can you really ever get past being a procrastinator?

It’s a new “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a lifelong underachieving procrastinator, so this post and the other update that mentioned it caught my attention. In thinking about them, it occurred to me that although I’ve read a ton of books and advice on how to cure procrastination, I kind of never believe any of it, because I haven’t heard many former hardcore, lifelong procrastinators talk about finally getting past it. Do such people even exist? I hope they do, because I want to know how they did it. But I also just want to know that you can, and that it’s not an utterly extraordinary event. Is that something you’d ever consider asking readers about?

Any reformed procrastinators out there with advice?

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Now In the Job*

    Recently I re-read a bunch of old mid term reports and grade sheets (wow I forget what these are called) from elementary school through high school. The one thing I saw over and over was, “Now In the Job would excel if she could turn in her assignments on time,” or “NItJ has a lot of potential but is easily distracted,” or such things like that.

    I struggle to point out exactly what changed in me. And while I will procrastinate *a little bit* to this day, it is usually, at most, a couple hours. I never miss deadlines, I am known as the most proactive and responsive person on my team, and I operate on almost an inbox zero.

    In my personal life, it’s a bit more squishy for the “fun” things, but I’m still really strict with the “responsible” things. It’s doable! I’ve seen greater success than my own! I believe in us. :)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a bit more squishy for the “fun” things, but I’m still really strict with the “responsible” things.
      I think this is a really common pattern with bad habits, not limited to procrastination–people mature a bit and get better about doing things where it most matters to them. Like, paying bills on time even if you put off starting laundry.

      1. Now In the Job*

        I will start the laundry regularly, I will change the kitty litter up to a day late, I will make my appointments and pay my bills on time and file my taxes before March.

        I will not finish my sewing projects before taking on new projects. I will not make hard decisions about the next step of my language studies. I will not remember to finish a video game that I loved. I am notoriously terrible at starting emails and text messages to friends and then forgetting entirely.

        It’s pretty interesting tbh XD

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s pretty interesting tbh.

          It is! I find this is true of a lot of traits, that rather than display them in every possible context certain contexts draw out certain traits in you. So someone is a dependable friend but flaky lover, or an adventurous eater happy to spend most vacations at the same cabin.

        2. kicking_k*

          Not everyone finds this helpful, but I did: figuring out how you respond to expectations. I am much better at responding to external obligations than internal. So, yeah, laundry (if it includes other people’s), bills, deadlines that are set by others – I can do those.
          Making time to do things that only affect me? Setting my own deadlines? Aaargh.

          It’s not all good if you respond better to internal, either. You may finish your novel, but be very difficult to live with.

          1. Ann Cognito*

            Sounds like you’re an “Obliger”, one of four tendencies identified in Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” book (and free quiz online), as am I. This is, exactly as you say, someone who meets outer expectations, but resists inner expectations. Getting accountability partners for the times I’m achieving goals for myself has been a huge help (not family, since you can just ignore them!).

    2. Duke Flapjack*

      That sounds like me except my work life and my personal life are nearly mirrors. I am highly reliable in my job, but if you want me to do the dishes or carry a shelf full of unpacked crap from when I moved into my house a year ago then you’re a bit out of luck.

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        This. I’m reasonably sure that I’m undiagnosed/untreated with ADD. And I use up all my executive function at work – what’s left is for making sure bills get paid (99% autopay) and the minimum is done to keep me, spouse, and dogs alive. I do *eventually* get to the point of making doctors’s appts, ordering needed items, etc. But it’s usually at most one significant thing a day.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Same! I was usually able to stay on top of work/school and never understood why my home and life were in such disarray. Before autopay existed, I paid ridiculous sums of money every year on late fees / fines / interest. Now I at least understand what’s happening up in my brain. Plus the world has invented autopay and digital calendars / reminders that didn’t exist in my youth.

        2. Student Affairs Sally*

          Yes! This is me 100%. My house is constantly a mess but I’m on top of my sh!t at work.

        3. Anonym*

          This. This this this. I have ADHD, and have gotten on top of most work stuff through testing various ways and systems of tracking, reminders, task managers, etc. (I do seem to spend more time than most people on active organization, but it works.) But yeah, I have very little left for home/personal life. I attack personal life tasks according to whim, and when work gets tough there is no whim. I do at least throw everything onto a super long to do list, which I have motivation for because it reduces the anxiety of having them float around the back of my mind and then disappear. And then I pick things somewhat at random, or just look for any that feel doable in the moment.

