If you’re like many of my clients, prior to them seeing me, you might have a hard time getting started with projects and completing tasks. Maybe you do everything but what you need to be doing. Perhaps you watch TV instead of cleaning your house. You socialize instead of finishing a work project, or surf the Internet instead of writing that business plan you’ve been meaning to do for the longest time.

You essentially avoid that which you deem to be uncomfortable. It’s an adaptive response to stress, fear, and anxiety. The problem with this tactic is, by putting off an important task, it ultimately leads to more stress, greater fear, more anxiety — and of course not completing the task.

This procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and depression — all of which can kill motivation and creativity and perpetuate the unproductive cycle. Poor time management, feeling overwhelmed, unrealistic standards, or just plain laziness are a few possible reasons for procrastination.

Here’s how to stop procrastinating once-and-for-all:

1. Understand your motivation

Are you the type of person motivated towards things that are positive? For example, you work really hard knowing there’s a bonus at the end of the quarter. Or are you a slacker sitting on your butt until your boss comes around and threatens to fire you, only then making your move to avoid the negative?

2. Know the emotional cost

Think about the amount of stress that’s been caused by putting things off and how much frustration will be caused if you continue not to take action. Imagine how good you’ll feel once you finally do act. Compare the cost of taking action to not taking it at all. This will motivate you in the right direction.

3. Make a to-do list with items you usually avoid

That’s right, only list the things you avoid and leave out things that are routinely done. This will help you to stay on task with items that have been put off in the past.

4. Break large goals down into smaller ones and make sure they’re realistic

Then write down a reasonable plan with a deadline to achieve them. This will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

5. Change your language

Avoid phrases such as “I can’t” and “I have to” and replace them with results-oriented language such as “I will do this now” and “I choose to do this.”

6. Sketch it out

Draw a line down the middle of a page. On the left side list how life will be different should you accomplish your tasks and on the right how it will be if you don’t accomplish your goals. This will yield powerfully motivating information.

7. Reward yourself

Think of a treat or gift you can give yourself for completing tasks. For example, maybe you go to the movies or go out for lunch.

Originally published at www.inc.com


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert