Procrastinators! Dreaded term. You want to believe you don’t, but we all fall for it.
The difference is, some of us do it once a week, and others all the time.
But most people don’t even have that choice. After trying fifty different blog tips without success, procrastinators start to doubt.
“I know the why, how, and what. Why can’t I do what I need to do to win?”
If you don’t want to be a slave of your emotions, keep reading. You’re about to discover all the techniques proven to stop procrastination once and for all.
But as you already know, it’s not about throwing you some tips and hoping you take action.
What I share is practical and works for everyone. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve categorized these into six personalities: the optimistic, distracted, perfectionist, busy, guilty, and disorganized.
If you feel like those terms just described you, don’t worry. Even the most iconic entrepreneurs procrastinate at some point.
When it’s not one type, it’s another. Maybe all of them at once.
Then, How on Earth Did the Great Become So Successful?
There are a few omitted truths you must know about procrastination:
- You can put things off without being lazy. You can avoid working and, at the same time, work super-hard in a video game, for example
- While logic can clarify why work is good, emotions make the decision regardless. They prioritize short-term gratification
- If you just did the work, the problem still wouldn’t go away. It’s NOT about the task, but how you treat it
- If you have plenty of time left and not work, you still have this problem. When you don’t make tasks your priority, you’ll put things off, let alone reaching your best performance level
Who knows? Maybe you told yourself to read some productivity articles to feel like working, “prepare,” or [enter your excuse here].
Hey, if that weren’t a problem (we’ve all been there), you wouldn’t be here. Are you ready to face this demon?
What Type Of Procrastinator Are You?
“But Dan, I can’t stay motivated all the time. After I finish, my to-do list keeps getting longer!“
That doesn’t sound very fulfilling.
Before you complain that you’ll have to work forever, let me tell you why you won’t: momentum.
Procrastinators severely overestimate how hard it is to complete the task. While starting is hard, scaling is FAR easier.
Look at any entrepreneur. Ask them if it takes 10X more hours, energy, or skill to make 10X more money. It doesn’t.
Whatever it’s taking you to start, you’ll find later that you achieve 10X more work with the same willpower.
Yeah, you’re still “working.” Except that it’s 10X more rewarding.
Paradox? The more you work, the less it feels like a grind.
Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, go back to this section and identify what procrastinator type you’re playing.
1. Optimistic Procrastinators
Problem: You overestimate your skills and underestimate the challenge. You delay and can’t get started because you’re bored, overconfident, or not giving it enough relevance.
Why? It’s common to have unrealistic expectations with projects you’ve never tried before. Otherwise, your goals are too small, or you didn’t break the big goals into daily tasks.
- You don’t even write the deadline on your calendar
- You promise to start tomorrow, only to repeat the cycle until the deadline looms
- Telling everyone about how easy it is or everything you plan to do
Solution: Increase your sense of urgency, fix your expectations, or make it a challenge to get done as much as possible asap.
2. Distracted Procrastinators
Problem: You may even love your work, but other tasks seem more attractive. You can’t stop doing other activities unless the deadline is right in front of your face.
Why? Everything in the universe gravitates towards the path of least resistance. If you don’t fix your environment, it’s a matter of hours before your willpower runs out.
Logic doesn’t work. Because your thoughts only reaffirm whatever decision your emotions have already made.
- You consider “reasonable” distracting for a few minutes. You believe bad habits are good in moderation, but you don’t respect your time blocks.
- Before you start working, half of the day is gone in minor tasks. You spent time on urgent tasks but didn’t question whether they were useful or not.
- You never feel like being 100% present at work or play, but somewhere in the middle.
Solution: Take extreme measures and block your distractions. Plan days where you reward yourself generously, so smaller temptations won’t be attractive anymore.
3. Perfectionist Procrastinators
Problem: Preparation is paralyzing you. You want to improve quality when, ironically, you didn’t work for long enough to optimize anything.
Also, you might have prioritization issues, giving too much time to details that may not matter and waste your time.
Why? We tend to overthink when a task is out of our comfort zone (or the consequences are critical). But no matter the preparation, you can’t remove fear or flinches completely.
You can take it either as a sign to take action or freeze.
- You know what to do and how to do it. But right before you start, an irrational thought pulls you back.
