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I was wondering if someone know of a good way to get out of procrastination. Like situations when you know you have to do something and the more you procrastinate the more you know you have to do it anyway and just have to stress it out or pull an all nigher. But the more you think of that you have to do it the more you avoid it. And get stuck doing things like:

  • Clicking around, on internet not getting anything useful done at all.

  • Watching meaningless youtube videos for hours on end.

  • Should take a quick shower but ends up spending a long time just standing there.

  • Going to bed early to get up in the morning to do it, but still sleep until late.

I am asking for specific techniques or mental tools to aid in getting out of these situations.

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This gets asked a lot. I think you will find more than a few answers that have the tag "procrastination". – 0x6d64 Feb 12 '15 at 15:23
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Studies have shown that the hardest thing is getting started. Once you started your work your brain will refuse to stop working because we have routines inside of our brain that want us to finish. Whenever you don't want to do it - try it. Just go to your task and try doing it. Most of the times it's way easier than you thought first and you might even enjoy it because all this procrastimation oressure is away. This has helped me multiple times doing something indidnt want to do - just get started. – Jonas Dralle Aug 4 '15 at 22:33

13 Answers 13

I like collecting things like this, so far throughout my life this has been a pervasive problem for me causing me years of depression and suicidal thoughts when I start to feel like I just can't get anything done. It's my hope that at least some of this can be useful to others. I don't expect anyone to read all of this, because I certainly wouldn't (I'd skim, ha) so let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

Stress, Anxiety, and Mindset:

The first and most important thing is to not beat yourself up too much about this. It will only serve to discourage and de-motivate you, when what you need most right now is movement in your life. It's not productive.

As always, easier said than done.

It's most important during these times to keep perspective. Don't compare yourself to other people, instead compare where you were to how far you've come and where you are today. Don't say, "this isn't as good as what [Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, successful friend on Facebook, etc.] is doing." Say, "this is WAY better than what I was doing 2 years ago!" (I recently had run-ins with several old friends from HS. It was very surprising that despite always feeling 'behind schedule', I seemed to be doing better than all of them.)

For me, usually it's a single source of stress that's preventing me from doing the rest of the stuff I need to get done. e.g. "I'm broke, I need to get to the bank to deposit this check... CRAP, I forgot my car still won't start!..." A major source of stress like this can sometimes put me in a loop.

Realize that as stress and anxiety builds around the objective, the actual work required will begin to seem overwhelming. It's not. The only way to make an overwhelming project seem less overwhelming is to actually start working on it. When this happens, you experience a nice benefit of being able to say, "...that wasn't so bad!"

Tips and tricks you can actually 'do':

  • Small-chunk the work. (and let the Zeigarnik Effect take over)

    1. Say it's a stack of papers that you must process. Take a small stack off the top, and place it in front of you. Now tell yourself, "all I have to do is finish this small part then I can go on to something else."
    2. What if it's just one big chunk of work, say like a software project? Pick a close stopping point – a spot easy to reach and easy to continue from – and tell yourself the same thing, "At this point I can move on to something else if I like."

    This is because the hardest part of any task is starting. Once you've committed to starting, the rest pretty much handles itself. You must "always be starting" as Neil Foire puts it. Start on the finishing touches, start pt. 8 of the long grind, just keep starting.

  • Include small breaks. — For example, set a timer for 25 mins. After 25 mins of wrok, take a 5 min break. After four 30-min cycles, you've earned a full 30 min break. (this compliments the Zeigarnik Effect) (Pomodoro Technique)

