• Are you guilty of procrastinating even though it makes you feel worse?

  • Dr Geraint Evans, author of Do One Thing, offers 5 tips to help you move towards your goals

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We all procrastinate sometimes, however for some of us procrastination can also become a habit and an ingrained pattern of behaviour.

If you feel frustrated at your lack of progress or motivation, and feel ready and willing to make some changes to how you are approaching things, then these are some practical steps to consider.

1. Reflect on ‘why’ you procrastinate

Spending some time reflecting on exactly ‘why’ you have a tendency to procrastinate is an extremely useful place to start. We are all different, and therefore have differing motivations as to why we procrastinate.

According to David Ballard, Head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, overcoming procrastination will vary depending on why it is happening for you: “First step back and figure out what’s going on. Identify your own habits. Is there one kind of thing you always put off to last? What is it that you tend to put off, and what are your thought patterns around that?”

Identifying a recurring theme as to the things you procrastinate with will help you reframe how you view it.

2. Forgive yourself 

Once you’ve identified what you might have a tendency to procrastinate about, I truly believe you then need to ‘forgive’ yourself for the past.

Multiple studies have identified the benefits of self-forgiveness. This research from Stanford suggests we often have very high expectations of ourselves and therefore get upset if we fail to live up to our ideals: “Self-forgiveness is crucial for moving past our perceived failings and growing and thriving both personally and professionally.”

Employing self-forgiveness will help you to feel much more positive about yourself, and in turn help reduce the possibility you’ll procrastinate in the future.  


3. Reframe your procrastination 

Part of this process can also involve reframing your procrastination and how you describe tasks. The language we use is fascinating – consider your use of phrases like 'need to' and 'have to' which imply that you have no choice in what you do and in turn can make you feel powerless or worse self-sabotaging.

Consider reframing the language you use about tasks you are putting off to more positive ways of describing them – for example, 'I choose to'. This will hopefully help you feel like you are more in control and actually happy to get it done!

4. Do the harder things first 

We’ve all heard phrases like ‘eat the frog’ (attributed to Mark Twain) to describe the beneficial nature of getting your harder or most complex tasks done – or perhaps the ones you’ve been procrastinating on the longest – as soon as possible in the day. 

As hard as it might sound, this can be a highly effective way to tackle procrastinating on a key task. Rather than building it up through the course of a day (or week, or longer?) getting into the thing you’ve been putting off first thing in the morning and then getting it actually done can give you a real lift. I have found this motivates people to do hard work and gives them some real momentum to carry on completing things.

Another key to this is sitting down (or going to a place) and committing to the task. Try to minimise distractions – turn off your phone or put on your favourite music. If it’s a large task, spend some time breaking it down into smaller pieces and get going on the first one. Before you know it you will have made great progress.


5. Reward yourself 

If you’ve truly managed to sit down (first thing?) and finally complete that difficult task, then rewarding yourself with something pleasurable – whether that’s a treat, a nice walk or some time on one your favourite hobbies – will help you positively associate with how good it can feel to complete tasks that have been hanging over you. Well done!

Procrastination can be hard – very hard for many of us. I’d really encourage you to balance being kind and not ‘judging’ yourself for how you may have put things off in the past. This step might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how effective this has been in helping a lot people I work with to procrastinate less.

Being positive about wanting to take on jobs and getting them done can make all the difference.

Dr Geraint Evans is a personal development coach and the author of Do One Thing

Further reading

How to actually manage your diary

6 mindful ways to stick to your goals

How can coaching further your creative career?

6 habits to thrive in life and work

How coaching can make you a better leader