You’re about to feel so proud of yourself.
1. Confront the fact that you probably don’t work better under pressure.
OK, so some people actually do, like ER surgeons, lawyers, and Wonder Woman. If you are any of those, I salute you, keep up the good work. But if you silence nagging feelings about procrastination by telling yourself you work better under pressure, chances are you’re wrong. That “thrill” you get when sprinting to the finish might actually be a crippling fear of disappointing others—and yourself—by underperforming. That’s exactly what’s likely to happen if you have to rush through a project because you waited.
2. Try the Pomodoro Technique.
It’s a brilliant time management method that involves working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break to indulge in some well-earned Instagram browsing or the reward of your choosing. This helps when you’re putting something off because every time you try to start, all you can think is, “Welp, guess I’m spending the next 80 years of my life at this desk because this project is going to take forever, RIP me.” Knowing you only have to work for 25 minutes until you get a break makes it seem way more manageable. Learn more about the Pomodoro Technique here.
3. Do the hardest thing first.
Employ this one after you’ve already committed to something like the Pomodoro Technique—that way you know it’s actually doable instead of just terrifying yourself into paralysis. Once you’re done, you’ll have accomplished the toughest job on your list, meaning you’ll get an “Oh my god, I am effing amazing, look at me go” boost that will help carry you through the next tasks.
4. Enlist someone to hold you accountable.
Whether it’s a friend who’s on top of everything or a parent who will send you stern/encouraging texts, telling someone you need help with a deadline can be useful. Ask them to check in on you to make sure you’re on target (just don’t let responding to them get in the way of doing your work!).
5. Stop believing you can multitask effectively.
Multitasking is a lie that makes you feel OK about juggling things that may deserve your full concentration. Unless you’re a rare case, your brain likely does not appreciate trying to split its efforts and acts out its displeasure by slacking in ways you might not realize. Instead of attempting to do a bunch of things at once, which can lead to distractions or slow you down, try purposefully switching between tasks. Devote your attention to one thing at a time, power through it, and move on.
A method of procrastination that can help end procrastination?! Genius. Sometimes when you’re lagging on motivation, a break from work will reinvigorate you to get back at it. Putting your energy towards working out can leave space for things to percolate into a lightbulb moment that makes you excited to tackle a project, and the endorphin boost doesn’t hurt. If you need some help in the way of workouts, may we suggest the SELF x Tone It Up Challenge?
7. Remind yourself of how terrible you feel when you procrastinate.
You know those panicked moments when you’re half-convinced this will be the time you don’t pull off a last-minute assignment like a pro? And then you envision your entire future, marked forever by this moment when you totally dropped the ball? Write all of those feelings down on a notepad, stash it somewhere easily accessible, and glance at it next time you’re considering ignoring assignments.
8. Keep a physical to-do list.
On its face, maintaining a digital to-do list can make you feel super productive. Look at all that color-coded brilliance! Issue is, when you’re constantly on your phone or email to update the thing, you can fall prey to the internet’s tempting ways. Then what was originally a commendable effort to keep your work organized turns into Gchatting your friend about how your The Bachelor fantasy league is definitely winning this season.
9. Imagine the worst-case scenario.
Since procrastination is sometimes rooted in fear, it can help to face up to it by thinking about what would really happen if you botched this task. Go the full nine: envision the searing email from your boss, the snickers from your passive-aggressive colleague, and the profound sense of regret you’d have looking back on when you could have avoided the whole mess to start with. Then tell yourself none of that can happen if you do it now!
10. Implement a bigger reward.
If mini-breaks after stints of working aren’t enough, add something time-sensitive to your calendar, like having lunch with your favorite coworker, meeting your friends for happy hour, or hitting up spin class after work (even better if you have to pay beforehand, ensuring you’ll lose money if you skip). The promise of fun can help light a fire under your butt, as can the threat of having to flake for a completely preventable reason.
11. Accept that you just have to do it.
In addition to fear, there’s a less profound reason behind procrastination: sometimes you just don’t feel like doing stuff. But part of being an adult is ponying up and making it happen anyway. There are also awesome parts of being a grownup, like sex and getting to eat breakfast for dinner. You have to take the good with the bad. Make peace with that so it’s way less likely a deadline will ever sneak up on you again.