The Ultimate Guide to Beating Procrastination

Line from a to b drawn over puzzle

I'm very good at procrastinating. It should be a skill on my LinkedIn profile. But here are a few of my most creative excuses and the best ways to beat these mental responses.

The Rebuttal and Solution portion are extra obstacles your mind fabricates for some of the more complicated excuses. Be wary of these stacking excuses!


1) I don't have the stuff I need.

Stop being lazy. Write down what you need for tomorrow. Pack your bag tonight.

2) I need a walking or talking break to refocus my mind.

Breaks are fine. They help focus if you've been thinking. Social media and chatting is not thinking. What are you really after? A reprieve to....gather confidence or calm your grumbling stomach? Is this a habit at this particular time or after a certain emotion arises, usually frustration or distraught? Track the next time this habit arises and recognize a pattern.

3) But no one's going through what I'm going through. I'm special, different, unique.

Yes, you are beautiful and extraordinary. But everyone has hurdles and frankly, self-pity is pitiable (pun intended). If you have excess work, break down the tasks. One thing at a time. Don't stop until the task is complete, not tried. Deep breaths.

4) I'll do it tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes. Period.

Rebuttal: Of course it comes! And obviously I have a stronger will than you. I'll finish that task.

Solution: Tell yourself whatever makes you happy. The fact is, if you start it tonight and get tired, you'll be in a lot better place tomorrow (because you'll have a started task) than blindly searching for where to begin tomorrow. In the latter case, you'll update your blog and check what's up with your 200 Twitter friends before getting down to business. So devote 5 minutes: Write a checklist and do the first two numbers. Otherwise, it will become #6.

5) I'll do it at this time at this place. Because I work better there.

Habits are the bread and butter of productivity. Some are easier to facilitate and if you have a certain coffee shop that helps you commit to emptying your inbox or doing research, then fine. Honor your habit. But be wary of the "sacredness" of the habit. They can (and should) be allowed to be easily disrupted. Read this for context.

Rebuttal: see #1 which becomes #4 and then #8.

Solution: The fact is, we're cleverer than we give ourselves credit for. If there's a mental barrier, we can choose to face it. Or let it fester and pretend we've dealt with the problem by dealing with an occurrence of it.

6) Let me write down all the things I have to do.

Unfortunately, there's no apocalyptic moment. I've always made lists with a future date and time. And psyched myself up so on that EXACT date and time, I would start the list. But the mental strain and pressure hindered my motivation. Often, my lists were almost identical except for the date.

Rebuttal: see #9, 2, 4

Solution: You're playing this game with yourself. The only person duped is you. Your time, your career, and ultimately, your life.

7) I haven't done the previous task that will enable me to do this one

You never will. That task will sit there. It's importance is your prerogative. Personally, I'm the queen of this excuse: I can't yet make this website because the company notes are on my hard drive => transfer the files => requires a special program on someone's computer => they can't be on their computer. But even if they aren't now, I'm cozy in bed (#2) and I'll do it later (#4)

Rebuttal: I never let tasks line up like that. I always complete emails and tasks when they come at me.

Solution: Great! If you're efficient and completing tasks as they turn up, good. But make sure you're working toward a broader goal and not just jumping at the next email or task to distract yourself from the bigger picture.

8) It's too much.

Woe is me. Who doesn't love a pity party? You know what people also love? Actual parties. Edible food. Financial security. You chose this career and job. That's what you'll lose if you don't your work. Now that's a logic path for you (#9).

Excessive and continual procrastination may be reminiscent of a bigger issue. Maybe you really don't like your career or company or job. That's your prerogative and frankly, it's your time. And the fact is, you're squandering it.

9) I NEED a break. I've got a lot of stuff on my plate

Need and want are two very different words. Excuses like this create logic paths: if X then Y. When I've done enough "work" = I deserve a break. "Work" becomes a guise of mental fatigue, which might result from simply talking to an unruly co-worker. Ultimately, you lower mental expectations.

Rebuttal: #1-8

Solution: We all have lives, work, hardship. You knew the odds. Go listen to "Hall of Fame" and conquer them.

Final Words of Wisdom:

We tell an average of 10 lies a day, mostly to ourselves. I want you to say out loud, "I lie to myself." Now face that fact.

> Now find a new job if you want one