- You spend hours planning the introduction, “learning,” action-faking.
- You feel unsatisfied and want to do “one quick change more” before submitting it.
Solution: Shift your focus from results to actions until you get used to your routine.
4. Guilty Procrastinators
Problem: Your interpretation of failure is dissuading you from working.
You might have failed either because you didn’t take action, the strategy was wrong, or something external to you. You can’t accept your failure or believe that you will fail again no matter what you try.
Why? Past results are triggering negative thinking and discouraging you. You might already know how to fix it, but you’re too frustrated to take action.
- Accepting mediocre distractions because “you already lost anyway.” Ironically, you believe things will eventually fix themselves.
- You feel like the people around are mad at you or don’t understand your “unfair position.”
- You start slacking on healthy habits you previously created. Apparently, one loss justifies failing in other areas?
Solution: When you failed, you didn’t know everything you just learned here. Check the article field-notes and apply the strategies shown.
But first, take a day off to stop thinking and break the procrastination doom loop.
5. Busy Procrastinators
Problem: You have no time left because you’ve committed to too many projects. Even if you have time, you sometimes don’t see the point in spending time on those tasks.
Why? Taking action is good — except when you have no time left to think.
If you don’t give yourself room to breathe, something WILL go wrong. When unexpected problems arrive, you’ll complain to have “no time” for them or diminish their importance.
- You’re multitasking. The sky will fall if you give up on responsibilities
- You get about 70% done off your endless to-do list, but you don’t see results anywhere
- You want to spend time with all your favorite projects at once
Solution: Focus on results
- If a task is irrelevant, stop it
- If you have ten different ways to achieve the objective, remove everything except the best-performing one
- When working on projects from diverse areas, prioritize your goals and work on one at a time
- If you pick the right one, it will translate to all the areas of your life, AND you’ll have more free time
- When you feel like rushing to the finish line, remember you can progress at a slower pace
Your decision of what work matters is a multiplier compared to the linear progress of working more hours. Use some time management techniques to help you.
6. Disorganized Procrastinators
Problem: Your poor time-management/prioritization skills are causing delays. It gets worse when working on long-term projects.
Why? You hate routines because they “take away your freedom” of living happily. But because you’re always working on overdue projects, you neither have time to do what you love.
If your plan is so strict that you dread it, change the routine.
- When you do want to work, you waste time preparing the workspace (e.g., you forgot where you left your tools)
- You interrupt for a two-minute task, which turns into an endless chain of chores that consume your day.
- If you catch yourself procrastinating, you prefer to complete the task at hand instead of switching to the important one immediately
Solution: If you’re inexperienced or don’t have a system, you’re already working on the problem by reading this guide. Be sure to check the GTD flow chart, the Pomodoro technique, and Eisenhower’s Matrix to learn to work smarter.
5 Mindset Shifts That Will Make Or Break Your Work Ethic
Have you ever regretted wasting hours, if not the whole day, on a useless task?
You don’t even remember how you got to that decision. You lie to yourself with a “two-minute distraction” that ends eating up your day.
When making decisions, impulsive people prefer short-term results over longer tasks.
2. Sense of Urgency
Our motivation to complete work is inversely proportional to the time we have left.
We underestimate the time it takes when the deadline is far away. It doesn’t matter whether you’re skilled in the project or never tried it before.
3. Perception of Work
Prolonged procrastination distorts perception. Work looks more arduous than it is.
But if you spend most of your time not working, can your judgment be anything but accurate? You may not remember how satisfying it feels like getting things done.
Keep in mind thinking also affects your perception.
- You compare your work ethic with others (like Elon Musk)
- You think you’re working hard
- Others admire or criticize your work
The reality? What you or others or think about your performance doesn’t matter. If you didn’t get results yet, it’s because you did it wrong, or you didn’t do it right for long enough.
Some people may feel powerful and satisfied with surprising others with unexpected work patterns. But nobody benefits from inconsistency: it only makes it harder to trust each other.
This behavior suggests you don’t like the task, or you feel obligated to do it for someone else.
Since “I’m busy” became the most popular answer, people have used it as an excuse (aside from the 1% who literally have no time).
