How to Stop Procrastinating With 25 Tools

How to stop procrastinatingIn today’s distraction-filled world, procrastination is a common challenge that can hinder productivity and success, and it can negatively impact our wellbeing. It is a stubborn problem that is difficult to overcome.

Understanding the science behind procrastination is essential for developing effective strategies to overcome it.

This article looks into the science behind the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral factors that contribute to procrastination and how to stop procrastinating.

It explores evidence-based strategies and tools, such as mindfulness, self-compassion, goal setting, time management, and accountability partnerships, to help individuals stop procrastinating and achieve their goals.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Productivity Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients become more productive and efficient.

The Science Behind Procrastination

There are several theories that explain the science of procrastination. Temporal motivation theory suggests that motivation is influenced by task value and proximity to completion (Steel et al., 2018). That means that procrastination occurs when the perceived value of a task is low or when the perceived distance to its completion is far.

Similarly, expectancy-value theory emphasizes our belief in task completion and its perceived importance as motivating factors that may mitigate or exacerbate procrastination (Wigfield, 1994).

Self-determination theory, on the other hand, highlights autonomy, competence, and relatedness as motivators (Ryan & Deci, 2002). This aligns with both goal management theory, which underscores difficulties in prioritizing and managing goals (Gustavson et al., 2014), and trait self-control theory, which links procrastination to weak impulse regulation (de Ridder et al., 2012).

These theories offer insights into motivation, goal setting, and self-regulation to stop procrastination. So, what does the science behind these theories tell us?

Procrastination is a complex phenomenon influenced by various psychological, cognitive, and behavioral factors (Le Bouc & Pessiglione, 2022). Understanding the science behind procrastination involves examining these factors and how they may affect people’s tendency to procrastinate. Some of the factors associated with procrastination include:

Temporal discounting

Temporal discounting refers to our tendency to prioritize immediate rewards over future ones (Zhang et al., 2019). This tendency leads to procrastination, as tasks with distant rewards are often postponed in favor of more immediately gratifying activities (Le Bouc & Pessiglione, 2022).

Task aversion

Procrastination can stem from negative emotions associated with a task, such as anxiety, fear of failure, or boredom (Ferrari et al., 1995). When faced with unpleasant tasks, we may procrastinate to avoid these negative emotions (Blunt & Pychyl, 2000).

Impaired self-regulation

Procrastination often involves a failure of self-regulation or self-control (Ramzi & Saed, 2019). This means that impaired self-regulation may cause your client to struggle to resist immediate temptations, such as checking social media, and prioritize long-term goals, such as completing a project.

Perfectionism

Perfectionists are particularly prone to procrastination because they set excessively high standards for themselves (Ferrari et al., 1995). Fear of failure or making mistakes can lead them to delay starting or completing tasks.

Dopamine regulation

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation, plays a role in procrastination (Jaffe, 2013). This research suggests that procrastinators may have differences in dopamine regulation, leading to difficulty experiencing motivation until the task becomes urgent.

How to stop procrastination & increase motivation

Andrew Huberman discusses dopamine and its effects on procrastination in his Huberman Lab podcast.

Environmental factors

Distractions, such as social media, smartphones, or noisy environments, can contribute to procrastination by diverting attention away from tasks (Wiwatowska et al., 2023).

Lastly, another factor that plays an integral role in procrastination is fear (Duru et al., 2023). The role of fear is so important in understanding procrastination that it warrants its own section.

Fear and procrastinationFear, spanning from fear of failure to fear of criticism, plays a significant role in driving procrastination behaviors (Duru et al., 2023).

You may notice that you or some of your clients often delay tasks to avoid negative emotions associated with fear. This perpetuates a cycle of avoidance. Fear can also fuel perfectionism, leading to procrastination symptoms such as paralysis or excessive revision.

And if these links weren’t enough, we now know that the brain’s self-preservation instinct triggers procrastination when tasks threaten self-esteem or competence (Zhang et al., 2016). This causes fear and anxiety, which can make tasks seem overwhelming, prompting procrastination as a coping mechanism (Kowalski et al., 2024). Additionally, the fear of loss, cognitive biases, and learned behaviors can further contribute to procrastination tendencies.

Effective coping strategies for managing fear and anxiety are essential to helping you or your client navigate procrastination tendencies successfully. By addressing these underlying fears, you can cultivate resilience, embrace progress over perfection, and stop procrastination.

Self-worth theory: The key to understanding & overcoming procrastination

Check out Nic Voge’s TEDx presentation to learn more about how fear of failure and diminished self-worth play a role in procrastination.

10 Procrastination Prevention Strategies

Preventing procrastination requires addressing the underlying psychological, cognitive, and behavioral factors we discussed in the previous sections. The first step in this process is to create a deeper level of awareness of what might be causing procrastination and then to start implementing strategies that will help to prevent procrastination (Sanaghan, 2021).

