What’s an efficient way to overcome procrastination?

Someone asked me that question on Quora recently. Although there are so many things you could try, I want to mention just a few…

So what’s an efficient way to overcome procrastination?

Relax! Don’t berate yourself for procrastinating. Simply acknowledge it and be aware of it. Becoming angry only pulls you further away from your topic at hand. This is, in fact, a standard meditation technique; and practicing meditation could also help you overcome procrastination.

Know your priorities! Sometimes we get overwhelmed by tasks. In these cases you have to know your priorities: what is it, you REALLY want to do or achieve? Procrastination can be a powerful sign that what you’re trying to work on is not that important (to you). On the other hand, if you can remind yourself about what you’re doing this for (and “this for” is at the top of your priorities), you can trick your short-term reptile brain into actually doing stuff that is not immediately rewarding for it.

Single task! Do one thing at a time. That will give the topic at hand your full brain capacity and put you in a flow state, that feels less like work and more like fun — you don’t even think about procrastinating in that state :). Single tasking does not mean, you couldn’t juggle multiple projects (although one project at a time would be better): with timeboxing techniques you can focus on one thing these 30 minutes and another the next 30 minutes. Timeboxing also tells your procrastination urge: “Don’t sweat it, it’s just 30 minutes of uninterrupted, focused work — after that, you can go check your social feeds again”. Make sure to check the simple “Pomodoro” method (in essence: work 25min uninterrupted on one task, then take a 5min break). I wrote an article about timeboxing that might also help you.

Reduce distractions! To stop procrastinating, you have to take control of your day. The first step is to turn off distractions like notifications (be it email, Twitter or simply your phone). Noone will die, if you answer an email a few hours later! I turned off my automatic email notifications on all my devices and scheduled two or three slots a day, when I deliberately check my email. I also never check email before breakfast or when I have focused work ahead. If you’re interested in how I start a productive day, you might enjoy the article 5 apps I use for a productive morning routine — it’s not comprehensive, but might give you some tips to start upon.

…there are many more tips I could give. But the important thing is: don’t hate yourself for procrastinating. Take it as a helpful symptom pointing you in a right direction. You might “just” have to get your priorities straight or become aware of unwanted distractions…

Let me know about your anti-procrastination technique or the last time you procrastinated in a comment!

About me

I am a team and productivity coach at Dreimannzelt. I coach teams to become more efficient, have more fun and require less „management“. Feel free to contact me about anything related to productivity. You can also follow me on Twitter.