Tips and Techniques for Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is the  behavioral tendency to either avoiding  a  task altogether  or deferring  it to a later, often unspecified time.  The origin of the term is derived from the Latin ‘pro’  (forward) and ‘crastinus’ (of tomorrow) so the word procrastination means ‘to put off until tomorrow’.


Procrastination has been considered a self handicapping behavior that leads to wasted time and poor performance. People who procrastinate have negatives consequences like anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, stress, self-criticism, depression and a back log of tasks.

Why do People Procrastinate ?

There is no single answer to this. People procrastinate for different reasons at different times.  However, the major reason which cause people to procrastinate when given a task include :

  • Lack of Motivation.
  • Lack of self-discipline and commitment.
  • Ambiguity of task or when a task appears too big.
  • No proper action plan and not knowing what to do.
  • Inability to set priorities.
  • Wanting to do things perfectly.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of success.
  • Unclear relevance of task to results.
  • Difficulty with concentration.

General Tips to overcome Procrastination

  • Reframe your thinking  and commit yourself to doing a task once started.
  • You need effective time management with a clear sense of purpose. Write down all the tasks (daily or weekly) that need to done in order of their importance.
  • Motivate yourself to work more by focusing on your successes and what you have achieved. If people  have the motivation to do a particular task, either intrinsic or extrinsic, they are less likely to procrastinate. Think positively and get going.
  • Being perfectionist may not be so perfect. Perfection often cause procrastination so avoid trying to do everything perfectly.
  • Set realistic goals, break large tasks into smaller manageable parts. This will reduce ambiguity of a big task.
  • Stay in the present moment and focusing your attention. Set time aside for other thoughts : If you have other worries or concerns on your mind, allot a specific time in the day to think about them or deal with them.
  • Modify your working environment, minimize distractions, be prepared with all your tools and materials you will need, and keep organized.
  • Take breaks when working on a task and reward yourself when a task is complete.

Effective Techniques and Principles

There are three laws that govern and affect your productivity. Some laws are in alignment with human nature, some are against human nature.  We present each law with a brief description and how it can be used to your benefit.

*10 minute rule: *This rule says that you need to make a commitment with yourself, “I will do a task for at least ten minutes”.  So, when you have to  begin a dreaded task, just do it for 10 minutes . After being involved in the activity for 10 minutes, then decide whether to continue. Once you’re involved, it’s easier to stay with a task. Succeeding at a task does not require that you like doing it. This rule is extremely helpful and really works for any procrastinator.

Pomorodo Technique : Pomorodo technique  is a very effective time management system for improving your productivity, focus and handling distractions. Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of  this technique used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

This techniques involve breaking tasks into 25 minutes work period followed by 5-minute breaks.  Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato.  After every four “pomodoro” have passed, you then take a 15-20 minute break.  These frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused.

Every time you finish a “pomorodo”, you mark your progress with an “X” and note the interruption you faced while working on a task. You schedule an interruption based on its importance,  and keep your mind focused on a task. This technique is explained a bit more in the book, (PDF) and at the web site.

Pareto Principle aka 80/20 rule : This principle was introduced by economist, Vilfredo Pareto. It states that, for many events, 80% of the effect com from 20% of causes. Known to most of us as the 80-20 rule, it explains quite a bit about how or world is run; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients”, 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers , 20% of your activities take up 80% of the time. 20% of effort generates 80% of results. The list is endless.  There are even variation  the 80-20 principle, such as the 70-30, the 90-10 and 95-5.

So, how to apply it in real life ? Before you start a project, list out everything we need to do for the project, then determine which part of the project is the part that will only take 20% of time, but will account for 80% of the results and just do those tasks first. I can personally attest that this technique is really helpful to reduce stress.

Posted by – Ishank,  Being Tech Savvy