15 Brilliant Tips to Overcome Procrastination and Self Sabotage

Penny ZenkerProcrastination

brown wooden blocks showring how to overcome procrastination

How do we overcome procrastination and stop it from hindering our drive to achieve our goals?

Many of us struggle to complete projects before our deadlines. We have even swept some of our desires under the carpet because we are too busy, have too many requests from others, or are just too tired.

Often we’ve spent time that should be spent on that project, excessively preparing, going on coffee breaks, worrying or distracting ourselves working on mundane tasks that shouldn’t have been the priority.

Yet, according to researcher and speaker Piers Steel, about 95% of us have struggled with procrastination at some point.

But, even as you know that you are not alone n this struggle, it’s essential to realize just how important it is to stop procrastinating and get on with it. Procrastination hinders our ability to effectively manage time and energy and creates unnecessary stress. We spend so much time feeling guilty that we might also have lesser time to focus on those side projects that we are passionate about because we can’t find the time. This article will help you understand and recognize procrastination alongside tips on how to overcome procrastination and set about living your best life.

What is Procrastination?

how to overcome procrastination

Now you might wonder – is procrastination a sign of being lazy? The answer is No. Procrastination and laziness are entirely different things. While laziness means an unwillingness to act, procrastination is about being active but being distracted.

Procrastinating is consciously or unconsciously choosing to do something else different from what you should be doing. Procrastination is actually about ignoring the more important task, which seems unpleasant or daunting in favor of a task that is easier and more enjoyable.

It’s not really about having a false sense of time – believing that you have more time than you think – although this also plays a role.

It’s actually a habit that comes from task aversion and difficulty managing distress.

Procrastination comes with Enormous Consequences

Procrastination might seem harmless at first, and the consequences go beyond simple deflection and avoiding distress Procrastination is a form of self-sabotage and can be a sign of low self-esteem. It can not only impact how we define ourselves but affect our reputation in the workplace. Getting caught up in this behavior pattern and cause shame, guilt, increased stress, health problems, and more.

Procrastination leads to reduced productivity, and over time, we might become demotivated and disillusioned with our work which might lead to depression and job loss in extreme cases. As a business owner, procrastination is one bad habit that can unintentionally sabotage your own business.

Putting off tasks brings intense pressure, bad decisions and might also mean placing more pressure on your staff. In addition, it could result in missing opportunities for growth or even tarnishing your company’s reputation. Procrastination might also lead to strained relationships with your customers as missed deadlines are no way to do business. It can also bring intense burdens on your relationships and fuel resentment from friends, co-workers, and family.

It might also mean becoming a recipient of problems with the government through paying bills and taxes late.

Procrastinating is a habit that starts small, but before long, it has adversely affected all areas of our life, from our financial to social, professional, and even our mental health.

Therefore, it is imperative to overcome this habit no matter how challenging the journey is. Fortunately, there are straightforward steps to overcome procrastination. All you need is focus and consistency, and you will be on your way to stop procrastinating for good.

Procrastination is not really about having a false sense of time. It's forgoing tasks the mind deems uncomfortable or unpleasant in favor for the more enjoyable tasks Click To Tweet

How to Overcome Procrastination

1.     Become Self-Aware

Do realize that the first step to solving any problem is discerning that problem. As Zig Ziglar says, “The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist”. Sometimes we delay specific vital tasks for a genuinely good reason, such as focusing on another crucial task or responding to an emergency.

However, if you’ve been putting things off indefinitely, then there’s a good chance you are probably procrastinating. Here are other signs of procrastination:

  • You spend most of your days focused on low priority tasks
  • You leave an important task on your to-do list for a long time
  • Read emails several times without deciding on what to do with them
  • Spend time responding to the unimportant tasks other people ask you to do instead of working on the crucial tasks on your list
  • Keep waiting for the ‘right time’ or ‘right mood’ to tackle a task.

2.     Figure out your Underlying Reasons

Now that you are aware of the need to overcome procrastination, it’s also essential to determine what’s driving you to make the wrong choices daily. For instance, some of us avoid specific tasks because we are scared of not being good enough.

Others feel the task would be unpleasant or boring. Again poor time management and organization can also lead to procrastination. In contrast, if you develop to-do lists and prioritize tasks according to their importance, we can effectively manage our schedule and time.

Again, sometimes we become overwhelmed by a task, especially if we doubt our ability not to do the best work needed.

