7 Simple Steps to Help You Stop Procrastinating

Do you find that you put things off and put things off until your to-do list is so long you don’t know where to begin? Even if you’ve become a master at procrastination, you can start crossing things off that never-ending to-do list if you know how.

Procrastination isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, in some cases it can actually benefit you. If you put off dealing with a problem, for instance, it may just resolve itself on its own. Or, maybe if you’re lucky, someone else will take care of your task for you.

However, all too often, no one comes in and rescues us from our mountain of laundry, pile of dust or mound of dishes. No super power flies in and completes our tax forms, sorts our garage or fixes the broken lawn mower. So, what do you do when the only person that can do something is you, but you have no desire to do it at this particular moment?

Although it may seem like an impossible feat to take care of your to-do list once and for all, it’s actually relatively easy to do. You just need to know how to do it. Ready to unbury yourself from everything that’s been piling up for ages? Good. Let’s begin. (Yes, now.)

Step #1: Make a list

Woman taking notes

If you’re a procrastinator, you may actually already have a list, or ten, lying around that contains all of the things you’d like to do but haven’t yet done. While the list itself may seem like a stressor all on its own, having all of your desired tasks in one location can actually be a good thing. It keeps you moving forward and accomplishing what you need to do.

So, either consolidate all your other lists or, if you procrastinate without making lists, make one now. Write down all of the things you would like to accomplish within the next 30 days. Assume you have all of the time and energy in the world to finish these tasks and leave nothing off that you want done.

Be sure to include any positive changes you’d like to make. For example, if you’ve been putting off losing weight, add that to the list. Or, if you’ve been meaning to quit smoking, write it down. Clear your conscience of absolutely everything you want to accomplish by putting it all on paper.

Step #2: Cut the list down

Once you have your list completed to the best of your ability, it’s time to downsize it. What? How are you going to learn to not procrastinate if you are crossing things off your list, right? Bear with me here because there is a very reasonable explanation.

One of the main reasons that people procrastinate is because they feel overwhelmed. There are so many things to do that it is almost easier to do none of them than to try to tackle even one. After all, what difference is it going to make if you’re able to cross one item off on a list that contains 200, right?

Besides, you can always add them to a later list, but for now let’s keep it simple so you start moving forward. Cross off the items that hold the least amount of priority for you for the next month and put a line through them until you’re only left with 10 tasks. Feel better already?

Step #3: Prioritize

Okay, now that you have a smaller, more manageable list you need to put the items on it in order of importance. You can do this a couple of ways. You can number them 1-10, or even categorize them. Maybe some of the items are similar, such as cleaning the garage and taking everything you don’t need in there to donate to charity. It’s kind of like two steps but each one involves the other so you may want to lump them in a similar category and prioritize them that way.

This may be a hard step for you because everything on the list is important to do, right? You wouldn’t have written it down otherwise. While that is certainly true, some things are more important for you to do than others. It’s up to you to determine which is which because it’s different for everyone.

Step #4: Focus on the top of your list

Young woman is focused view in the viewfinder gestures

Once you realize which things are more significant to you, it’s time to pick the top 2-3 items and begin to work on just those things. Don’t worry about everything else on there at the moment. So, let your guilt and anxiety go because you’ll get to those other things soon enough.

For these top couple of items, come up with one thing you can do today that will put you one step closer to being able to remove them from your list. You don’t have to complete them in the next 24 hours, just come up with an action that will get you moving in that direction.

For instance, if you have getting your vehicle fixed on the list, maybe you could commit to getting estimates on cost today. Or, perhaps you want to begin writing your first novel and could put a few words to paper. Regardless of what it is you want to do, come up with at least one action that you could reasonably complete today that will help you actually achieve it.

Step #5: Take action

This step is where the true procrastinator usually falls. Intentions are great, but actions, not so much. Remember though, you’re not taking action to complete the project, you’re just beginning it or doing part of it. That’s a whole different thought.

It’s much easier to stomach the idea of taking one or two smaller actions than it is to think of undertaking huge projects that are both time and energy intensive. Sometimes just breaking things down into smaller chunks is all you need to get the ball rolling.

Step #6: Repeat the process

Woman at home whit laptom and cup og caffee

Once you’ve made it through today and completed those actions, do the same thing tomorrow. Come up with just one thing you can do tomorrow for your top few items that will move you closer to where you want to be and, most importantly, commit to doing it. As the items on your list become completed, move on to the next ones in priority and follow the same process with them.

It may seem like a long road, but let’s face it – at least you’re moving in the right direction instead of just standing still. This isn’t a race to the finish. It’s simply a leisurely stroll that gets you exactly where you want to be without making you miserable in the process.

Step #7: Celebrate

Perhaps the most important step of all is to celebrate your accomplishments. When you are able to finally start crossing things off your to-do list, it’s time to enjoy all that you’ve done as a way of finalizing the process.

Maybe just being able to reduce your list is victory enough. The weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you feel better already. If so, that is great. But, don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for your commitment and action in making it all possible.

You could buy yourself a book you’ve wanted to read or celebrate with an ice cream sundae. It doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you reward yourself. That will be the feeling that keeps you going back to your list and crossing things off faster than ever before.

Procrastination can suck the energy out of you and make you dread life. It’s time to put the energy back in and live a life full of accomplishments (and rewards).

About the author

Christina DeBusk

Changing careers mid-life from law enforcement to writing, Christina spends her days helping others enrich their businesses and personal lives one word at a time.

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