10 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating

10 Tips to Help You Stop ProcrastinatingDo you ever find yourself putting off a dreaded task for weeks or even months or years? I have been known to procrastinate a ten minute job for ten years. Thankfully, I’m getting a little bit better.

Here are ten tips I’ve been using to help me stop procrastinating. Hope they help you as well!

1. Break your project into smaller tasks.

When I start a new project, I open a new note in Evernote for the project and break it down into small steps with a little box to check each step off to complete it. This helps me right from the beginning to just focus on one step at a time.

2. Create a deadline for each of those smaller jobs.

This has been making a huge difference. When I put a deadline next to each step of the project,  I’m far more likely to finish the project in a timely manner. This is the same principle used in the yearly Bible reading plans available on the Internet. My husband and daughters and I have been using this Bible reading method last year and this year and love it.

3. Focus on one job at a time.

Once I make my project list, I try to block the rest of the project from my mind and focus just on the step I’m working on. Blocking the rest of the job from my mind helps me keep from being overwhelmed.

3. Set up your project the night before.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to just get the job started. It really helps to lay out everything you need the night before. Something about doing that just makes it easier to start the next morning.

4. Start with an easy, non-threatening task.

Sometimes it helps to do an easy task before you tackle your dreaded project task just to get your work motors revved up. For example, you could sweep the kitchen or vacuum the floor or walk the dog around the block. Anything to tell your brain that, “Hey, we’re going into work-mode now.”

5. Give yourself a pep talk.

While you’re doing that easy task, give yourself a pep talk about the hard task. Tell yourself how good it will feel to accomplish it. Tell yourself, “You can do this!” Maybe even picture yourself working cheerfully away at your task. Anything to get you in the mood to do it.

6. Try to make it as fun as possible.

While you’re actually doing the job, try to make it as fun as possible. Put on some great music. Get a friend or family member to work alongside you. Or go to the bakery where it is at least a fun atmosphere and you can have a cup of coffee by your side.

7. Take advantage of momentum.

Have you ever tried to push a car down the street? It’s hardest at the beginning. But once you get it rolling it doesn’t require that much effort. That’s also true of our most dreaded tasks. The hardest part is to get it rolling. Try to work on it every day but Sunday so you can take advantage of the momentum.

9. Be thankful.

Do you ever catch yourself complaining when you’re working on a really hard job? Those negative thoughts sap our energy. Reverse them by being thankful. As you do your job say things like, “Thank you, God, for helping me work on this today. Thank you for what you’ll help me accomplish.”

10. Give yourself a reward for finishing the job.

Remember the old days when the teacher would give you a sticker for completing your homework assignment? Rewards can motivate us to work, even if they’re small ones. You could give yourself a small reward for each step of the process if the steps themselves are huge, or just give yourself a reward when you finish the whole project.

It feels great to accomplish a dreaded project. If you have one of those projects hanging around the house or the office, see if some of these tips will help.

Other posts on procrastination: 45 Bible verses to help you stop procrastinating, 9 Questions that will help you stop procrastinating.

Discussion: Do you have any other tips for procrastination? Which tips would help you the most?

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  • http://theregoi.com/ floyd

    Excellent advice. I think everyone is guilty of this. The list is a great way to start the brain in motion. I think I’ll use this method to start the fix up projects around the house. It’s only been a couple of years… I don’t like to rush into anything…!

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      Haha, I know how that goes. I just started a note in my evernote goals file that is titled, “Things I’ve been procrastinating,” and it already has a bunch of items on the list. I’m thinking of making one day a week, or maybe every two weeks, to be “Procrastination Day” where I focus on those things!

  • http://www.leadtoimpact.com/ Bernard Haynes

    Loved the post. I have a similar list post on my blog, but you added a few things I did not have. #7 hit home with me right now. I have momentum with a seminar I present that has picked up and I am working to keep it moving forward into bigger things. Keep encouraging.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      Can you add a link to it, Bernard? I would love to add it to the discussion!

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Iove how you just threw “be thankful” into that list. I wouldn’t have thought of that one but now that you’ve mentioned it I can see how it works in my life. When I’m thankful I tend to be more positive, and ready to get things done.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      Me too, Caleb. I’ve really been working on trying to be thankful this year and it is helping with my to-do list.

      • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

        It’s something that we are trying to teach our children too and I find that thankfullness must be taught by example.

        • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

          What a great thing to teach them. Wouldn’t it be nice if we started out completely mature when our first kid was born so we could be a great example to all of them? Ah well, I have to believe that when they see us growing and changing, that that is also a good example!

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I agree with Floyd, everyone has some area where procrastination is a problem. In most areas, it’s really not for me, but when I really dread something (like technical changes to my blog or revamping my office), I get very good at procrastination. Your tips are good ones, and the areas I am doing well in are the ones I employ many of them regularly.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      That’s interesting, Kari – so I guess the question is how to apply them to the technical challenges or revamping the office. Also, it’s interesting to me that even on the ball people struggle with it. I guess I didn’t know that! It makes me feel less inept. :)

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        Yes, that is the question. For me, I just have not made them enough of a priority. Not sure how “on the ball” I am, but I do know that there is always some area needing attention. I did read once that it’s good to keep one area “disorganized” (like a junk drawer) to help keep balance in your life and not go to an extreme with organization either.

        • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

          Haha, I don’t think I’m in danger of that, unfortunately. These little tips really are helping me, though. Especially number 1-4. Plus I’m trying to shorten my lists up so i can always complete them every day which helps on an emotional level.

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

    Being thankful is key for me right now. Learning to REJOICE no matter how overwhelmed I feel. it’s a blessing to be able to rest in Christ, trust His timing and have joy even when things seem to be piling up.

    great advice.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      I was trying that one the other day when I had a terrible techy problem that I spent a couple of hours on. Focusing on being thankful while continuing to try different strategies to solve my techy problem really was helpful on an emotional level!

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    Thanks for this Barb, it’s sooo timely for me. I was just smiling at #6 because i have a small bowl of nuts next to the laptop right now :) i like what you’ve said about starting with the non-threatening tasks first. often we think we have to do the hard job first! When I am not in the mood for handling difficult things, that’s the very thing that will keep me procrastinating. But smaller easier things help with momentum. Like right now i need to go get the trash out and come back and complete a guest post! Thanks, this was right on time!

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      Thanks, Ngina. I wrote it because I needed it myself. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything! Which makes it hard to do things you don’t really have to do.

  • http://countingmyblessings.com/ BlessingCounter – Deb Wolf

    Great tips Barb! I’m learning to work on projects I’m avoiding for 10 minutes. If I want to stop until tomorrow, at least I’ve started . . . but many times I’m motivated to stay with it until it’s finished. Sure wish I’d started doing this years ago.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      That’s a great idea to do it for ten minutes – we can usually last that long just on brute strength. that happens to me too that when I start, I usually keep going. Good advice – thanks, Deb!

  • http://www.reflectionsfromthealley.org/ Dave Arnold

    Good reminders Barb. I especially resonate with this one – Focus on one job at a time.
    Need to do a better job at that. :)

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      Me too. I do so much better when I focus on one. It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. Too bad I didn’t read your comment earlier today – I needed it!

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Hello Barb,

    I try to keep the end in mind whenever I’m plagued with procrastination. Telling myself that if I do X the result will be Y (at least in the future). Great post!

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      That’s a great idea, Dan. I’m afraid I often think my project is going to fail anyway, so why bother? Or that I can’t do it. I guess I need a little makeover in that department. :)

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

        I think every person in the “fight” or taking action deals with that. Even the successful people. It’s something we have to overcome.

        • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

          Thanks for reminding me, Dan. I always tend to think that if I were a more on-the-ball person by nature, writing would be easier. But I imagine everyone deals with insecurity in some form or another.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Great tips, Barb. I think there are two main approaches. The first is to just make an immediate switch to barrel through a current task. The second approach is to really address chronic procrastination by taking a look at your inner motivations and your heart.
    I think the tips you’ve given here are wonderful. I think #6 is one that people underestimate. Putting on some music or turning something into a game can be pretty effective.

    • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

      I agree with your two approach assessment, Loren. The second approach takes longer but in the long run it saves time because we’re dealing with the heart issues and producing more long-term change which will create less procrastination in the future. Speaking of time management, I saw you have a new podcast out – can’t wait to listen to it! I haven’t had time yet but am looking forward to it – I really have enjoyed the series with Matt Perman – will include link here: http://www.lifeofasteward.com/matt-perman-gospel-productivity-relationship-part-3/

      • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

        Thanks, Barb! Glad you liked it. He was fun to talk to.