The Best Ways To Stop Procrastinating

Some helpful advice to stop procrastinating includes making small doable goals and scheduling things ahead of time for you to do when you are most awake and alert.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published


Avoiding work, putting off that trip to the gym, and hiding things in the closet instead of organizing them are all symptoms of one particular art form – procrastinating. And some of us are highly skilled at it, even if we don’t want to be. The good news is that there are ways to put a stop to this practice once and for all.

No, we’re not talking about buying another journal or making another list (though, if you’re like me, you love lists). It isn’t something a motivational poster will fix. And sadly, the self-help section at the bookstore isn’t going to cut it either. 

So, how do you stop procrastinating? The first step is understanding why some people procrastinate more than others. According to NPR, “Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. As some researchers have concluded, perfectionists ‘experience a chronic sense of falling short of their own personal standards,’ triggering their procrastination.”

Another way to look at procrastinating is to recognize that sometimes perfectionists want to wait until they can accomplish a task “just right.” Unfortunately, that moment often never arrives. And that leaves unfinished tasks piling on each other until there is no choice but to tackle them.

Sometimes it feels like there is no way to escape the never-ending cycle of procrastinating. But there is a therapist who thinks she can help. NPR spoke with Anastasia Locklin to get her top tips for developing procrastination-free habits.

The good news is that some of them are pretty simple. It’s just a matter of taking action. Start by finding small goals to tackle.

These shouldn’t be what you want to achieve a year from now. Choose quick-to-accomplish items and try to keep them under 10 minutes each. Tackle something new each day.

Locklin also recommends making plans in advance. If you know something is coming up, block out that time on your calendar. Then take small steps to help you meet that deadline (or prepare for a vacation).

Another great idea is to find what works for you. Schedule your most important tasks during the time of day when you are most awake and alert. Then use any slumps to your advantage and fill those periods with less mentally demanding items.

If you are still procrastinating after taking these steps, consider meeting with a therapist. Some wonderful therapies help people overcome barriers and stop procrastinating. You most certainly are not alone.

And finally, don’t beat yourself up. That’s easier said than done. However, every step you take is an important one.

When in doubt, remember Dr. Leo Marvin’s advice in What About Bob?. Dr. Marvin told Bob to take baby steps. He defined that process, in part, as establishing reasonable and small goals.

The most important thing is to go slowly and make changes in small increments. Don’t expect large improvements overnight. Transitioning away from the habit of procrastinating isn’t easy.

But the good news is that it is doable. Give yourself some grace and try some of Locklin’s recommendations. Or, take baby steps like Bob.