Procrastination is a tempting prospect even for the most productive and focused among us. The bigger a project and the more it means to you, the greater the uncertainty that you’ll actually be able to accomplish it. You find yourself putting it off until a looming deadline forces you to get it done. Or worse, until it never happens at all.

While procrastination is normal and certainly understandable, it’s not ideal. Any one of us who has had to stay up through the night to write a school paper or drearily given a work presentation that you finished in the hours before your commute knows what we’re talking about. While it’s still possible to get things done when you procrastinate, it’s not particularly pleasant.

Today, we’re sharing our favorite tips for resisting the pull of procrastination. The reality is that it often requires more than just telling yourself: “This time I won’t wait ’til the last minute!”

Put these tips into practice to forever keep procrastination at bay:

Ask What You’re Trying to Avoid

Like most negative behaviors, you started procrastinating as a way of protecting yourself. It probably isn’t the best solution, but it’s helpful to remember that it’s not worth beating yourself up over. Instead, work to figure out what you use procrastination to avoid. Perhaps you procrastinate because you’re afraid you won’t be able to get something done on time, so you avoid starting altogether. Or maybe you procrastinate because you’re worried that you’ll fail at what you’re trying to achieve, so you don’t even try. Whatever it is, be honest with yourself and become aware. You might find that you really have nothing to be afraid of. Or, if your fear is valid and possible and real, then seek new ways to take care of yourself if that fear were to come to fruition. Either way, don’t stop yourself before you’ve even started.

Write It All Down

If you consider yourself a procrastinator, there are likely a lot of half-baked ideas, half-done projects, and piling up to-dos swirling around in your head. Write them all down. They don’t need to be in any particular order or level of priority—they just need to be out of your head and down on paper. Once they are, you can assign importance to each project and schedule them into your life accordingly. One of the bigger procrastination culprits is overwhelm, and when you allow every to-do and idea to live in your head without any semblance of order or importance, you’re likely to put it all off until further notice. Clean up your brain space, organize your task list, and allow yourself to focus on what needs to happen next.

Find Your Focus

We talked about this quite a bit in our blog post earlier this month on the 30-Minute Start, but we’ll reiterate the idea here: one integral key to halting procrastination is by finding one focus. It’s easy to get overwhelmed—and get nothing done—when your to-do list is dauntingly long. Start by taking a look at your list and removing the unimportant, non-urgent items. You don’t have to forget about them forever; just move them to another list for another time. Put all urgent, but unimportant items at the bottom of your list—these are usually other people’s “emergencies” anyway, and you can get to them after you’ve taken care of your top priorities. Important, but non-urgent tasks come before that. But the big winners—the tasks that make it to the top of your to-do list every time—are your urgent, important items. Narrow in on those and pick one task to focus on first.

Break It Down Into Blocks

Take a look at those urgent, important items. Even if there’s only three of them, they can still seem overwhelming—especially if that one task is really a series of smaller tasks in one. So go through each of them one-by-one and break them down into smaller blocks. What are the mini-tasks that make up each one? Look at each task like a recipe—what are the ingredients that make up the whole? Can you make each to-do into a smaller and smaller unit of progress? These are your individual tasks, and they will likely seem a lot less overwhelming when you can look at them this way. Give yourself time to do each one, knowing that with every small block you cross off the list you are one big step closer to finishing your project right on time.

Add It to the Schedule

On that note, once you have your building blocks mapped out, add them to your calendar! To-do lists are great—but only if you set aside the time to get your to-dos to done. Procrastinators especially benefit from this extra step. Be realistic about your life and your schedule and build the things you need to do into both. By proactively making space in your calendar for these tasks, you won’t find yourself scrambling to finish important to-dos in the hours you should be spending with family or with a good book or sleeping. Design your life with the intention of feeling good and feeling productive—then, follow your schedule and live it accordingly.

Build Integrity With Yourself

Lastly, keep the promises you make to yourself. How many times have you sworn to yourself that you’d quit your job or write that book or spend more time with your kids, then let the dream slip by? One very important, but not often talked about way to resist procrastination is to build deeper integrity with yourself—because ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’ve figured out the small steps you need to take and scheduled the time to take them if you won’t keep that promise to yourself. Start with one small (but meaningful) promise you can keep in the next week—maybe you’ll return a phone call or organize the hall closet—then build from there. Keep at it like you build a muscle, and you’ll find that you’re following through on your own priorities in no time.

Which tip will you try to resist the pull of procrastination? Make a commitment to yourself in the comments below!

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