How To Stop Procrastinating And 10x Your Impact

If productivity had mortal enemies, procrastination would be one of them. Imagine how good it would feel to nip procrastination in the bud, from getting that creative side project off the ground to finishing the day knowing you were focused and tackled your most important priorities. If you want to beat procrastination and skyrocket your impact, the first order of business is understanding where it comes from. 

Causes of procrastination 

Andrew Lokenauth, a productivity coach and professor at USF’s School of Management, says that common causes of procrastination include fear of failure, fear of success, a lack of motivation or interest in the task at hand, disorganization or a lack of clear goals, a lack of self-discipline or self-control, and a tendency to focus on short-term rewards at the expense of long-term benefits. 

So, if you thought it was simply a matter of willpower, think again. It can be much deeper than that. Not to mention everyday stressors and circumstances. “Procrastination can also be caused by external factors such as distractions, demanding work or family obligations, or a lack of support or accountability,” adds Lokenauth. 

Tips to stop procrastinating 

Beating procrastination requires intention and consistent action, as it can quickly sneak up on you when you revert to your default habits. Follow the five steps below and you’ll be well on your way to breaking the cycle. 

1. Start with the most difficult task

Have you heard of the saying, “eat the frog first?” It’s a time-management method that definitely works for overcoming procrastination – get the most challenging task over with first. Sure, it helps to get it done before other things get added to your list and the day flies by, but there are other psychological factors at play. 

“By tackling your most challenging task first, you will be able to get it out of the way and avoid the anxiety and stress that comes from putting it off,” says Lokenauth. “This can also give you a sense of accomplishment and momentum that will make it easier to tackle the rest of your to-do list.” 

2. Break tasks down into smaller ones 

Breaking tasks down into smaller ones is one of your best bets for combating procrastination. Don’t think of the whole mountain to climb, just focus on taking one step at a time. “IIf a task feels overwhelming or daunting, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This can make the task feel less intimidating and will also help you track your progress and stay motivated,” according to Lokenauth. 

3. Set clear goals and deadlines

Lokenauth also says you should give yourself deadlines – it sounds obvious, but they need to be both specific and realistic for you to stick to them: 

“Having clear goals and deadlines can help you stay focused and motivated, and can also help you avoid getting side-tracked or distracted. Try to be specific and realistic when setting goals and deadlines, and make sure to write them down so that you can refer to them later.” 

For example, giving yourself two days to complete a huge quarterly report may backfire: It’s already a tight timeline that puts you under pressure, so you “might as well” leave it until the day before the report is actually due. On the other hand, if you give yourself too much time, you won’t take the deadline seriously when other pressing matters roll around. Give yourself enough of a runway to progressively work on the task, while keeping in mind that sometimes pressure keeps the task on your radar. 

4. Remove distractions

Needless to say, getting distracted is a recipe for procrastinating. You want to stay focused and get into a flow state. Make it easier for yourself by eliminating potential sources of distraction. Lokenauth suggests turning off your phone, closing unnecessary browser tabs, or working in a quiet space. Speaking of which, it’s important to keep your workspace tidy and inviting enough to actually get work done. 

5. Hold yourself accountable

At the end of the day, breaking old habits requires accountability, whether you’re holding yourself accountable through an app or tool or enlisting the support of a trusted friend or coworker. Speak your goals out loud, tell your accountability buddy about them, and ask them to check in with you about your progress, suggests Lokenauth. 

That accountability can also take the form of a project-management tool and personal workflow. Choose one time-management method and stick to it. Just, again, make sure it’s realistic: Don’t go from being the most go-with-the-flow person in the office to having an elaborate task-management dashboard. Perhaps start with a simple calendar or board view of your top priorities and sub-tasks. Just like with all the steps above, the idea is to keep it simple, build on the momentum and set yourself up for success.