Although some stages of your life require you to jam projects, it’s often a consequence of not managing time well in the first place (or underestimating the work required).
11 Procrastination Busters To Get Work Done TODAY
You feel intimidated by work because of a lack of clarity, high complexity, or something you have never done before. You also tend to overthink everything.
How? Picture the best way to complete your task with detail by creating a checklist.
Start working according to the list for testing. If you find you missed some points after you finish, add them too.
Now, you can get work done without thinking or worrying about forgotten details.
You encounter too much friction to start. Just thinking of it incites boredom/stress/dread.
How? Also known as the Do Something Principle, you want to take enough 2-minute tasks to create momentum, whatever they are. After a dozen of them, work feels much lighter. Start with anything (e.g., brushing your teeth) but end with the tasks that relate the most to your intended work (e.g., if you’re writing, start by adding 50 words to your paper in two minutes).
Avoid taking more than one hour per session, though, because then you could consider it procrastination.
3. The Hour Non-Negotiable
It becomes harder to re-prioritize tasks as your day goes on.
How? You force yourself to work on your project for the first hour of the day, which is a piece of cake after a restful night of sleep.
The more “loyal” you are to this rule, the easier it feels to do it. You won’t get much done in one hour, but it will become a catalyst for more productivity throughout the day. Why? You set the right priorities.
It’s the whole idea behind the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.
4. The Celebration/Resting Day
Your work isn’t very stimulating, and the small pleasures of your comfort zone are distracting you.
How? Plan a day where you allow yourself to do anything you enjoy doing, productive or not.
Think of yourself now: you might be procrastinating with little distractions. Compared to that big celebration, they feel like a waste of time, and therefore less attractive.
Wait, then what is stopping us from taking the celebration treat right now? Self-awareness.
It’s much easier to resist big distractions because they are extravagant and exaggerated. We’re more likely to accept innocent, two-minute distractions, which later turns into hours anyway.
Taking days off work has become the most overlooked productivity technique.
5. Habit Bunching
You can’t find a way to build good habits without taking months. You want it NOW.
How? Do you like to drink coffee? Listen to music? Walk outdoors? You can combine enjoyable, passive tasks to make work more bearable.
Although their effect decreases over time, it will help you build the habit of working. Later, try removing those support habits. You will be able to stay productive without them.
6. Personalized Timeframes (aka Mini-Days)
You’re reactive to deadlines. You convince yourself you’re skilled, and you have enough time in the day to do it later.
How? If your sense of urgency depends on the deadline distance, a small (yet realistic) one will make you achieve as much as possible.
If you feel like the day is too dull, break it down into mini-days: one for working, another for learning skills, and relaxation. The difference with time-blocking is that you will aim to achieve the whole day’s work in each mini day, achieving 3-4x more results.
Sounds impossible? It works better than you think. At least, it will force you to get creative and think of how to make it.
Like the Non-Negotiable Hour, this technique depends on your level of consistency. The more you do it, the easier it is to believe your rules.
7. The Hourly Challenge
You don’t mind wasting time between hours as long as the overall day is a success.
How? Make a shift from daily to hourly reviews.
Run a script where you plan to give your best work every single hour. Define how much work you need to do in one hour to consider it a personal record.
- “Am I ready to do my best work session at this hour?” If so, start!
- If not, take the next hour to rest so that you’re ready for the next one. Eat, take cold showers, do mini-tasks to gain momentum, take a nap, walk
- If you’re still not prepared by the second hour, you did the preparation wrong. Rethink your strategy
Looking to go beyond your limits can be motivating but also creates a perfectionist tendency. Here’s how to get more done:
- Before thinking of personal records, have a minimum work requirement for your hour (about 40% below your capacity). If you’re ready to achieve that, start. Give yourself 5-10 minimum sessions for conditioning
- If you optimized your marks to the point where improvements are tiny, increase your “work-tier” to two hours. When you reach the exhaustion point again, move it to three (Go as low or as high as you want)
If you ever optimize eight work hours (wow!), then it may be time to work smarter instead and do something different.
Your estimations are too optimistic and wrong over 90% of the time.
