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How to Stop Procrastinating - Seven Steps to Success

Updated on March 8, 2011

One of the most valuable skills in life, work, and school is the ability to meet deadlines and accomplish tasks in a timely manner. Winning the battle against procrastination may seem a daunting, even unachievable goal, but anyone can do it. Systematically apply these seven steps, based on researched behavior modification techniques, and watch your grades go up, impress your boss, and find a lot more time for family and fun!

This plan itself is structured in such a way as to make it approachable for even the worst of procrastinators. Take it step by step, day by day, and you, too, can manage your time efficiently and effectively to accomplish anything.

Step 1: Take Note

This is a period of observation, where you simply bring awareness to the patterns in your life that keep you procrastinating. What are the activities you use to distract yourself from getting started on the task? You will probably find that you waste a large portion of your time on meaningless activities, for the sole purpose of procrastinating, instead of getting the task done, and having more time to do something you'd really enjoy.

Jot down any environmental cues that might interfere with your work-anything from hunger pangs to the phone ringing. Next to each item you've listed, brainstorm how this cue can be avoided. For example, turning off the ringer on your phone, or beginning a task after, rather than prior, to a meal.

Step 2: Look Ahead

Visualize the consequences for procrastinating your given task. If you don't study, you might fail a test. If you don't prepare for your presentation, imagine how uncomfortable you'll be with all eyes on you and nothing to say. Then, visualize the positive outcome you can create by getting your work done: a good grade, a promotion, the sense of a job well done. Focus on how good you'll feel after having accomplished your task, rather than on how much you don't want to do it.

Step 3: Make A Date

Schedule your study or work time as you would a date. Write it into your planner. Add it to your Palm Pilot. Make it definite, set it in stone, and be as faithful in keeping to it as you would a dinner date with your significant other! Schedule an activity you particularly enjoy just afterwards, but be sure not to move on to that activity until you've devoted the allotted time to study or work.

Step 4: Be Prepared

Be sure to have everything you need to accomplish the task before you sit down to do it. Preparation time should not cut into the time you actually spend on the work itself. Too often, procrastinators find themselves over-preparing simply to avoid the meat of the matter: getting it done.

Step 5: Dig In

This is the hardest of the steps: just getting started. Give yourself an extra reward for starting on time, and perhaps a penalty for starting late. For example, say you've scheduled study time from 1-4 pm. If you start right at 1, maybe you "get off" fifteen minutes early, at 3:45 pm. However, for every minute you procrastinate after 1 o'clock, you have to study an extra 2, or even 5! The prospect of having to work an extra half hour for being 6 minutes late will certainly motivate you to be on time!

Break the task down into achievable smaller goals, and give yourself a mental pat on the back every time you accomplish one. Research indicates that procrastination often stems from a lack of confidence in one's ability to meet expectations, but taking note of the reality that you are, in fact, making progress, gives you the boost of self-confidence you need to continue working.

Step 6: Buckle Down

Beware of distractions! Having brain stormed ways to avoid the cues you noted in Step 1, put those tactics into effect! One of the most common ways procrastinators sabotage themselves is by jumping to another task whenever their work becomes difficult. Avoid the temptation to "take a break" when the going gets tough. Instead, return to the visualizations from Step 2 to help motivate you to muscle through. Keep your schedule in mind, and, if necessary, institute a further penalty for distractions within the allotted time. 1 minute playing Tetris instead of typing your paper equals 5 extra minutes tacked onto your time.

Step 7: Soak It Up

Once you have implemented these steps, don't forget to take account of the positive outcome. Don't be too quick to move on to the next thing you "have to get done." Enjoy the rewards you have set out for yourself, but also remember to take note of the good feelings you get from having the task out of the way, from the fruit of your labor. When you score highly on your test, be sure to link this success in your mind to the studying you did earlier. Connecting the dots in your mind will reinforce the behavior, and make the work slightly less unattractive the next time you need to do it.

If you're a procrastinator, you have so much to gain by using these tips to change your habits. Apply what you've read here, step by step, and see the results; not only will you use your time more efficiently and reap the rewards of meeting deadlines and achieving goals-your self esteem will dramatically increase, with the knowledge that you can, indeed, succeed.


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    • Jatinder Joshi profile image

      Jatinder Joshi 

      7 years ago from Whitby, Ontario, Canada

      Great advice. All steps that you have enumerated are valid and spot on.

      Procrastination is a human's normal reaction generally to tasks that are not pleasant to the person; of course some people are born procrastinators. These steps would help. I have practiced the goal setting and 'to do' lists. I have written about these in my article on time management.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great tips! Thanks . Voted up and more . :-)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      This hub ties in so well with one I am revising, so will add a link today.

      If you get a chance, take a peek.

      Being distracted is a hurdle for me. I'll work on this. Awesome and most helpful. Thanks Maddie.

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      9 years ago from Oakland, CA


      You're right, in the end it really comes down to just getting started. Thanks for dropping by!

    • profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      9 years ago from Germany

      Dig in and avoid distractions are definitely the most difficult steps to do! Having used all of the tricks possible to push past procrastination, the best advice I received was "just do it". Good steps!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks Maddie for this nice writeup.

      I hope I become a normal person from present a chronic procastinator.

      Regards Rajesh @ New Delhi

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i hope it may help

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Perfect for me..!!! I procrastinate a lot (it's a wonder I still get things done !!!). Hope this helps me to get over it...