This is an outline of how I help clients develop prevention strategies:

1. Mindfulness practice

I find that by starting with mindfulness, I can help clients create awareness of their own cognitive, psychological, and behavioral processes that may be causing and sustaining their procrastination. Then we can use mindfulness practices to help address procrastination factors and tendencies as they arise (Schutte & del Pozo de Bolger, 2020).

2. Develop self-compassion

Learning to cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when facing setbacks or challenges, can help reduce the fear and anxiety that exacerbate procrastination (Sirois, 2014).

Avoid harsh self-criticism, which can fuel procrastination and negatively impact self-esteem.

3. Address perfectionism

Use mindfulness and compassion to challenge perfectionistic tendencies and embrace a growth mindset focused on learning and improvement rather than perfect execution (Ng, 2018).

Accept that imperfection is a natural part of the creative process and prioritize your progress over perfection.

4. Develop accountability and support

Share your goals and progress with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor who can provide encouragement, feedback, and accountability. Peer support and accountability partnerships can help maintain motivation and commitment to goals (Handayani et al., 2021).

5. Set clear and mindful goals

Establish clear goals for each task or project. Clear goals provide clarity and direction, making it easier to initiate and stay focused on tasks. These goals need to be realistic and compassionate, and they should take your abilities and time constraints into account.

6. Practice time management & prioritize tasks

Use time-blocking or scheduling techniques to allocate specific time slots for tasks on your calendar. Set aside dedicated blocks of time for focused work, breaks, and leisure activities.

Use time management techniques like the Eisenhower matrix to prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency (Dmytryshyn & Goran, 2022). Focus on high-priority tasks first to ensure that essential work gets done efficiently.

The Eisenhower Matrix

However, if an essential task is proving to be a block or a reason for your procrastination, it can be helpful to focus on another easier task to get your momentum going, build your confidence, and then move onto the more difficult task.

This is an example of where mindful awareness is helpful, as it can help you recognize these types of blocks more quickly and adapt your strategies accordingly.

7. Break tasks into smaller steps

Divide larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps or sub-tasks. This approach reduces overwhelm and makes tasks feel less daunting, increasing the likelihood of getting started.

8. Set deadlines

Establish your own deadlines for tasks to create a sense of urgency and accountability. Break down deadlines into smaller milestones to track progress and maintain momentum.

9. Minimize distractions

Identify and minimize potential distractions in your environment, such as turning off notifications, setting boundaries with colleagues, or using website blockers. Create a dedicated workspace conducive to focus and productivity.

10. Reward progress

Implement a system of rewards or incentives to reinforce productive behavior and celebrate progress. Break larger goals into smaller milestones, and reward yourself for achieving each milestone.

Consistency and persistence are key to implementing these strategies effectively. Experiment with different approaches to find what works best for you, and be kind and patient with yourself as you develop new habits and override old tendencies.

Download 3 Free Productivity Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to do their deepest, most productive work.

6 Ways to Motivate a Procrastinator

Motivating a procrastinator involves working with them to identify their underlying reasons for procrastination and helping them address those factors. This often involves overcoming fear-based procrastination factors, which requires challenging irrational beliefs, breaking tasks into smaller steps, and fostering a growth mindset (Spagnola & Yagos, 2021).

As a therapist or coach, it is important to create a safe and encouraging space and to work using a client-centered approach so that the client identifies strategies that will work for them (Sanaghan, 2021). Here are several effective ways to motivate a procrastinator:

1. Identify and address barriers

Help the procrastinator identify and address any underlying barriers or obstacles contributing to their procrastination. This may involve addressing fears, perfectionism, self-doubt, or other psychological factors that inhibit motivation and productivity (Walker, 2004).

2. Create a supportive environment

Foster a supportive and encouraging environment so your client feels safe and open to identifying their reasons for procrastinating. Offer positive reinforcement for progress and provide constructive feedback to help them stay on track. Encourage self-compassion and self-care as part of the process.

3. Identify strengths

Identifying and harnessing strengths, such as organization, focus, or creativity, can empower individuals to combat procrastination (Walker, 2004). By leveraging their innate abilities to plan effectively, maintain concentration, and find innovative solutions to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, clients can find a sense of agency and empowerment.

4. Provide support and resources

Offer support and resources to help the procrastinator surmount challenges and obstacles. This may include providing access to relevant information, tools, or training, as well as offering assistance or guidance as needed. See our recommendations below.

5. Develop accountability

Assist the procrastinator to set deadlines and establish mechanisms for accountability, such as sharing goals with a friend, colleague, or mentor who can provide support and hold them accountable (Trivedi, 2013).

The point here is that these measures should be identified by and implemented by the client. It is about developing a skill rather than external control measures.

6. Use visualization and positive affirmations

Encourage the procrastinator to visualize their goals and success and use positive affirmations to boost motivation and confidence (Ossebaard et al., 2012). Visualization techniques can help them envision the benefits of completing tasks and stop procrastinating (Sohnen-Moe, 2016).