How? Allow yourself 30-50% as a margin of error for all your expectations. If something goes wrong, you lose nothing. If not, you got extra time to get the job done earlier and have free time later (stress-free!). That means:
- One more week to complete the two-week project
- Instead of starting the week before, give yourself ten days
- Spend that extra time spotting problems and preventing mistakes
9. OKR Goal-Setting System
When setting goals, you use results as metrics — not actions. Because this binary thinking doesn’t give you any control of the outcome, you find expectation gaps and lose motivation.
How? OKR stands for Objective Keyword Result. Here’s how it works:
- Set a binary goal (you either achieved it or you didn’t), either monthly or quarterly
- Give yourself three actionable metrics that rely on numbers, percentages, or binary outputs (e.g., Make 500 sales calls in three months, Follow up on 100% of the clients who respond, Don’t skip a single workday [YES/NO])
I recommend combining the OKR method with the 10X Rule. Example:
- You have a sales pitch that closes one of every ten people who respond. But you may need to message 10X more to get responses
- If you want 100 clients this quarter, that’s 1000 responses coming from 10K messages or less.
It may take less than that, but at least you set your expectations right. Maybe you don’t get the 100 clients until you’re writing the message Nº9500 (or you get them before the first thousand).
You’re no longer thinking about results but actions.
Did I mention Google invented the OKR Method? Now you can set goals as the Internet giants do.
10. Done Better Than Perfect
You’re too perfectionist to start.
How? Create a system that prevents perfectionism and rewards action:
- Set goals based on quantity, and leave quality when you refine later. Allow yourself to create “garbage”
- Limit the tools you have to avoid distractions (and get resourceful). Set deadlines so that you don’t take forever
- Limit your ability to undo work (don’t edit as you produce). Disable the Ctrl+Z shortcut or work on paper
- Start working in non-ideal places, like your notebook, a note-taking app, even a napkin (anything but the format you’ll use to publish your final work). It will be less intimidating to start
11. Environment Optimization
Your workspace doesn’t let you focus. You get low-quality work done because you can’t get into the zone.
- Set a neutral environment. Whenever you finish using a room, let it ready to use for the next time (not only your workspace). Your virtual desktops should already have opened all the apps and pages you’ll need (there are tab saving extensions for that)
- Set the local environment. Within a one-meter radius, you should have NOTHING except your work tools. Your distractions should be in another room, out of sight, and hard to reach (probably your phone)
Avoid the Single Worst Mistake of a Procrastinator
Imagine you’re procrastinating for the whole day (it should be easy).
You know you’re living below your potential. When the day ends, you feel deception because you didn’t get enough value from the day.
So you stay up late, try to work but get no results.
You wake up anxious and tired, increasing the chance of falling into procrastination. That’s the procrastination cycle.
You can see similar behaviors in other examples:
- Traders who don’t accept they’re losing end up losing more because they’re too attached to the trade
- If you buy an expensive television, you’re going to be distracted. You paid so much that if you don’t watch it, it feels like you’re not getting the value
If you find yourself here, it’s better to accept a losing day and immediately prepare for the next one.
The Next Time You Procrastinate, Remember This
- Doing the task right now takes less effort than doing it later. When calculating the effort required, remember that thinking of your to-do list also consumes energy. If you need to do it eventually, you will save more willpower if you do it now
- Procrastination does have something to do with time management, but mostly with emotional intelligence
- When you get into a productivity streak, get the most of it before it’s gone. You never know how long these will last! Despite studies made about the flow state, there’s still some luck involved
- Frustration is more dangerous for your brain than the consequences of the work you didn’t do
- Zero is better than one. Bold decisions remove self-negotiation. If you don’t give the task your highest priority, you will never do it
- You won’t have to “work forever.” Even if you decide to work for 8hs, the first one-two hours will require 90% of the effort (the rest is “easy”). Once you’re back on track, the same energy you used to get started will serve to achieve 10X more results. You’ll also start feeling the benefits of your actions, creating a positive motivation-loop
- You’re much more likely to avoid procrastination when you feel confident in your system (meaning, you analyzed problems and fixed them). Nobody should work expecting to fail. Prepare for the worst, but expect the best. Your expectations shouldn’t disapprove of self-compassion when falling behind
Hopefully, you’ll get some good from the unbelievable research that went into this guide.
If it saved your day, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with your fellow procrastinators.