves after they had procrastinated while studying for an exam procrastinated less when studying for the next exam. The approach may seem counterintuitive, but letting go of past mistakes can help you to feel better about completing the task at hand.