7 Ways To Use Psychology To Stop Procrastinating Right Now

Stop putting things off and start being productive.
Women Procrastinating in Kitch
Photo by Keenan Constance

Some of us are better at being productive than others, but even the best of us struggle with procrastination. This article will address some easy ways to push through your procrastination and conquer your to-do list. First, let's define procrastination. 

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of putting something off to deal with in the future. In other words, you're postponing it. It's a common problem we all face in our personal lives and our work lives.

Today I hope to help you address it to be more productive. 

How Can I Stop Procrastinating? 

There are lots of ways to reduce your procrastination. While not all of them will work for everyone, there are thankfully a lot of different strategies. Now let's dive in and expand on each of them with the help of psychological research to show why these work. 

Here's the list of ways to stop procrastinating: 

1. Break it into Smaller Tasks 

Before I start anything I make a list of the tasks I need to do. Sometimes, I have a list of different small tasks, and other times it's a complicated task with many elements. Segmenting your tasks into smaller chunks makes it much easier. Seeing smaller steps makes it far less intimidating when you finally get started. 

Planning a way to tackle a large project is also still an effective way to get started on a task. I consider outlining my articles as an important step before I write them. It's all part of the same process. 

2. Do the Hardest Task First

When you have a list of different items to tackle, pick the most difficult one. Often that is the one we neglect. Because we put off addressing it, we are actually taking away the focus on our easier tasks and increasing our anxiety. 

The invisible work that you're avoiding is actually increasing your Mental Load. 

Mental Load refers to how many different tasks are going on in your brain at a time. It's often used to refer to invisible labor that women engage in managing a household, but it can apply to your job too.

When you have too many tasks on your plate you'll feel stressed and that can reduce your productivity. This is a common problem for women who engage in a lot of emotional labor as well as in the workplace. 

3. Work in a Different Location

We know from research in Memory Psychology that different work settings and work environments can trigger us to engage in the same behavior and improve our memory. This is referred to as Situational Memory. If you always working in your bedroom with the same distractions, then staying focused in that setting will be difficult. 

When I was a university student I loved working in the library to hammer out my research papers because there was little distraction. Even checking my phone was less of a habit in the library than it was at home. Mix it up if you can. Even changing rooms can help you build better habits. 

4. Reward your Progress

Don't be afraid to take breaks. In fact, setting a timer is a great way to get through procrastination. Let's say you have to clean your house. That might take you an hour or so to sweep and vacuum. Instead of wearing yourself out all at once, set a 30 minute time to clean then set a 5-minute break to drink water or check your phone.

Positive Reinforcement is the act of introducing a benefit to reward good behavior. It's a great way to stay motivated and complete your tasks.

5. Monitor your Progress

Progress bars are super helpful. Think of the last video game or form you filled out online. Was there a small bar showing you what percent of completion you were at? Most likely there was one.

Video games and computers use progress bars because we find them rewarding. In fact, in a survey people said they thought progress bars were more satisfying. Seeing a progress bar also kept people more engaged. You can use that same strategy to motivate yourself with a checklist to note progress.

Image of a Progress Bar
Image via Giphy

6. Get Someone to Hold You Accountable

Verbalizing your goals is important, especially to someone else. When you tell someone that you need to do something they keep you more accountable. In fact, in one study researchers found that participants were 65% more likely to complete a goal when they had an accountability partner. 

One of humanity's greatest traits is our ability to help each other. You don't have to do everything alone. Even just sitting beside someone while I'm quietly working helps me focus. 

7. Keep a Positive Mindset

Positive thinking will help you in lots of ways. For one, it can help with stress management. When you're less stressed you can be better equipped to focus and increase productivity. You'll also have more energy to complete your tasks. Another benefit is that a positive mindset can reduce procrastination when you forgive yourself. As per the results of a scientific study conducted by Michael J.A.Wohl, participants were better at preventing procrastination when they forgave themselves. 

Negative thinking tends to be circular and doesn't lead to action. By taking a positive mindset you're pushing yourself into action sooner.


That's a wrap! There are a lot of ways to prevent procrastination, just find what works for you. You may have to try more than one approach to know what works best. Now, take these new skills and get going on whatever projects you need to tackle.

You've got the tools, and I believe in you. 

Writer, podcaster, and nerd. BFA in Psych and Creative Writing. Follow along for Humour, Health & Wellness, Pop culture and my Opinions.

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