  • Tell other people about it, (or not) (After some more months of personal experience I've realized how powerful this is. Essentially, over time I get an energy buildup inside me that can be expelled two ways: socially, or on the source of the problem. If I purposely refrain from socializing about it, the pressure from the energy buildup pushes me to expel it the only other way possible: working the problem itself.)
  • Remove distractions. If there's people talking, wear headphones. If too many people walk by, find a space where people normally don't go.
  • Take a walk – take the time to air out your lungs, air out your mind, change the scenery a little bit, get your body and your brain out of being stuck in the same place. The spiritually-calming effects of the most simple stroll around the block are so profound and subtle that it must be tried to be believed.
  • Play time is sacred – schedule it into your day. Do not let work or any other project violate your well-deserved daily guilt-free play. Making play time sacred will give perspective on work time and actually make you more productive. (The Now Habit by Neil Foire, "Unschedule")
  • Dress for the occasion — I've never read this anywhere, but have noticed it through personal experience. Say when you make a commitment to working out after you get home, you rarely feel like doing so when the time comes. But if you only promise yourself to put on your workout clothes... well after I've donned my 'getting sweaty' clothes, I kinda feel like getting sweaty. Sometimes I have friends over who want to go out, though I don't feel like it... but if I don some nice 'going out' clothes and clean up, well I start to feel in the mood to go out. When I feel it's time for relaxin' to the maxim', I put on sweat pants. Now all I've done is expand this to the work setting: If I'm working my budget, I put on a clear green visor cap, yellow lens glasses, get ready an ashtray and chew some bubble gum. If I'm studying for certifications or working my server lab, I always prefer wearing a lab coat and putting my hair into 'mad scientist' mode. If it's just regular ol' work, put on a nice work shirt – something you'd interview with.
  • Change locations. — If you're not getting anywhere, try changing scenes to a new room, or say to a coffee shop. If a busy coffee shop has too many distractions, maybe a nice quiet park or library will do. Make it a place you want to work at, and once you've found a good one keep it consistent. I've read a study about rooms having a persistent 'vibe' to them, such as a room where a group meets every day for a week to have a group meditation session, and a control room where nothing takes place in it for a week. When a brand new group with different people tries to have a meditation session, they have more success in the room used for it before than in the control room. I imagine it works the same for study and work, i.e.: don't do it in the living room, where TV and videogames dominate a "play" scene, and not in your bedroom where you may instead want to cultivate a "lounge, sleep, rest" vibe. Whatever room you choose to make your 'work area', keep it consistent, and the more you pay into the 'vibe' of the room with a strong work effort, soon you may be able to just walk into the room and be overwhelmed by a sense and urge to get s*** done.
  • Clean. — Mostly, clean your desk. Try make it as blank as a minimalist would, give everything else a place. If your desk is already clean but you really should clean your bathroom, go clean your bathroom. Anything is forward progress at this point, but more importantly, I notice human beings seem to act happier in clean spaces. Happier human beings are usually more willing to work.
  • Lighting – Happy human beings again. I dunno much about being human, but I've noticed bright outdoorsy spaces seem to leave most people in a cheery, relaxed mood, even myself. If it's daytime, try to work near a window with a view (and if the more primitive outdoor life looks more tempting compared to your work, maybe turn your back or try to flank it). If working into the night, make sure you have a desk lamp and a floor lamp in addition to your regular lighting. Make your space look very occupied, in-use. Not (only) so much for the eye-strain, but just to make your job that much easier and that much more comfortable to do, so you can get it done quicker.
  • Meditate. — If you haven't read any of the several studies out there about the positive benefits of meditation on the mind and body, you should. Doing meditation is simple – yet as always easier said than done, it's harder than it looks. The purpose is to clear your mind and remain at a blank slate, no stray thoughts flying about – easy, right? If you find them creeping in, simply let them pass; don't fight it. "Whatever you resist, persists." Experiment and find out what you like. You can meditate sitting in a chair, lying down, sitting against the wall, etc. Try to remain present and in the moment. And overall, screw anybody who tries to tell you 'this how you're supposed to do it,' listen to your body and do what you like.

  • Meditate. — The purpose is to completely clear your mind and remain at a blank slate so that you have no stray thoughts flying about — sounds kinda easy, right? – yet as always, easier said than done, it's always harder than it looks. — If you find stray thoughts creeping in, simply let them pass. "Whatever you resist, persists." Experiment and find out what kind of body positions you like, you can do it sitting in a chair, lying down, sitting against the wall, etc. Try to remain present and in the moment, and remember, it's mostly a mental experiment, . And overall, screw anybody who tries to tell you 'this how you're supposed to do it,' listen to your body and do what you like.

Good luck be unto you!

Edit:

I will update this and change things continually as I experiment with strategies, maybe even remove some things. Mainly I started with rehashed points from other online articles, but as I've had time to experiment with these things, I now have first-hand experience with the results of certain strategies myself. Experience > Theory is what I've been taught (and proven, ha) so I want to mainly keep this about real-life results.

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My mother-in-law has said: "If you have a plate of frogs in front of you, eat the ugliest one first."

Features of this quote:

  • The frogs are your unpleasant tasks. They're not butterflies.
  • One of those tasks is going to be the most unpleasant.
  • Given that you have to do all of them, get the most unpleasant one out of the way first.
  • Then, it gets easier. The other tasks are less unpleasant, and eventually they're all done.
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Would you rather eat butterflies than frogs? – Stephan Schielke Mar 17 '15 at 12:51

The key is to start the task you plan on doing. Once you started the task, it will be easier to get the motivation to complete it.

