The Smart Guide to Beating Procrastination

If you find yourself procrastinating, this guide will help you learn why you do it and how to change it. Also, if you have a procrastinator in your life, a child, an employee, a spouse, you can turn to this guide to help you understand why they do it and how you can help. This guide has a host of information on how to overcome procrastination, how to minimize the tendency to procrastinate, the psychological roots of procrastination, and how you can turn procrastination into productivity. Believe it our not, there are times when procrastination is a good thing.

Procrastination is a Complex Phenomenon

There is no silver bullet to the problem. Some of us struggle getting started on things we need to do to improve our careers, our health, our relationships, and our spirit. Some of us start but can’t finish. Why do we procrastinate? There are many reasons and perspectives on that. If you want a comprehensive understanding of procrastination you must tap many resources. There are a lot of smart people who have written about this subject and you’ll find links to many of them here.

This Guide is Structured Into Three Parts:

  1. 24 of the Best Articles on Procrastination
  2. 4 Videos About Procrastination
  3. My Take on Procrastination
  4. 3 Must Read Books About Procrastination

The Best Articles on Procrastination

Structured Procrastination – If you’re a procrastinator, this is by far the best essay I’ve read on harnessing procrastination as a gift. John Perry is a successful academic and chronic procrastinator. He’s learned to turn his procrastination into a productivity hack.

Chronic Time Abuse – This pdf file is from the Harvard Business Review and written by Steven Berglas. It explains why ordinary time-management techniques don’t work for some people, the childhood roots of time abuse, how to understand the four distinct time abusers, and how to make them more productive.

Good and Bad Procrastination – Paul Graham founder of Y-combinator and Hacker News and prolific internet essayist, makes a strong case that impressive people are terrible procrastinators and trying to “beat” procrastination is impossible. Paul describes three types of procrastination and that we should strive to be a Type-C procrastinator. What does that mean? In a nutshell it means, “Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.”

Later – What does procrastination tell us about ourselves? – This in depth article by James Surowiecki in the New Yorker delves into the philosophical roots of procrastination.

Fight Procrastination! – David Cheong shows us via illustration how to understand Procrastination vs. Pain and Payoff. He shows where we want be and how to get there.

50 Strategies For Making Yourself Work – Jerry Oltion at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America writes about the major paradox of the writing profession – work avoidance. Why as writers do we find ourselves doing ANYTHING but writing? Since no single solution works for everyone, Jerry gives you 50 strategies to try.

An Unexpected Lesson About Procrastination – Penelope Trunk tells us what she learned about procrastination from her experience having a baby with a birth defect and how she discovered procrastination is one of the best tools we have for taking care or ourselves.

Procrastination: Ten Things To Know – This list shows us that bad procrastination can be the result of authoritarian parenting/schooling, the child never discovers self-regulation, and/or uses procrastination as a coping mechanism or a passive-aggressive form of rebellion which then leads to issues like substance abuse.

Procrastination – This is a fascinating post citing multiple scientific studies that show procrastination is not the result of laziness, but instead a result of meta-cognition. To get past your tendency to procrastinate you need to find ways to trick yourself in to thinking differently about thinking.

From Procrastination to Motivation – This is an A to Z reference guide about why we procrastinate and how to beat it. It explains the many reasons why we procrastinate, offers full color illustrations and flow charts, and a guide to motivating yourself past your blocks.

Overcoming Procrastination Instantly Using Self Talk – At litemind we get solid practical advice on how to re-frame the language you use in your thoughts. When you re-frame your thoughts you’ll produce different actions with different results. With a little training anyone can change their thoughts.

7 Common Causes and Proven Cures for Procrastination – Marc and Angel offer a good breakdown of common causes of procrastination and simple methods you can use to overcome the problem.

Letter to a Young Procrastinator – This is a well written letter that Seth Stevenson appears to be writing to his younger self – “Stop resisting and embrace your procrastination.” If you’re going to procrastinate stop agonizing over it and have fun with the time you are wasting.

Procrastination hack: ‘(10+2)*5’ – Merlin Mann has a method that lets you be lazy and still get things done.

Dead Simple Guide to Beating Procrastination – This guide IS dead simple. The first step is perfect.

Overcome Procrastination Once and For All – To overcome your thoughts and fears about procrastination you need to get clear about what you want in life.

Top 10 Motivation Boosters and Procrastination Killers – Lifehacker provides some of the most original content available. This one doesn’t disappoint.

How to Overcome Procrastination in 8 Easy Steps – Does your procrastination come from lack of prioritization. First visualize the end from the beginning, then count the cost, read the rest…

Getting to Now: How to Beat the Procrastination Habit – J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly is a self admitted procrastinator. Here are his methods for beating his bad habits.

Modern Procrastination – Seth Godin makes the case the being busy is a form of procrastination. We stay busy in order to avoid doing the risky things we are meant to do.

How Procrastination Can Make You More Productive – Kelly Watson teaches us to ask ourseves three questions that will help us understand why we are procrastinating and how we can turn procrastination to our advantage.

7 Tips for Avoiding Procrastination – Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project gives us sound advice on how to avoid procrastination altogether.

7 Ways to Move Beyond Procrastination – Henrik Edberg at the Positivity Blog puts together another list of 7. He leads with the advice that procrastination is more painful than work. Yes sometimes it is.

How to Overcome Procrastination – This is a susinct list of things you can do to get moving on any task or project.



Procrastination by John Kelly – This is a creative description of procrastination. Most of us will find our our own methods of procrastination in this video.


