Career

Stop Procrastinating: Here’s 5 Tips Successful People Use

Cue jokes about reading this article later. Procrastination is the enemy of every person who has stuff to do – and we all have stuff to do. But do successful people suffer from it? Or do they have some kind of killer insight that helps them circumvent the whole problem, therefore making them successful?

We asked some pretty successful people for their tips on helping avoid procrastinating on the job.

Reward yourself

The worst part about procrastinating is that it doesn’t even feel good. You feel guilty and distracted from whatever it is you’re doing that isn’t your work. One of the best ways to make you focus is by giving yourself little rewards for actually getting the work done.

Freelancer and producer, Bec Allen, puts it like this:

“It’s like when I’m running and I tell myself ‘just to that light post, just to the corner then you can walk.’ So with work, it’s the same – just send that email, write that document and make that call then you can watch 30 minutes of Netflix, read a book, or if I’m really desperate, the reward is going outside to hang the washing on the line.”

That way you can actually enjoy your rewards, and feel good about doing the work to get there.

Break it up into chunks

Tasks can seem so much more daunting when they’re positioned as a giant chunk of work, laid out right in front of you. It’s so easy to get intimidated when you consider you work as a whole: an entire essay, a full novel or a complete marketing campaign.

But cutting your project or task into more manageable , bite-sizedchunks is not only psychologically helpful, it’s more realistic. Knowing that you only have to write 500 words in an afternoon is way less stressful than thinking about the entire thing.

Student at QUT, Tristan Williams says:

“I find it hard to sit down and focus on my assignments or study. But when I’m doing my task, I break up my hour: I do 50 minutes of intense study or assignment work and then 10 minutes of break time, where I’ll either eat or do something I enjoy (like scroll Facebook). I feel like this works well with me because I’m always fidgeting, so the break gets it out of my system.”

Sneak up on your task like a ninja

Sometimes the key to kicking procrastination isn’t exactly the most logical. It can often be about tricking yourself into productivity. One of the tricks I use is to make the text of any document that I’m having trouble with really large, so it looks like I’ve done more work than I actually have. It helps me feel like the end is in sight, and there’s less reason to procrastinate.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt, a Genocide Scholar and comedic writer has this unique trick that helps her:

“If I catch myself procrastinating, I try to sneak up on the task ninja-style. So if it’s something I need to write and I really don’t want to do it, I’ll just create a new document for the project with an appropriate name. Suddenly, that document is there and it’s no big deal to start putting thoughts down. It’s often that initial aversion that makes me put things off. Once I’m stuck into them, they’ve got their own momentum.”

Be organised

When you think about it, if you’re super organised about your task, there’s no real reason to procrastinate. Organisation can include factoring in the previous points mentioned, as well as making sure you’re not wasting brain space by having a haphazard approach to your schedule.

Cass Mao, freelance strategist and Executive Director at Vibewire has this guideline to staying organised and resisting procrastination:

“#1 Have a to-do list that’s a comprehensive inventory of all the things you have in your brain, so you don’t waste mental energy storing loose ends to follow

#2 Select the task you are going to do and close everything else so you can focus. Do the task – intention is really the key. Not ‘I’m at work’ but ‘I am writing this email to Andrew.’

#3 Turn off push notifications and put your phone away – death to distractions!”

Be Selfish and think ahead

In the end, procrastination is only hurting you. It helps to think about the rewards you’re going to get if you finish – whether monetary or perhaps the adulation of your peers. Author of Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward, says it’s all about being selfish:

“One thing I do is to think about certain things that motivate me. The pettier and more selfish, the better. Like, I got to do Supanova this year, and I’d love to be invited back again next year. So I think about how if I don’t have another book done by the time it rolls around next year, the likelihood of them asking me back again to hobnob with genre-list celebrities is low. That really helps to push me to get stuff done now: thinking of how future-me might get to do cool stuff if now-me can get my ass into gear.”

It’s like using the carrot instead of the stick – if you want something really bad, hopefully you’ll work for it. But there’s also the opposite approach – thinking of the people who will be hurt if you don’t stop procrastinating. Marlee also uses this to spur her on:

“I tend to have that whole ‘instilled self-hatred and self-destructive urge’ going on, so I try to relate it to someone else – because I will ruin myself happily, but I won’t intentionally bugger up anyone else’s life. So if I tell myself, ‘your publisher will be completely put out if you don’t get these new chapters to him by the end of the week’, then that takes the onus off of me, and puts it onto someone else who I actually care about, and whose shit I don’t want to fuck up.”


Patrick Lenton is a writer and digital marketer. He runs Town Crier, a social media and marketing consultancy for authors.