You should also set small prizes for yourself if you finish a task, and only receive them once the task is complete. This could be a fun way to do things, nut as I said before, you must first START.

Now, get of your ass and START ALREADY !!!

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Anyone who truly knows probably won't be on this forum answering the question in the first place, but I'll still throw out a few tidbits.

The ability to get stuff done seems to come from deep within. I've been in moods where I want nothing more than to blast through my to-do list. Other times, I've felt that refreshing my inbox repeatedly was the most important thing in life. Dumb, obviously.

Tidbit 1: You can force yourself to behave by focusing on the satisfaction of getting something done, but in the end you still don't feel like it, and you'll probably fail again very soon. So, focusing on the reason for doing the task can work in the short term.

Tidbit 2: To do better in the long term, you need to identify the time-suckers such as Facebook, and admit that they are robbing your life of meaning. Then, just delete the accounts. If you cannot bring yourself to do that, then watch the documentary "Terms and Conditions May Apply". Then you'll want to delete it. Basically, making distractions a part of your past (rather than present) is the only way to make them stop.

Tidbit 3: As I was saying, true motivation comes from within. I've had good luck using Yerba Mate, which has stimulants known for elevating mood and increasing motivation, and Aniracetam worked pretty well, as well. In addition to that, check your diet for things that cause lethargy, such as MSG, too much junk food, sugar, fast food, etc. Check out http://www.bulletproofexec.com/ for some great diet and life tips.

There's a saying that goes:

You cannot make anyone to do anything. You can only make them want to do it.

The key, overall, is to make yourself want to do it. Nobody can make you want something. That drive must come from you. If you don't have it then you must find it. If you can't, then scratch your youtube itch and look up Jim Rohn on youtube. He's the motivational speaker that taught and inspired all the big names that you know today, such as Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and others.

I gotta get back to work.

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In many (not all) cases, procrastination is a result of a task not being clearly enough understood, or being too big to approach at one time.

When I find myself procrastinating on something, I take a close look at it. I may need to clarify the definition of "done" for that task, or I may need to break it down into smaller pieces.

Taking either step often has the effect of clearing the mental blockage that causes me to procrastinate.

Note, there is a potential trap here. Spending time refining your task list can itself be a form of procrastination! Knowing to guard against that, take another look at the things you're procrastinating about and see if clarifying your goal or dividing to conquer helps.

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I think that people procrastinate for different reasons so there is no one-size-fits-all answer . (I am also always surprised as to how many people suffer with this - trust me it's not just you! )

Some excellent points have been made in all of the posts above for sure.

Here's my take : To find the cure I think you need to identify WHY you are procrastinating. It actually maybe for several different reasons.

The way to identify the reason is to force yourself to stay in the moment of discomfort - that moment that happens right before you go and click on Youtube..

I am not saying 'force yourself to be good' - instead say to yourself - ok I AM going to spend some time on Youtube - I am going to allow myself to avoid for a little longer BUT before I do that, what is it about the task (the one you are not doing) that is making me want to avoid it?

so take the pressure off yourself re the task but don't avoid examining yourself either - just start to think about your behaviour like an outsider looking on - in a 'firm but fair' way.

Allow yourself to assume you are a good hardworking and genuine person - so there must be a REASON you are avoiding the task. Assume you are not 'just lazy' nor a bad person.

Typical reasons for avoiding something are:

  • the task is boring

  • the task is evaluative - you will be judged on the outcome (and you are worried you are not going to do it well enough)

  • the task is actually unclear - mentioned above

and plenty other reasons that can be more subtle eg I realised eventually that I was avoiding doing a task because the first part of the task involved getting information from a really unpleasant person - I just did not want to have contact with that person. But it was unavoidable. And once I realised what was delaying me , I just dealt with it and then the rest of the task was fine and got done.

Once you have identified the reason for your avoidance, it much easier to figure out a practical way to resolve the sticking point.

e.g. if it's boring task can you do it while listening to an interesting podcast? e.g. if its evaluative go and talk to the person who you feel is evaluating you and explain your anxiety - usually their expectations are way lower than you think and this will take a great load off your shoulders

I think this book is a great resource too:

http://www.amazon.com/Procrastination-Why-You-What-About/dp/0738211702

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Do whatever you choose to do, and be mild about it. Willpower and stress are natural enemies.