Author and Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely on Procrastination


A Humorous Look at Procrastination – “Procrastination” Tales of Mere Existence:


Ellen DeGeneres will make you laugh as she explores her own procrastination:


My Take on Procrastination

As long as I can recall I’ve struggled with procrastination. I am sure I started procrastinating even before I can remember. I rarely if ever turned in assignments in school that I wasn’t interested in. Over 30 years ago I recall a teacher assigning me a report on the composer Rossini. I checked out one book about him in the library, never read it, and never even started the report. I wasn’t interested. Did it hurt me? I doubt it, but I still think about it today and it became a common issue during my schooling. I procrastinated and failed to start/finish many assignments.

I can see the seeds of procrastination in my sons. They naturally avoid doing things that need to be done. They love to start a craft project, or take out the legos, or set up a board game, but they NEVER want to clean up the mess and put things back where they got them. It’s more fun to take out another item and another item and another item. When you ask them to put something away the excuses flow as naturally as water seeks a river, “I am still playing with it, I was putting it away, I’ll do it in a minute, I was playing with both of them.” When you press them, feet stomp, followed by yelling, screaming, and sometimes worse.

This manifestation of procrastination seems to be selfishness/immuturity or an inability to understand how your own inaction affects others. I’m certain it isn’t about perfectionism. They expect someone else to clean up their messes and would rather do something fun.

But as a parent you shouldn’t try to kill this innate tendency to procrastinate, just redirect it a little. Sometimes you shouldn’t do what others tell you. Instead you should do what you love. Why should you do busy work instead of real learning? Why should you accept monotonous boring work instead of creative work? You shouldn’t! To be happy productive people, we need to understand the difference between being responsible and using others to justify yet another form of procrastination – failing to live up to our potential. As a father it is my job to teach that distinction to my sons. The best way (and most difficult) is to live it by example.

Procrastination is good when it keeps you from wasting your time and money. I’ve found, if you put some things off, you’ll find later that they didn’t need to be done. The trick is knowing what those things are, and they are different for all of us.

Procrastination is bad when you fail to take care of yourself, when you fail to grow, when you fail to learn, when you fail to create.

So the key is… overcoming bad procrastination, maximizing good procrastination, and learning to identify the difference.

3 Must Read Books on Procrastination:

I recommend the following books on procrastination. In this section, I won’t review each book. Just click through to Amazon and read the reviews there. All three are dyno-mite!

Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now –

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play –

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination –

I’ve planned to write this for months now. After reading Procrastination and Perfectionism a week ago, I began to finish this post.

P.S. I have some friends who say they want to write. If any of you are reading this, my advice is… Then write! Start a blog! It’s never been easier to write! Most obstacles are in your mind. Clear your mind and just do it. Stop Procrastinating Now!

26 thoughts on “The Smart Guide to Beating Procrastination”

  1. True story: I bookmarked this link so I can read it another time. I’ll get to it eventually, I swear!

  2. A great list of resources, thanks for writing them up. I’m actually trying to turn procrastination into a positive force in my daily work and everything on this page is going to be of immense help.

    Have a great day Sir.

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  4. I find that making “to do” and checklists helps me stay on task. Of course, it takes a personal commitment to adhere to them in a timely manner. Procrastination is something that most of us struggle with…at least from time to time.

  5. Great Article! Many people are not very proactive. I have to keep busy doing something to feel like I’ve accomplished something daily. On days that I procrastinate the things I need to do, heck, it doesn’t get me anywhere. I often write down a to do list and make sure that I get a number of the things I need to do finished. Organization helps very much for my types of procrastination. Thank you for your great article!

  6. This must be the ultimate guide to procrastination 🙂 Thanks for compiling this! There are some great resources in here.

    For anyone curious about the Now Habit book, it’s a definitely a great book.

  7. There is a book called “the procrastination equation” by Dr Piers Steel an man who’s studied the phenomenon for 30 years and he explodes many of the common myths that people state. All backed up by peer studies into the area it’s worth a read

  8. Hey Steve,
    I have witnessed similar tendencies in my children. The thing is I try to gently prod them into a better way. It falls under the do what I say category. I’m honest about it though. My shortcomings don’t have to be shared, but my good points…well, share away. I love the call to action for your friends at the bottom. Perfect.

  9. “Sometimes you shouldn’t do what others tell you. Instead you should do what you love. ” I think this is very important.

    When I was in school I always procrastinated on my homework (and it got worse the older I got) but in the meantime I did a lot of things I’m still benefitting from today: I build websites, I wrote, I made music. Everybody would think the assignment from school were more imporant but now I do have a business that involves building websites, writing and making music so I seriously doubt that. 😉

    I can’t deny that I spent a serious amount of time in my adult life with procrastinating from important things, though. For example: Cleaning my apartment. The reason why I procrastinated, though, was that I didn’t understand that a clean apartment was so important. I thought it was much more important to work on my career.

    Now, that I know that my personal life is important to me, I procrastinate on personal matter a lot less (but that’s an realization I first had to have).

  10. Wow! That’s a long list of things to read. Personally, I battle procrastination by embracing it but in a controlled manner. Set an hour to procrastinate and do what you’ve been itching to do. Then, once that’s done, you’ll be able to focus on what needs to be done. Takes a lot of discipline to actually stick to the hour, though.

  11. Nice one Steve. I believe the heart of most procrastination is fear, because ultimately if you are not doing a task and name it as “procrastinating” then it must be a task you think you SHOULD be doing. Therefore, why wouldn’t you?

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was searching for some good article on procrastination, and this is one of the best I’ve founded so far…

    So much rich and helpful insights in it… Thanks a lot for all the references, especially for the 3 excellent books at the bottom!

    Great Article!

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