By implementing these strategies and providing consistent support and encouragement, you can help motivate a procrastinator to overcome barriers, take action, and achieve their goals.

9 Procrastination Tools to Overcome This Habit

Anti-procrastination toolsThere are several tools available to help you or your client stop procrastinating and develop better productivity habits.

1. Task management apps

Use task management apps like Todoist, Trello, or Asana to organize tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. These apps often feature reminders, priority settings, and collaboration options to help users stay on top of their to-do lists.

2. Time-tracking software

Use time-tracking software such as Toggl or RescueTime to monitor how you spend your time and identify patterns of procrastination. These tools provide insights into productivity levels and help users make more informed decisions about time management.

3. Pomodoro Technique

Employ the Pomodoro Technique, which involves breaking work into intervals separated by short breaks (Amit et al., 2021). Apps like Focus Booster or TomatoTimer can help time intervals and breaks, promoting focus and productivity while reducing procrastination.

4. Website blockers

Install website blockers like StayFocusd, Freedom, or Cold Turkey to restrict access to distracting websites and social media platforms during scheduled work periods. These tools help minimize temptation and maintain focus on tasks.

5. Mindfulness apps

Practice mindfulness and meditation using apps like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer to reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a greater awareness of thoughts and emotions.

Mindfulness techniques will help you become more aware of procrastination triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms (Pychyl & Flett, 2012).

6. Distraction-free writing tools

Use distraction-free writing tools such as Writemonkey or Werdsmith to create a conducive writing environment free from distractions. These minimalist writing apps can help you stay focused on writing tasks without the distractions of formatting or internet browsing.

7. Accountability partners or groups

Partner with a friend, colleague, or accountability group to support each other to stop procrastinating. Regular check-ins, goal-setting sessions, and mutual encouragement can help keep procrastination tendencies in check and maintain motivation (Koppenborg & Klingsieck, 2022).

8. Self-reflection journals

Keep a self-reflection journal to track procrastination triggers, identify patterns, and explore underlying reasons for procrastination. Reflective writing can help increase self-awareness and facilitate personal growth and behavior change (Hensley & Munn, 2020).

9. Skill-building platforms

Invest in skill-building platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or Skillshare to develop time management, organization, and productivity skills. Online courses and resources offer practical strategies and techniques to stop procrastinating and enhance productivity.

By incorporating these procrastination tools into your routine and experimenting with different approaches, you can develop effective strategies to stop procrastinating and achieve greater productivity and success.

17 Science-Based Productivity & Efficiency Exercises

Arm yourself with these 17 Productivity & Work Efficiency Exercises [PDF] and use positive psychology to increase flow, engagement, and goal achievement in the workplace.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

Resources From PositivePsychology.com

The PositivePsychology.com repository has a number of resources that you may find helpful in your journey to understand procrastination and how to help your clients stop procrastinating.

The following articles make for good additional reading:

  • What Is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains discusses motivation from a psychologist’s perspective, and this will give you further insights about how to help motivate your procrastinator clients.
  • What Is Perfectionism According to Psychology? 7 Examples looks at the complexities of perfectionism. Understanding this phenomenon is helpful, as it has been identified as an underlying psychological factor involved in procrastination.
  • Ever wondered what is on the other side of procrastination? Deep work. Read all about this heightened state of concentration, flow ,and productivity in our article discussing the book of the same name, its meaning, and the author.

These free worksheets can be great tools for helping your clients stop procrastinating:

  • When stress and worry seep the energy out of you, and your whole day seems filled with dread, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself “worry time.” By allowing yourself allocated time for negative thoughts, you can spend the rest of your day more focused and productive.
  • Building a vision board can help you visualize the intended outcome of your goals.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and frozen with indecision? Grab your phone, set your timer for an hour, and work through this one-hour stress plan worksheet. This focused tool will help you chip through tasks with ease.

If you’d like to go deeper, this masterclass is a great place to start:

The Motivation & Goal Achievement Masterclass© is a comprehensive six-module coaching package that will provide you with the skills to help your clients stop procrastinating and achieve meaningful success through the science of motivation and goal setting.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others become more productive and efficient, check out this collection of 17 validated productivity and work efficiency exercises. Use them to help others prioritize better, eliminate time wasters, maximize their personal energy, and more.

A Take-Home Message

Although procrastination is a persistent and common challenge that many of us face, the science behind it has a lot to offer in terms of understanding, prevention, and addressing the problem.

If you don’t know how to stop procrastinating, finding the often hidden causes behind a problem can be invaluable in resolving it. Being mindful and applying self-compassion can help you delve into the reasons why task-avoidance is ruling (and ruining) your day.

Once those barriers have been identified, create a supportive environment to help you overcome your challenges. Use visualization, accountability partnerships, and a variety of the tools listed above to leverage your strengths and form new habits.

Your strengths and new habits will help you become more productive and overcome procrastination once and for all.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Productivity Exercises for free.

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  1. J.Wes

    Great info

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