I’ll Finish This Post Tomorrow: 10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

by Marla Walters on 13 March 2012 6 comments
Photo: Dreamstime

“Procrastination is a powerful copilot when it comes to unpleasant duties.” – Randy Wayne White

Why do we procrastinate? Well, as mentioned in the quote above, the task in question may be unpleasant. Maybe you are dreading making an appointment to have that aching tooth checked. Sometimes we know the task is unpleasant (like paying a bill), and sometimes we just fear that it might be (like getting your mammogram done). 

There are also occasions, as my husband pointed out, when procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, if you have a big decision to make, it’s best to map out the pros and cons, do research, or talk with a professional. “Thinking hard” can be confused “with putting off,” and that isn’t fair.

However, for the day-to-day unpleasant items that really need doing, here are some tips that I have used. (See also: Are You a Chronic Procrastinator?)

1. Make a List

I am a huge fan of to-do lists, and every week, I make a fresh one. Every chore I need to do is on that list, from bill paying to house cleaning and sending birthday cards. If there are urgent things, I force myself to deal with those tasks right away. The benefit to this method is that it makes everything else on the list seem really easy. Cleaning the cat box pales in comparison to the mammogram, for instance.

2. Put Up a Wall Calendar

Our family calendar hangs prominently in the kitchen, where it is hard to ignore. For really important events, grab a highlighter. 

3. Calendar the Task on Your Computer

Set the chimes and alarms to ring loudly and obnoxiously when you're nearing the deadline for a task. Few things are as jarring as a loud computer alarm, especially before your first cup of coffee. If you hit “snooze,” it’s just going to ring again, so DO THE TASK.

4. Give Yourself a Treat

I really do this! If I have to go to the dentist, well, I’m going to read a new glossy magazine while I wait. When I finish paying that last bill (complete with stamp), it’s time for a fresh cup of coffee. Completing the housekeeping entitles me to a cookie.

5. Get Help

Sometimes, the task is just too daunting. I used to be shy when it came to asking for help, but over the years I have found that most people are pretty willing to help you, if you just ask. If they do, and thus relieve you of a procrastination burden, be sure to thank them appropriately (i.e., a gift or a thank-you note, etc.).

6. Get PROFESSIONAL Help

If your procrastination issues are so difficult that you are unable to cope, see a professional — be it a lawyer, a CPA, a physician, counselor, etc.

7. Assign a Nagger

My last boss used to mutter under his breath, “Nag, nag, nag.” I didn’t let him miss a deadline, though. Maybe you have a staffer who can help you.

8. Minimize Distractions

Sometimes when I am putting together a complicated report, I turn off my email or let my phone take messages.

9. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

Or let your computer do it. There are daily motivational blogs that will happily help you lift your spirits and get a move on.

10. Make It a Habit

Try one or more of the above tips for two months, and see if your procrastination habits change for the better.

Now, off to schedule that dental appointment.

What do you do to stop procrastinating?

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Meg Favreau's picture

Lists and computer reminders are the two most helpful techniques for me. I find that putting something up on the wall doesn't work -- even if I put it in a prominent place, it's easy for me to ignore it. If I do write a physical note, I have to put it somewhere like my keyboard or in the middle of my monitor -- a place where I have to go in and remove it in order to get things done.

Marla Walters's picture

Meg, I can't believe you ever procrastinate!

Guest's picture
Patrick

I'll read this article tomorrow...or maybe next week.

Marla Walters's picture

Yeah, yeah, Patrick . . . ;-)

Guest's picture

Lists and Cell Phone reminders are my two hugest ones.

But lists by FAR.
If I have a list, I feel like I NEED to get it accomplished!

Marla Walters's picture

Hi, Frugalrican (great name, BTW)! Totally agree with you on the list. Isn't there something satisfying about scratching off the task? Thanks for the comment!