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7 Counterintuitive Tips For Beating Procrastination

Source | FastCompany : By Janet Miller

Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago and an expert on procrastination, estimates that 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators. “They delay at home, work, school, and in relationships,” he tells the American Psychological Association. “We are a nation of ‘doers,’ but we are also, like people from other industrialized nations, a people of ‘waiters’.”

But if the scientific evidence on that score is damning, it might also hold some surprising solutions for the most inveterate procrastinators. Here are seven counterintuitive strategies to finally stop procrastinating.


Procrastination is what we call it when we give in to the temptation of being distracted. Simply saying “no” to that temptation is often too hard for many of us to do. But an experiment published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that howyou say “no” has an impact on how successfully you resist temptation: if you’re trying to diet, should you tell yourself “I can’t eat chocolate cake,” or, “I don’t eat chocolate cake”?

In the study, 30 women were asked to think of a goal and work on it for 10 days. Whenever they felt the urge to cheat on their goals, 10 participants were instructed to reframe their temptations as “I can’t,” 10 were told to say “I don’t,” and 10 weren’t given a specific strategy, but asked to “just say no.”

Here’s what the results looked like 10 days later:

  • Three out of 10 in the “just say no” group persisted for all 10 days.
  • One out of 10 in the “can’t” group had persisted with her goal.
  • An incredible eight out of 10 in the “don’t” group had stuck with their goals for the entire 10 days.


We already know that it’s impossible to stay productive for hours on end. But some researchers say they’ve cracked the optimal ratio of work to rest time for productivity: one 17-minute break for every 52 minutes of work.

Whether or not you choose to clock those exact intervals, it may turn out that taking smaller, measured breaks can help us sidestep much longer-term procrastination. The caveat, of course, is that we need to commit to beginning work in the first place. But then taking a few breaks in between can help you sustain that momentum. Instead of helping us to manage our time, this helps us to manage our energy or our capacity to work—and, consequently, our power to avoid putting things off altogether.


It’s natural to procrastinate on something you dislike. But chances are you’ll enjoy getting it over and done with. So focus on the success you’ll feel by completing something.

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