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Loved the article, but those steps seem so hard. Maybe I'll try this some day.

    • profile image

      Daniel Duong 

      11 years ago

      LoL reading this is apart of my procrastination.

      Though it has helped me and I'm doing my work now.

      Except I just wanted to share that thought above.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great hub! thanks for sharing....i will do the step by step method you have..

    • Dixie W profile image

      Dixie W 

      11 years ago from Odessa, Texas

      Great step by step guide. It definitely takes planning.

    • fullofwisdom profile image


      11 years ago from Miami, Florida

      funny...I wrote a similar hub which also includes 7 steps. guessing great minds think alike.

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 

      11 years ago from Texas

      I am procrastinating right now, by reading your hub! Sounds like good advice, though.

    • agungssuleiman profile image

      Snapshot at Siem Riep 

      11 years ago from Cambodja

      great Hubs.Thanks for the clear advise.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great points. I guess most of us procratinate at different stage of life. I definite drag my feet to make dental appointment.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 

      11 years ago from Tennessee

      I am a horrible procrastinator with a self-defeating streak. Good tips here, thanks!

    • Suki C profile image

      Barbara C 

      11 years ago from Andalucia, Spain

      I'm going to read this - later :))

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thanks for this, I'm at my last year at school and have a drama performance in 3 weeks which is a monologue (Not I) and have literally 5 pages of lines to learn. I'm very bad at learning lines as I tend to procrastinate and still have 4 wholes pages to have down by the 17th August so I hope this will help.

    • metaphysician profile image


      11 years ago

      Step 2 is used by all successful people. Even Dr Stephen R. Covey mentioned that in his bestseller.

      Thanks for the info.

    • Drew Breezzy profile image

      Drew Breezzy 

      12 years ago from somewhere in my mind

      I enjoyed this

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Hi Maddie,

      I have only recently joined HubPages and came across this article. Great advice for a serial procrastinator like myself! Avoiding distractions is a big problem for me and it is a always a struggle to remain focussed on (important) tasks which I don't particularly like doing!

      Thanks for sharing,


    • Smart Dad profile image

      Smart Dad 

      12 years ago from Northampton

      Nice read Maddie and some really great words to adhere too

    • profile image

      Twin XL 

      12 years ago

      perhaps I should print this off and paste it to my forehead... eh, maybe later.

    • profile image

      Business Goals 

      12 years ago

      Nice hub! Good sound advice on eliminating procrastination. My favorite strategy is to "chunk" projects that I am procrastinating on. Starting a project with a small chunk of time (5-20 min) almost always leads to more time working on it and more motivation and momentum for finishing it. As a long-time personal development enthusiast, it's always great to run into good quality information like this. Thanks!


    • delzky profile image


      12 years ago

      procrastination is my weakness. thanks for your advice.

    • tourmaline2777 profile image


      12 years ago from Chicago

      Great advice! Procrastination has always been one of my trouble areas. I try to justify it by saying I work welll under pressure or I am multi-tasking. I always find reasons why I can do something later-but I am taking steps to get better!

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      12 years ago from Oakland, CA


      Yes, it's just a link capsule to which I add hubs I think visitors to this one might like to read.

    • Bruce Elkin profile image

      Bruce Elkin 

      12 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada

      Good advice, Maddie. Thanks. But how do you make the list of other "hubs you might like". Is that a capsule? Or just at the bottom of the text? I like it!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      12 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great comments. I use a lot of these and once I began to make them a part of my life, i began to get more done.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      wow this information is incredibly useful im a lazy person and do things to the last moments. il follow ur advice and hopefully achieve thnx.

    • OrangeCast profile image


      12 years ago from Dallas, TX

      As usual Maddie, you are spot on. As I mentioned in one of my hubs, I am a chronic procrastinator. My problem is usually just getting started. Once I'm into something, I'm heads down until it is done. But your tip about scheduling things "like a date" is definitely an action item that I can take from this hub. In the hub I referenced above, I wrote about an author and motivational speaker named Sam Silverstein that I recently came across. His motto is "No More Excuses" and I am trying to take steps to eliminate excuses and procrastination from my daily routine. Once you do it, it truly is amazing how much you can accomplish!

      Thanks for the hub. Truly great advice for someone who needs it! ;-)

    • Evelyn Lim profile image

      Evelyn Lim 

      13 years ago from Singapore

      It is important to get our important tasks done. Otherwise, we get this feeling that they are always weighing on our minds. Get them done and move on!!

    • tommiller profile image


      13 years ago

      Nice points.

      I always find it hard to always get work done during busy times. But we all seem to get through in the ends.

      You just have to never ever give up.

      Even if it's at a very slow pace.


    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      13 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      I needed this info years ago...better late than never, I suppose.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Hi Maddie, its really great to see your article. Though its something everyone of us know, it still reminded for those who have gotten really busy(bizzy). I myself am an idiot who procrastinates to no limit, like i was planning to launch a new site but haven't done yet.... At this point of time your hub appeared really sweet to me. Thank you so much

      lots of love


    • Carol Bogart profile image

      Carol Bogart 

      13 years ago from California

      Great advice, Maddie! I'm passing it along to my son. Getting started is always his biggest hurdle, as it is for many who have ADHD.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      13 years ago from Queensland Australia

      good blog good points well done !


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