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5 Research-Based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

By | Chris Bailey |

Summary.   Why do we procrastinate, even though we know it’s against our best interests? And how can we overcome it? A careful look at the science behind procrastination reveals five tips. First, figure out which of seven triggers are set off by the task you want to avoid. Is it boring, frustrating, or difficult? Or perhaps it’s not personally meaningful to you? Then, try to reverse those triggers. If it’s boring, find a way to make getting it done fun. If it’s unstructured, create a detailed plan for completing it. Then, only spend as much time working on the task as you can muster. Since it’s easier to pick up an in-progress project, be sure to get it started as soon as you can. List the costs of not getting it done. And, lastly, get rid of distractions, especially digital ones

Chances are that at this very moment you’re procrastinating on something. Maybe you’re even reading this article to do so.

A while back, I took a year to experiment with every piece of personal productivity advice I could find. In becoming hyperaware of how I spent my time, I noticed something: I procrastinated a lot more often than I had originally thought. In one time log I kept, I found that over the course of one week, I spent six hours putting off tasks — and that’s just the procrastination that was apparent from my time log.

This got me thinking: why do we procrastinate, even though we know it’s against our best interests? How can we overcome it, preferably without hating ourselves or the techniques we use in the process?

To answer these questions, I spoke to researchers, and spent time digging through dozens of academic journal articles. The advice I gathered became the foundation for part of my book and, fortunately, I discovered that a lot of it works.

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