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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 at 15:23
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 at 22:33

11 Answers 11

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 at 12:51

I've collected a few things I've got that may be able to help you, this has been a problem for me throughout my life, causing me years of depression and pervasive suicidal thoughts. It's my hope that at least some of this will be useful to you, so you can go on living a happy life stress-free. I wish you luck on your journey!

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 (famous, successful) people, instead compare where you were to how far you've come and where you are today. Don't say, "this crap isn't as good as what [Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc.] is making." Say, "this is WAY better than the crap I was making 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.)

Realize that as stress and anxiety builds around the project, 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 get a nice little benefit of being able to say, "...this wasn't as hard as I expected!"

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
  • Change locations. — If you're not getting anywhere while working alone at home try changing scenes, say to a coffee shop. If a busy coffee shop has too many distractions, maybe try a nice quiet park or a library. Make it a place you want to work at.
  • 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")
  • 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.

Good luck be unto you!

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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 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:

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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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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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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 (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:

Hope that helps

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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

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