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21 Little Ways to Beat Procrastination — Once and for All

Peter M March 31, 2021 · 8 min read
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Ahhh, procrastination. It’s every creative’s worst enemy. You think you’re helping yourself by taking that extra coffee break, or doing that extra little bit of laundry. But in reality you’re sabotaging yourself, and your future productivity by not focusing on the task at hand. And yet, even the most efficient of us are prone to the occasional bout of procrastination. How do you beat it? Is it worth fighting? Well, here are a few tips we’ve gathered that we think might help. Just don’t read this article while you’re supposed to be doing something else.

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21 Little Ways to Beat Procrastination
Beat procrastination with these 21 reminders
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Tired of putting off goals and projects? Kiss procrastination goodbye with these smart tactics. Download and print this sheet to stay on top of your productivity game.

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1. Exercise.

When you know you’re supposed to be working on that client project, but literally anything seems preferable, beating yourself up about is the last thing to do. If you find yourself in a procrastination rut, get up and go for a walk and really give yourself the time to enjoy it. Intrigued? We discussed the creative benefits of nature walks in this article.

2. Collaborate.

Having a co-worker pitch in on a project or a friend or family member to bounce some ideas off is a great way to get out of your own head and make some headway with your work.

3. Take Ten.

The biggest cause of procrastination is thinking about how much work needs to be done and the volume of time it is going to take. Take time out of the equation by simply giving yourself ten minutes to work on something. Don’t factor in a word count or a specific amount of work to be done, just take 10 minutes, and see where it gets you.

4. Chunk It.

Similarly, thinking about the magnitude of the task at hand is an easy way to overwhelm your brain. Instead, know that your brain is only capable of focusing on one task at a time. Like Pac-Man, you can only consume the pellets directly in front of you. So define those chunks, and ignore the rest if you can.

5. Get Up Earlier.

If you’re a morning person, waking up half an hour or an hour earlier each day is almost a magical way to create more time. You won’t miss it during the day, and you might even find yourself more refreshed and productive.

6. Do It Daily.

Creating something, anything, each and every day is an excellent way to ensure your procrastination is kept in check. Knowing that you absolutely have to churn out one thing a day, no matter the quality or caliber, means you’ll most likely have something great to look back on after a month.

7. Remember It’s Your Choice.

A nifty little mind-hack to reverse engineer your brain into working for you (instead of against you), is to remember that the reason you’re doing the task right in front of you – is because you want to do it. You have a choice, and could back out at any time if you really wanted to. If it’s study, remember that you chose to study to improve your life prospects, and this is the path that will help you on your goal. If it’s work, remember that you chose this job and succeeding will help your career. Convincing yourself that you have to do something because of some malevolent, outside force is only going to make your struggle more difficult.

8. Turn Off Your Email.

Studies show that only a small percentage of emails we get each day are actually related to actionable tasks. The rest are often just white noise. Do yourself (and your brain) a favor by turning off email notifications and working in peace. If you want to learn more about digital detox and it’s great benefits for creativity, make sure to check out this post.

9. Listen to Music.

Find some music or create a playlist that will work as a soundtrack to your productivity. Scientists have shown that the right kind of music can trigger brain waves conducive to getting stuff done. Putting together a pitch to convince investors that your idea is the next Apple? Try Music to Conquer Worlds By. Need to write the next chapter of your novel? A relaxing Amazon Rainforest scene might help.

10. Forget Perfection.

There’s an idea in art circles that no piece of work is ever finished, only released into the outside world. Embrace this zen ethos by reminding yourself that no creative project will ever reach perfection, and many an artist has unwittingly self-sabotaged by attempting to attain it. A pretty-good piece of art will always be remembered more than the perfect piece that’s never finished.

11. Make a List.

Get the plethora of seemingly unmanageable tasks out of your head and onto a piece of paper. You might just find that they’re a little less imposing when written out in front of you in black and white, rather than bouncing around in your brain.

12. Stop Planning.

As necessary a part of the creative process it is, planning can be the artist’s crutch. Planning feels like work, so sometimes we mistake it for productivity. No amount of planning, storyboarding, rough drafts or reference gathering can compete with actually making something for real.

13. Set Proper Goals.

One of the biggest problems a creative, or any worker can face, is the setting of poor goals. Poor goals are vague and undefined. Proper goals are clear and concrete. “Lose weight” is a poor goal. “Drop one belt size by my wedding” is better. “Drop one belt size by my wedding by limiting my caloric intake to 1700 calories each day” is best.

14. Lay Down The Bricks.

Lots of us have goals with our creative projects. It might be to open a beautiful online store, or to sell $1k a month worth of materials on Creative Market. Like wanting to build a nice mansion, these goals are fine and admirable, but the real work starts when you begin the actual building process, brick by brick, day after day. What are the steps/bricks in your project? Define them and start laying the foundation.

15. Change Your Environment.

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to give the brain a spark. Staying in the same office can lead you to feeling stagnant. Take a trip to a new cafe, or even a new job (if your role is feeling stale), and you’ll be surprised about the new possibilities that open up.

16. Rehydrate.

Water has innumerable benefits, both for our health and productivity. Keeping a glass of water at your desk, while not guaranteed to get you back on track creatively, will at least mean you’re getting your H20 fix for the afternoon.

17. Break Your Blocks.

Procrastination can sometimes relate to writer’s block. Download our guide to beating writer’s block and staying motivated here.

18. Bribe Yourself.

If procrastination has taken a hold, sometimes it’s a matter of treating yourself like a child, and well, treating yourself. Bribing kids to do tasks works because they don’t have the long-term foresight required to see that it’s in their best interests to clean their room or eat their vegetables. When we’re under the thumb of a college assignment or a work presentation, the cognitive pressure of the task’s demands means we revert back to our most impatient, myopic selves. So bribe yourself with a sundae or a beer once you’ve done X amount of work.

19. Imagine your Future Self.

Not going to the gym or paying an electricity bill happens because we like to think we’re giving ourselves a break. What we don’t realize is that there’s an identical, future version of ourselves that’s inadvertently being ripped off each time we postpone a task. Imagine a clone of yourself a week from now having to deal with your mess every time you feel like slacking off.

20. Embrace Procrastination.

As mentioned at the start of this article, procrastination can be a great motivating force in that it inspires you to do anything but the task at hand. If you’re truly not getting anything done, stop fighting and give into the impulse to re-organise your book shelves by color/call a loved one/re-lace all your shoes.

21. Arm Yourself With Creative Resources.

One of the most common causes of procrastination is the imposing idea that one needs to start from scratch in order to create anything. These days, that couldn’t be further from the truth. With an entire creative community full of fonts, graphics, templates and themes ready to be used, creating something is less a matter of beginning with a blank canvas and more a matter of using the building blocks that are out there to build something beautiful. There you have it, our guide to getting it done. What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below.

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21 Little Ways to Beat Procrastination
Beat procrastination with these 21 reminders
Get your free printable

Tired of putting off goals and projects? Kiss procrastination goodbye with these smart tactics. Download and print this sheet to stay on top of your productivity game.

Download it now!
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Peter M
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2 Comments
  • Thanks for the great tips! 5 years ago
  • Really good tips - thankyou! I need to drum no 10 into my head! 5 years ago