There are no have-to's in life. You don't have to do anything. Focus on what you want to do now, given the circumstances you are in. Choose.

Whatever you choose, it will have consequences. Watching youtube all day has positive and negative consequences, doing your work also has positive and negative consequences. They are both equal, none of them are 'wrong', don't beat yourself up. Do whatever you choose and accept the consequences.

Finally, choosing requires radical honesty to yourself. If you have no motivation for something, then maybe you are not doing the right thing for you.

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Apart from the other great answers:

  • Use implementation intention: Make plans in advance and imagine how you will face them. "Tomorrow I will be tempted to open facebook but I will make a tick in a paper everytime y feel the tempation and keep working until I have X hours of work".
  • Remember your values: "As attractive as this distraction might be, I am a profesional. I value hard work. I am not the kind of person that gets distracted so easily and I won't like to be it" (Fake it even if you are a real procrastrinator until you feel it).

There are great resources in procrastination.ca (But remember that you may procrastinate reading about procrastination instead of doing real work)

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I have exactly the same problem. I couldn't solve this completly yet, but I have one small technique that helped a little: set a time range stupidly easy to keep focused, for example: keep 100% focused on a task (that should take a whole day to accomplish) for only 5 minutes. Don't do anything but the task for this 5 minutes. Think that you're gonna stop in 5 minutes, do this little effort. Then sometimes it helps you to work for more 5 minutes untill you finish the first step which is commonly the hardest part.

There is also this very good text: http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html

Hope that helps

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Firstly, you cannot change what you cannot measure. I suggest installing an application to track the amount of time you spent on various websites or applications on your computer and smartphone (my favourite is rescuetime). Review this at the end of the day to identify major distractions. Keep a chart on your wall, how many days in a row did you get out of bed on your alarm? Try and reach a 7 day, 10 day, or even 100 day streak of resisting the urge to lie in bed - once the habit is formed it becomes automatic (Seinfeld technique).

Secondly, do not rely on will power, if you cannot trust yourself to keep browsing Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter set up a block to prevent you from using these websites for more than X minutes per day (Stayfocusd for Chrome works well). Could you find a way to disable the filter? Yes. But the additional effort is often enough to keep you back on track.

Thirdly, look after your body. An unhealthy body leads to a restless mind. Being continuously sleep deprived pumped up on caffeine and sugar will only make things worse. Vigorous exercise once every three days.

Finally, have a system of bursts of productivity and breaks to recuperate. Make this system a habit. I am going to suggest the Pomodoro technique which you are probably tired of hearing, there are others, find one, and use it consistently.

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So let's start by taking an example: you are on the internet searching for the best way to stop procrastinating. And you see that you have an unread email in your inbox and you are so tempted to look at it so think of procrastinating your search.

Now, here's a simplest thing you can do to avoid procrastination:

  1. Identify the value that you would gain out of the task in your hand - now you know the importance of the task in hand
  2. Fix a time from right now to whatever time you think this task will take - Decide that no matter what, you will finish this task during this time interval. [If you are not able to finish the task in time, do not stop it there. You would have already gotten a hang of it take advantage of the situation and continue until you finish it]
  3. Set a reward for yourself for keeping up your commitment. [because you deserve it!]

Hope you found it useful. All the best!

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Other commenters have pointed out spiritual or mental ways to accomplish your goal of reducing procrastination. However, as we are all humans, we will fail at controlling ourselves.

I have found that a software, such as SelfControl, can block sites and make it impossible to get lost on YouTube or Reddit...

Good luck!

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You are assuming that the internet is the main problem. I tried your solution but ended upwith tweaking my pc – Suhaib Aug 15 '14 at 5:57
    
I suggested this solution because OP mentioned hours of YouTube videos and pointless internet browsing. If you're serious about tackling procrastination, which I believe you are, then you'll need to use multiple methods to achieve your goal. The other answers will help your mentality, and having a website blocker will reinforce those efforts. – YoungEcono Aug 15 '14 at 6:24
    
This answer only addresses only the detail where (Internet) distraction is part of the procrastination. – Jan Doggen Aug 15 '14 at 7:00

The thing is you always swung by your mood, when something that is not to your mood happened, you are prone to procrastinate, why do it now, putting it off seems gets the blame later, so it is always postponed to a later time. So how to win over your mood is the critical factor. Then it comes why emotional intelligence quota is a more important property Than intelligence quota.

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Welcome to Personal Productivity! I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. What exactly do you mean with 'emotional intelligence quota'? – THelper Dec 24 '15 at 9:18

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