          To OP’s question, what works well enough for me (because it doesn’t have to be perfect, just enough) on procrastination is:
          1. Dumping all tasks onto a list, and then breaking them down into small steps. If I’m still avoiding something, often breaking down further into ridiculously tiny steps breaks the logjam.
          2. Reminders! Calendar reminders! Also blocking times to do things. If I have to do something that takes 30 mins but I’m struggling with it, I’ll put at least two, maybe three hour-long blocks on the calendar, because I may not be able to do it in the first one, or even the second.
          3. If I really need to do the thing and really cannot, I’ll set a timer for 5, 2 or even 1 minute, and just work on the thing for that long. It helps at least 50% of the time – starting is enough.
          4. I pay attention to my moods. Sometimes I get a “doing things” wave, and when I recognize it, I try to jam in as much stuff as possible that I’ve been putting off, which also means not wasting them on “easy” stuff. They often come on Saturday mornings when I have nothing planned, and last between 20 mins and 2 hours.
          5. Trying not to judge myself. I am me, and this is how I am. Feeling sh*tty about how I am only exacerbates the behaviors I dislike. Let the judgement pass, kick it in the a$$ on the way out. Nobody’s perfect, but self-judgement leads to greater misery.

          Today was a good day. I woke up feeling not terrible, and I made a doctor’s appointment I’d been meaning to make for two months!

          1. Now In the Job*

            I love your to do list! It’s like the original bullet journal. (Which, for anyone who doesn’t know, what specifically developed by a person with ADHD to help people with ADHD with these exact things.)

            Can we add “celebrate when you Do the Responsible Thing”? \o/ NICE on getting that appointment scheduled!

            1. Anonym*

              I didn’t know that was the origin of bullet journaling! And HUGE YES to celebrating doing the thing!!! Our minds focus so much more easily on the negative, but celebrating the wins (ALL the wins) makes life so much better. And probably helps the next time you’re stuck on a similar task – there’s some positive feeling associated with it, instead of the negativity alone.

              And thank you! :D

              1. What do you mean thats not normal*

                All of those things help me a lot. A few more things:

                -Take wiggle breaks! literally stopping taking in new information and like… run up and down the stairs.
                – Make an “i did it” list! this nicely counteracts having a too-long to do list that feels like it never gets done – i keep a to do list and then in my daily planner i write my top priority and keep an “i did it” list for the day, so i can see in what ways i was productive, even if it didn’t cross anything off my list.
                – Separate things into types of tasks. This one is hard for me to explain but…. You know how disneyland used to use tickets for rides, and there were a, b, c, d and e ticket rides? If you didn’t have any e-tickets, you wouldn’t be able to go on an e-ticket ride. I for sure have days where I only have a-tickets, and i can get an unlimited number of a-ticket tasks done, but oh goodness don’t ask me for an e ticket, i don’t have it. I’ll have to walk from the back of fantasy land all the way out to the esplanade for more tickets, and then back to fantasy land to do the thing, and there is probably a parade in the way. I literally use this exact system for my tasks – i label each thing by how difficult a task it is for me, personally, and then i “check my ticket book” before setting up my day.

          2. Student Affairs Sally*

            Blocking time off on my calendar has literally saved my life at work, and I recommend it to students who struggle with time management ALL the time. My job is helping students who struggle academically develop better study and time management skills, which is HILARIOUS to me as a neurodivergent person and former college dropout. But I think the whole reason I’m good at it is because this stuff is really hard for me so I’ve had to learn the hard way.

            Also the timer-setting thing sounds like a micro-version of the Pomodoro method, which is another big recommendation I do at lot, and one that I use myself sometimes when the motivation is really not there.

            1. fantomina*

              Same. Unmedicated ADHD meant having to learn coping mechanisms and a general interest in finding out about other people’s strategies-> student affairs career focusing on student success.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Oooh, this is me.

                I was Dx’ed as a child, but not medicated. It wasn’t even addressed by CBT or whatever. I also had the after effects of a TBI on top of it. So I literally bulled my way around by being really smart but disorganized, and dropped out of college. Then I had to teach myself how to be organized in order to earn a living.

