How To Stop Procrastinating & Actually Get Stuff Done

How To Stop Procrastinating & Actually Get Stuff Done ©iStock/a-wrangler

There’s something you should probably be doing right now that isn’t reading articles on the internet. OK, fine, you can indulge in just this one article, but that’s only because I’m going to school you in how to stop procrastinating. That deadline isn’t going to disappear, and the work you’re putting off now is going to suck just as much tomorrow as it does today. This is how you can stop procrastinating and actually get stuff done:

  1. Remember this mantra: done is better than perfect. One well-known piece of Facebook folklore is that the company once had posters at it’s industry headquarters boldly declaring “Done is better than perfect!” That’s because one of the biggest reasons we procrastinate is fear. We’re afraid to actually work on something important to us because we worry that the end result won’t be good enough. Don’t psych yourself out over a desire for perfection. Just do what you need to do to get the job done.
  2. Stop doing other things that aren’t urgent and convincing yourself that you’re still being productive. We’ve all been there; you’ve got to write your maid of honor speech for your best friend’s wedding this weekend, but instead you choose now to clean out your car or go to the post office to mail that package you’ve been meaning to send. You convince yourself that since you’re still doing “legitimate” tasks, you’re not procrastinating. Deep down, though, you know that’s not true. Don’t lie to yourself.
  3. Break down larger tasks into smaller ones. Sometimes a big project can seem so large and looming that we feel like it will be impossible to finish, so we don’t even want to start. Overcome your dread by breaking down your project into small, concrete tasks that can give you direction as well as a feeling of accomplishment.
  4. Come up with a reward to give yourself once you finish what you need to. While inherent satisfaction for a job well done is nice, sometimes you need a little bit of extra incentive. Decide in advance on a small reward for a job well done; whether it’s a scoop of ice cream, a movie, or buying yourself something you’ve had your eye on for a while, the extra incentive may just be the key to get you moving.
  5. Write down what you want to accomplish for the day so that you’ll have to answer to yourself if you don’t. If you have a specific action plan in advance, you’ll be more likely to stick to it, or at least try. You’ll be more likely to push yourself the extra mile so that you won’t have to admit you failed.
  6. Get a friend or roommate to check in with you and make sure you’re on task and on target. Sometimes, telling a friend about what you need to get done is even more effective than writing it down. You’ll be embarrassed to admit to her that you spent all morning on Facebook, so you’re less likely to get sidetracked.
  7. Put your phone out of reach and on silent. Speaking of getting sidetracked, stash your phone somewhere far away where you can’t just grab it for a distraction. No matter how much you tell yourself that one text won’t turn into ten, it’s just too tempting. It also gets you out of the zone where you’re focused on work, and it can be hard to come back.
  8. When you feel yourself stalling, try a change of scenery. If you feel like you’re stuck, move to a public library, a café, outside, or even just another room. That way, you can get a change of pace without shifting away from your tasks.
  9. Remind yourself how this task fits into your larger goals. Instead of thinking only about the immediate task at hand, think about how the task fits into your larger goals. If you’re struggling with a work project, remind yourself of your goal to get promoted. If it’s something personal, remind yourself what values and skills you’re developing. Thinking about the big picture will help to motivate you.
  10. Stay positive. You’ve got this! If you’re feeling down, remind yourself of a favorite inspirational quote or positive mantra or think about one of your role models; do whatever it takes to keep a positive attitude. You can do this. Really.
Jessica Levy is a freelance blogger and content writer. She’s also a politics junkie, a fledgling foodie, and a frequent traveler. She has lived in Morocco, Israel, India, and Barbados, and never wants to be cold again. Follow her on Twitter!