How to Stop Procrastinating: 6 Ways to Change Your Mindset

No matter how long you’ve struggled with procrastination, you can overcome it.

But how to stop procrastinating looks different for everyone. For many people, the trick is to find a mindset and strategy that works for them. You might need to stop thinking about the big picture, change how you manage your time, or even find ways to reward yourself for getting work done.

Below, we’ll explore seven actionable ways to change your mindset, stop procrastinating, and start reaching your goals.

Is procrastination just laziness?

Many people think of procrastination as the same as laziness—but they’re not the same thing at all.

A lazy person is unwilling to act. They might have a lack of ambition, or they may just not want to do any work. But procrastinators want to take action. It’s not that you don’t have any goals or ambitions; in fact, many procrastinators are ambitious, driven, and even perfectionistic!

One of the main causes of procrastination is shame. You’re afraid of failure, or maybe you’re afraid of success. Or maybe you’ve told yourself (or been told by others) that you’re a failure already.

Those negative emotions cause you to put off what you need to do. You might choose to scroll social media or play video games instead of completing your tasks—but procrastinating just makes you feel worse, which makes you procrastinate even more.

It’s a vicious cycle, right?

So the first step is to stop shaming yourself. You’re not lazy, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

Next, experiment with techniques and strategies to break your brain out of its cycle of shame and fear. The tips below help make your tasks seem more doable, letting you jump into action and build momentum with each success.

6 ways to stop procrastinating

1. Eat the frog

Have you ever heard the saying, “if you must eat a frog, do it first thing in the morning”?

Productivity consultant Brian Tracy used this famous quote of Mark Twain’s to name his famous Eat the Frog method.

Your “frog” is your most important task of the day. It might be a big project for work, a workout at the gym, or even answering that one email you’ve been dreading. Don’t give yourself time to get sidetracked; just make it a habit to tackle your “frog” first thing in the morning (or as soon as you get to work or school)—before you’ve had too much time to build up any negative thoughts around it.

2. Build the wall one brick at a time

Here at Slothzero, we know that it’s hard to get anything done without a clear view of the big picture. That’s why we put serious time in once a week helping our clients make sure they’re still clear on their big-picture goals. Every client’s time with us begins with a sustained effort at building out the big picture.

But at the same time, if ALL you can think about is the big picture, you’ll never get anything done.

It’s important to know the whole picture but also know every step along the way. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and you build a wall one brick at a time.

One of the biggest causes of procrastination is anxiety caused by overwhelm. You’re avoiding your fear of failure, your sense of inferiority, your confidence that you can’t meet your goals.

You know it’ll take you at least five hours to tackle that big work project. That novel you’re writing will take months! And training for that marathon feels like an insurmountable task.

But what if you could train yourself just to focus on the next step?

The ability to think in big-picture terms is crucial for planning, strategizing, and setting lofty goals. But equally important is the ability to focus on taking the very next step—and nothing more.

Don’t think about all the work involved in training for that marathon, writing that book, or launching your new business. Instead, think about the next physical task (no matter how small). Lace up your running shoes. Sit down at your writing desk. Fill out a business license application form.

One way to force your brain out of “big-picture” mode and into productivity mode is to break your time up into manageable chunks. The pomodoro technique, named after the Italian word for tomato, uses short focus sessions broken up by even shorter breaks.

Most pomodoro users do 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. Then after every 4 focus sessions, they take a longer break—usually about 15 minutes.

But don’t be afraid to experiment with pomodoro length to find the right balance for you!

If you like to gamify your work—or if you’re easily distracted—the pomodoro technique could work great for you. There are also plenty of free and paid timer apps to automatically notify you when it’s time to work and time to take a break. Our favorites include:

If you can teach yourself to break big projects or goals into smaller, actionable steps—and then focus on one small step at a time—you’ll find it’s much easier to get started.

The hardest part is getting started, after all. Before you know it, you’ll gain momentum. You’ll be surprised at how many miles you’ve run, pages you’ve written, or business tasks you’ve accomplished.

3. Time blocking

If you haven’t heard of time blocking, be prepared to have your productivity skyrocket.