So in such cases, we often put off doing the work to seek comfort in doing the task we feel more comfortable about achieving.

Perhaps, it’s because you tend to focus on short-term goals instead of the long game. Research shows that impulsive people are more likely to procrastinate because they fail to perceive the long-term benefits of completing a specific task.

Did you also know that many of us are more afraid of success than we are of failure? We think that success comes with more tasks and responsibilities that our minds subconsciously decide to remain in a ‘comfortable position.’  Perfectionists are often procrastinators because they tend to avoid doing the job whenever they doubt their skills rather than face imperfect results.

Decision-making skills are equally fundamental. If it’s too difficult to prioritize, you might find yourself putting off taking action rather than making the wrong decision.

It’s also highly crucial that you rule out the mental aspect. Depression, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD are also linked with procrastination. Even stress and illness can equally cause procrastination. Therefore, seeking the counsel of a trained professional is an excellent idea.

However, there are other reasons and rationalizations we often use to justify procrastination, and they include:

  • Not caring when something gets done
  • Not feeling in the mood to do it
  • Getting into the habit of waiting until the last minute
  • Believing working under pressure is better for you
  • Not knowing what needs to be done
  • Forgetting
  • Blaming poor health or sickness
  • Needing time to ‘think’ about the task


Recognizing you are procrastinating and the underlying reasons why you procrastinate are the first steps to overcome procrastination. Click To Tweet

Read more: Dealing with the habit of procrastination

3.     Know your Type of Procrastination

Researchers generally classify procrastination into two main types; active and passive procrastinators.

  • Active procrastinators delay tasks deliberately because they believe that working under pressure enables them to feel ‘challenged and motivated.’
  • Passive procrastinators delay tasks because they have trouble making decisions or acting on their decisions

However, we can also classify procrastinators by behavioral styles. Here are six types of procrastinators;

I. Perfectionist; puts off tasks out of fear of not being able to complete those tasks

ii. Dreamer; puts off tasks because they are not good at paying attention to detail

iii. Defier; does not believe anyone else should dictate their schedule

iv. Worrier; puts off tasks out of fear of change or leaving the ‘comfortable’

v. Overdoer; takes on too much and struggles to find time to start and complete tasks

vi. Crisis maker; puts off tasks because they believe working under pressure is ideal


4.     Transform your inner dialog

Once you know the specific reasons causing you to procrastinate, you realize that it usually starts with an inner dialog. First, it’s the intense feeling of fear that we already discussed as the fear of either failure, making mistakes, or even success.

According to Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, we need to challenge those faulty beliefs. When we are afraid of something, we believe in some way that we don’t deserve that thing. So addressing your fears is a great starting point.

Secondly, we must get rid of guilt and shame and forgive ourselves for procrastinating in the past even when we are still suffering the effects of doing so. Without letting go of that guilt, we might remain frozen in place, as those feelings quickly become obstacles stopping us from taking the best next steps actually to complete the task.

Thirdly,  in those moments of inner struggles, we often find ourselves saying these two phrases internally – “ need to” and “have to” because we feel we have no other choice, leaving us disempowered and even more stuck about delivering the best. Often the result is self-sabotage, and we no longer fill in control over our workload.

Again when we procrastinate, we tend to catastrophize or make a huge deal out of something. So even when the task seems challenging, we subconsciously ascribe that task as being ‘unbearable’.

5.     Build a High Energy Environment

According to Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower, Doesn’t Work states that “you cannot control and create your environment, your environment creates and controls you,”

Therefore you must automate your environment which can also help automate your work. When you do, you will no longer feel the need to motivate yourself from within because you’ve created a set-up that drives you. One excellent way to control your work environment and overcome procrastination is by minimizing distractions such as turning off your email and social media or avoid sitting anywhere near a television or an open window when working.

6.     Fuel your Routine with Rituals

Build a routine that includes both your personal and professional tasks leaving no room to wait until you are ‘well motivated’ to complete specific tasks. I also recommend that you structure your routine in a way that drives you to do the most unpleasant tasks first before anything else. Rituals ensure that you don’t succumb to time-wasting activities or spend time doubting yourself.

7.     Get an Accountability Partner

Having someone check up on your work also drives you to success. Some people consider groups as a great help, although others do better with a single person helping them stay on track. This is why you need a coach or mentor. Also, your spouse or partner shouldn’t be your accountability partner. Although it’s tempting, there are just times a strain in your productivity might also lead to strain in your relationship.

