The best ways to beat work procrastination

Written by Eric Titner

Are you such a compulsive procrastinator that you’ve even found a way to put off figuring out how to overcome procrastinating? If things have gotten that bad, it’s likely time to make a positive change in your life.

The effects of procrastination on your life can be far-reaching and extreme if you let things get out of hand—everything from avoiding individual growth and missing out on opportunities to constantly disappointing people in your personal and professional orbits are common for those who choose this behavior pattern. The results can have a negative impact on your life path and well-being—both in the short-term and over the long haul.

Step back and take a personal inventory of your typical habits and behaviors. All aspects of your life are fair game—from your work life to relationships with friends and family to handling your personal responsibilities and chores on a daily basis. Be honest: are you often guilty of putting things off? Do people in your life routinely call you out for avoiding important tasks? Has procrastination taken its toll and left you with a series of regrets and lost chances? If you’ve answered yes to any or all of these questions, it’s no wonder you’re looking for ways to end this destructive cycle and stop putting things off as a matter of habit.

If you’ve decided not to procrastinate any longer and address your problem, then consider the following strategies to put it in your rearview mirror.

1. Have a to-do checklist

If feeling overwhelmed by a nebulous and free-floating list of tasks often leads to your procrastination behavior, then try organizing your daily to-dos into a structured checklist. By using a straightforward and easy-to-follow checklist, you can clearly see exactly what you need to take care of each day and chart your progress, which can be a great motivating tool in itself—the more you get done and the more checkmarks you see on your list, the more motivated you’ll be to push forward and finish your chores!

2. Avoid non-functional multitasking

Sure, these days the average person juggles multiple activities at any given time during the day, but is it affecting your ability to stay focused and on task enough to follow it through to the end? Everything from texting while on the phone to watching YouTube videos while finishing up key assignments has become standard operating behavior, but for some people, this type of “multitasking” really just keeps them from confronting—and completing—the things they need to get done. If this sounds painfully familiar, then you may be spreading yourself too thin or making it too easy for your focus to shift away from your priorities. When facing an important task, try giving it all of your attention and effort instead—not only will it be easier to finish, but you’ll also likely complete it faster, which means you can move on to other (possibly more fun) things quicker.

3. Break down big tasks into manageable chunks

Do the size and scope of difficult, complex, and multi-step projects send you running in the opposite direction? If so, then get strategic and break down big tasks into manageable steps that don’t fill you with fear and anxiety. There’s an old saying that “a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” and the same notion holds true for large-scale projects. When faced with a big “1,000-mile” task, lay out all the steps you need to take to get to the end, and then take them on one at a time.

4. Give yourself positive reinforcements and negative consequences

The truth is, you’re likely your own best “overseer” when it comes to getting things done, and you’re in the perfect position to treat yourself for staying on task—and conversely, providing the appropriate consequences when you procrastinate. When it comes to staying motivated and focused, there’s nothing like a little reward for a job well done at the end to keep you on task. Also, the desire to avoid a negative consequence can be equally as motivating as you fight against your evasive behavior.

If you’re tired of procrastination and the negative effects of putting things off have taken its toll on your life, then use the strategies presented here to break free from these unhealthy behavior patterns and make positive and lasting changes in your life.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.