Time-blocking is a simple technique for maximizing productivity by grouping similar tasks or activities together. For instance, you might answer all your emails in the last half hour of your workday. You might do your deepest work during the time of day you’re most productive, like between 9am and noon.

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Grouping similar tasks together helps you get more done faster. When you switch from writing that report, to answering an email, to taking a meeting, and then going back to your report, you waste mental effort. This is called the switch cost effect.

Instead, time-blocking helps you save time, energy, and mental effort. You don’t have to think about what to do next—simply check your calendar to see what time block you’re in.

For even better results, try setting reminders or alarms to alert you whenever a new time block begins.

4. “Work or nothing”

Sometimes we avoid tasks we don’t want to do—like working out, writing an email, or cleaning the house—by scrolling social media or binging television. One way to motivate yourself to get work done is to make a deal with yourself: you’ll do the work, or you’ll do nothing.

Raymond Chandler, a crime-fiction writer, came up with the “work or nothing” strategy. In one of his published letters, he wrote:

“There should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything else but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor. But he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing.”

This strategy works for more than just writers. Its beauty is in its simplicity; no pressure, and no forcing yourself to do your work. Just make a commitment to not doing anything else during your designated work time. Turn off your smartphone (and your wifi connection) if you have too. Personally, I recommend trying one of these popular focus tools to disable your access to certain distracting websites and apps:

Eventually, you’ll get bored enough to do what you planned to do after all.

5. Task pairing

All of behaviorism in psychology is based on the idea that animals work for rewards. Lab animals press levers, run mazes, and learn tricks for the hope of a tasty treat. Rewards are the universal driver of work; this is called the pleasure principle.

Use this principle to your advantage. Your brain is already wired to work for pleasure, so think of creative ways to reward yourself!

One easy way to reward yourself for building healthy habits is to pair a task you avoid with a thing you love to do.

For example, maybe you decide you can only listen to your favorite podcast or playlist when you’re working out. Or you can only watch your comfort TV show when folding laundry. Or your favorite tea is reserved for when you’re answering work emails.

This simple strategy is another way to gamify your productivity—and it gives you more immediate, satisfying rewards for building healthy habits. Soon, you’ll associate those dreaded tasks with your most loved rewards. Who knows, maybe you’ll be excited to hit the gym so you can find out what happens next in that true crime podcast!

6. Body doubling

Have you ever noticed you get more work done in a library than your dorm room? You focus better at a cafe than on your couch, and work out better at a gym than in your garage.

Working is contagious—like a yawn. Humans are social creatures, and most of us aren’t built to tackle difficult projects alone. Being around other people makes it easier to be productive.

This technique is called body doubling.

Slothzero’s coaches know that just showing up to a meeting will motivate clients to work. But you don’t need a Slothzero coach to practice body doubling.

Find ways to do your work around other people—and even better, make plans with a friend to do your work together. When your motivation wanes, they’ll still be working. So instead of packing up to leave, you’ll naturally start working too. You can also use a free body doubling site like Cofocus or to sign up for a virtual coworking session.

If you can find a way to socialize your productivity, you’ll be surprised at how much less likely you’ll be to procrastinate.

7. Find interpersonal accountability

Body doubling is a particular example of the much broader principle of accountability.

In your life, you’re accountable to many things, like the law, your own personal morals, and your friends and family. At Slothzero, we focus on interpersonal accountability. Many of the world’s most successful organizations run on interpersonal accountability, from corporate managers to twelve-step groups.

Body doubling is two people doing the same thing, but an interpersonal accountability coach is actively keeping you accountable to your goals. If you’re on your own hero’s journey, your interpersonal accountability coach or partner is like your mentor. They’re the Obi-Wan Kenobi to your Luke Sywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, or the Gandalf to your Frodo Baggins.

Coaches like the ones at Slothzero can help remove the shame and isolation involved in procrastination. We go a step beyond simply being present with you as you work; we provide the structure and gentle (but firm) encouragement you need to make real progress toward your goals.

Odds are good that not all of these mindset shifts appeal to you, but one or more of them probably will. The trick is to find a way to break your brain out of its cycle of shame and guilt.

Once you learn how to kickstart your productivity, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done (and how much better you’ll feel).