8.      Take Action Faster

Don’t let the lure of more extended deadlines make you build up tasks for another day. It’s much better to tackle tasks as soon as they come in. This will stop you from underestimating the time required for tasks. Even so, you can say goodbye to the endless anxiety of trying to finish tasks at the last minute. Trust me, that high strain isn’t worth it in the long run.

9.     Map Everything Out

A typical time management trap that also fuels procrastination is estimating everything in your head.  This is why we often end up overestimating or underestimating the amount of time for each activity.

Therefore, to overcome procrastination, you need to be realistic about how much time you schedule for each task. Consider setting double the number of hours it would take you to finish up a job, so you don’t fall into the cognitive trap of underestimating how long projects take.

It is also highly important to map everything out, all kinds of tasks – no matter how small or insignificant. This ensures you are not overlooking the small tasks that add up when scheduling time for important tasks. This will also help you avoid becoming overbooked.


10.     Practice prioritizing and task management

It’s crucial to avoid conveniently doing those ‘unpleasant’ or ‘overwhelming tasks. I recommend using Eisenhower’s urgent/important principle, so you can identify the activities you should focus on alongside the ones that seem urgent but can be ignored until later. It’s equally important to break big projects into small manageable tasks, making it easier to avoid becoming too overwhelmed. This, in turn, reduces your stress levels and can help you plan your time effectively. As echoed by Jeffery Combs in his book ‘The Procrastination Cure,’ consider tackling tasks in small ’15 minutes bursts of activity.


11.     Make the Most Out of your High Energy Moments

We all have those times of the day when we work better. Identify that moment and do the tasks that are the most difficult at such times. Over the next few days, journal your activities and energy levels throughout each day to figure out your high energy windows. By moving the most difficult tasks to those moments, you will find yourself becoming more productive and making remarkable progress on your journey to overcome procrastination.

A word of caution; do realize that your high-energy moments are not the same as waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ when the ideas will flow ‘freely.’ There’s no such thing as the perfect moment to achieve a task. All you need to do is get started, and you will be at the finishing line in no time.

12.     Hone your decision-making skills

To overcome procrastination, you need to realize that your decision-making skills equally affect how you manage goals and responsibilities and will influence your ability to avoid procrastinating.

For instance, let’s say we’ve got an essential presentation on Friday. Hence, we decide we will study on Thursday, only to find ourselves called out to party on that Thursday, resulting in Friday morning chaos where we’ve gotten no sleep and will be crouched over the laptop trying to do everything that should have been done in a previous time.

So, in the end, our ability to make snappy and effective decisions that ensure we remain focused in the long term is critical.

13.     Take Enough Breaks

When we don’t allow ‘structured breaks’ during work time, we become prone to procrastinate. Studies show that working non-stop hours is a huge trigger that can lead to procrastination. Therefore, you should allow free time between tasks to refresh and boost your energy. I also recommend using the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique ensures you can remain focused on your task for time intervals with forced breaks in between them.

14.     Reward Yourself

It’s important to reward and acknowledge yourself for accomplishing even the smallest tasks. By rewarding yourself, you are also motivating yourself towards achieving more. However, it would help if you made your reward proportional to the task at hand. For instance, you can plan an extensive fun activity after completing a big project or enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee after completing a bite-sized task. This way, you can avoid building the mentality of subconsciously seeing the more important tasks as unpleasant – this remains one of the critical issues that makes it difficult to overcome procrastination.

15.     Track your progress

Losing self-awareness is dangerous. No matter how much you tick tasks off your to-do list or seem to see the big projects getting completed, you need to keep track of your time every day. This ensures you remain self-aware, so you don’t succumb to bad habits such as procrastination. I recommend using apps such as RescueTime for this purpose, primarily if you work online. You can enjoy many other habit and goal trackers, such as Habitify, Strides, or Beeminder. These apps will also make it easier for you to determine when certain activities have become distractions early on.

Concluding Thoughts

Breaking the habit of procrastination is no easy feat. At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy, and as humans, we tend to choose comfortable and pleasurable activities over everything else.

Therefore, procrastination is a challenging battle because it’s just like fighting against our natural weaknesses. But you can fight procrastination!

All you need is small baby steps and a great deal of self-compassion to get back to your organized self. Ready to learn more about procrastination, here are a few other articles you can check out: