How to stop procrastinating

By Liz, getting ready to hit the beach!

I’m a huge procrastinator.

I’ve been working on this for many years and while I’ve gotten better, I still haven’t completely kicked the habit to the curb yet. 

A great example of this is back in high school when I asked my math genius dad to help me study for my geometry final the night before the test. When he asked me which chapter I needed to study, my answer was, THE WHOLE BOOK. Yeah, I wasn’t really into geometry. 

He almost lost his mind.

(FYI – I still passed.)

But to this day, I’ve been known to be writing the last chapter of my book at 3 a.m. the day it’s due. Sherry probably remembers this story very well… But that only happened once, and for the record, my editor said it was his favorite ending. 

I still wouldn’t recommend it. 

We procrastinate for so many reasons. The biggest is fear. 

It’s not because we’re lazy, or incompetent, or any of those other reasons we come up with. We’re often so afraid of failing that it’s easier not to start, especially if it’s a project we’ve been dreaming about for most of our lives.

Then we judge ourselves. We put all this crazy pressure on something that we should be HAVING FUN DOING. And it literally freezes us in our tracks.

Or, sometimes it’s the opposite—we’re so afraid of succeeding, because we think, well, what happens if our book gets published, or our business idea takes off. We realize we’d have to leave our comfort zone and shift to a whole new reality. And even though that reality might be a million times better than your current reality, it’s scary!

But, if we don’t get over ourselves, we’re never gonna get anywhere, right? I’ve been working for a long time on strategies to overcome procrastination and these are the ones that have been working for me:

1. I take the pressure off. I don’t start out thinking about how I need to finish, publish, market, sell the book. I think about writing a scene – or somedays, even just a paragraph. Otherwise it becomes so overwhelming I just want to go back to bed.

2. I use my woo woo tools. For me, it’s meditation (always) to quiet my mind, with some crystals (jasper, rose quartz, or tiger eye are great for this) and some essential oils in the diffuser. Vetiver, cedarwood, and lavender are three of my focus faves.

3. I’m nicer to myself! Self-flogging never helps – it makes me feel worse, which will keep me in the slump. I’m trying a new thing – being kind to myself. Getting back into a state of joy brings me back to my project with a new outlook.

4. Reward myself for taking action. Whether it’s finishing, or simply starting, just doing one thing to move it forward – even one sentence, I try to remember to celebrate it. I’m not perfect at this yet, but I’m trying!

5. Be accountable to someone else. I have people for different projects who I to commit to checking in with and telling them what I did to move my goal further. And I do the same for them. 

Procrastination is tricky, but when you reframe what it’s about and approach it from a kinder perspective, it’s beatable. It might be a lifelong process, but hey, progress is better than perfection, right?

Readers, how do you overcome procrastination? Tell me in the comments!

14 Thoughts

  1. I’m the Queen of procrastination. If I ever figure out how to get out of a lifetime of not wanting to do things that I don’t want to do I’ll let you know. I think it’s the constant pain I’m in makes me forget to do things or it could be getting older. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. LOL

  2. For me was “maturing” (another way of saying got old LOL). Looking back I can see how much time I wasted in worrying if I’d do something right or failing. Thinking there was no reason to start something new just to be out the money to find out I stink at doing it. Now I’m determined to charge forward, toss the negative thoughts to the side and try new things, improve what I stink at or find a new something to try and to pause each day to think of something positive that happened that day. I just think of how much time and suffering I’d have saved myself if I had that mentality 50 years ago.

    My advice to the younger generation would be: don’t sweat the small stuff, give it a try (fail or succeed) you bound to have had fun trying (do it with a buddy and then you can both laugh when it goes to pot), and getting out of your comfort zone can turn into something amazing (even if it doesn’t you can feel proud of yourself for at least trying making it a win-win).. Also remember to put off until tomorrow only means you will be more stressed having to do more in a shorter amount of time later on. And who needs more stress in their live!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Thanks for the tips, Liz! I have a lot of project management experience in my day job, so I like to break things down into small chunks that I can celebrate when completed. I also put interim deadlines on my calendar to remind me to keep going a bit at a time.

  4. The big one is which things to procrastinate and what are the best excuses!

  5. I’m usually pretty good about not procrastinating. Or, I used to be. Now that I’m retired, I find it a lot easier to figure I’ll do the whatever tomorrow. I do have a TBD list and I get great satisfaction in crossing off things that’s I’ve finished. And the doing things in small chunks is something I have always done. And I reward myself for each of those chunks, even if it is just saying to myself, “Excellent!” All of your methods are good ones, Liz. Keep up the good work.

  6. Great suggestions, Liz.

    I remember a super 8 movie from the 2nd grade titled “Procrastination is the Thief of Time.” That is the only thing I remember about the movie, but I’ve used the phrase ever since if I find myself putting something off.

    I’m a member of team small chunk, but I do the worst first to get it out of the way.

  7. This blog couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I’ve been mired in procrastination, feeling a little like a toddler stomping my foot and shouting, “but I don’t want to!” Love the techniques—especially meditation. Time to get back to that…Thank you!

  8. I’ll have to put some of these tips into practice tomorrow.

    Seriously, I can be a bad procrastinator. Some of it is definitely fear. Some of it is that something else sounds like more fun. And, sometimes, it is burnout. When it is burnout, if I let something go for a day, I find I much more productive the next, which is always nice.

  9. This is very timely for me. I have been writing from a place of fear for a month and it hasn’t been fun or as productive as it might otherwise have been. When the little voice says, “It’s not good,” “It’s too short,” “You won’t finish on time,” I just bark, “Shut up,” or “Not helpful.” Weirdly the voice says very specific things like in the examples above. It’s not a generalized dread, though that’s probably there as well.

    I am a HUGE believer in 1) Having clear goals, 2) Breaking things into small chunks, 3) Celebrating the milestones, even the small ones, and even if it’s nothing more than enjoying the satisfaction of checking something off a list. That’s pretty much what’s enabled me to accomplish anything I have accomplished in my adult life.

  10. I have not found the answer to that question. I went from a type A+ personality to having to fight with myself to get things completed. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

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