                The start was very, very rough. As a young worker I was a procrastinating flake. Trial and error, reading a lot of articles plus some good mentoring got me able to actually hold a job long term. But it’s still a struggle. I’ve learned to make lists, break things down into small, use templates to avoid the blank page problem, and other coping skills.

                I wish I had gotten the help in high school, not have to bootstrap it over 20 years in the work world.

          3. Holy Carp*

            ^All these things!

            BTW autopay has improved my bill-paying process and cut a HUGE amount of procrastination stress from my life.

          4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I do the first one, too!
            Sort clothes into loads.
            Put load in washer.
            Turn on.

            I did three things already!
            Bag garbage from each room.
            Carry to cans outside.

            Two more things!

            1. kicking_k*

              And alternatively, if splitting tasks _doesn’t_ work for you, you may be better off grouping. I can’t tackle a long list. But if I think of, say, unpinning the laundry from the line, folding it and putting it in drawers as “just one job”, I’m more likely to start. If I can do that all on one session so much the better – it’s easier than starting three times.

              Splitting tasks up is such common advice that it took me years to discover this. It doesn’t work for everything.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                This is excellent.
                I think this illustrates exactly why OP is feeling so distraught. There are a lot of resources that seem to being saying the same thing. When the “universal answer” doesn’t work for you, well, “there must be something so wrong with me that can’t be fixed.”
                Nope, you just haven’t found YOUR answer yet.

              2. Kal*

                My executive dysfunction is due to a combination of autism and chronic pain, and I have spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at various planners and to-do lists, and so far the ones I stick with best are computer ones that allow me to split tasks but also group them. So basically the list looks small because its just (1) Do thing, (2) Do other thing, but if I click on (1) it then opens up a sublist of A-E of the smaller parts to do thing 1. If the main list is too long, I just glaze over and avoid it all, but I also get daunted by tasks feeling too big, and some days all I can do is pick a small thing from the sublist and can’t do more.

                I also do much better with a system that has a social component where me and my partner can see each other’s lists and notice if the other hasn’t done anything for a bit to check in with each other (or remind each other the list exists – we are both bad at just selectively forgetting its existence).

                I haven’t hit on anything that quite fits my needs, but at least I know what I need now so I can look for it and make makeshift systems in the meanwhile.

                1. Kal*

                  I haven’t really found anything that super does what I need, but I’m currently using Remember the Milk and using each list as a separate thing to do with the tasks in the list being the split up bits for that task. Its not 100% what I’d want, and I had to do a lot of fiddling with the app to get it to work a bit more how I wanted, but it is sorta working for now.

                  I did use Google Keep in the past, which allows using separate notes for different big things and then a checklist in the note with allowing for a further nesting of things. I most stopped using it due to the lack of being able to collapse the lists. I’m not good at sticking with things, but I keep trying.

          5. Library Penguin*

            I’m glad you said this, because my immediate response to this post was “Get diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed stimulant medication.” I was diagnosed as an adult, and genuinely the difference in how much I can do and how well I understand what is feasible for one person who needs to sleep occasionally?* Night and day. Which is to say your list is great, I recognise so many things on it. (Number 5! The most important thing!)

            Other things that work for me:
            1. Body doubling. Seriously just sitting quietly where a friend or a coworker can see me and know when I’m goofing off on the internet does wonders for making me stay on task.
            2. If someone asks me to do something, or I say I’m going to do something, WRITE IT DOWN. On a to-do list, on my hand, on a post-it, in an email – literally write it down right then, because otherwise I forget. People see me writing everything down and go “Oh, you’re so organised!” and lol no, this is just what it takes for me to function at the same level as everyone else.
            3. Done is more important than perfect. Sometimes procrastination is perfectionism in a scooby-doo villain mask, and it sucks! But mopping the dirtiest bits of the floor is better than not mopping at all; writing a terrible first draft is better than not writing anything. Do what you can, and make it better later.

            * Since diagnosis I have gone through phases of “I don’t understand why I’m not doing more! I used to do so many things!” and the answer is always, always, “That’s because I’m sleeping more than four hours a night and remembering to eat.” So sometimes it can feel like you’re doing less, but you’re also treating yourself better.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              2. If someone asks me to do something, or I say I’m going to do something, WRITE IT DOWN. On a to-do list, on my hand, on a post-it, in an email – literally write it down right then, because otherwise I forget. People see me writing everything down and go “Oh, you’re so organised!” and lol no, this is just what it takes for me to function at the same level as everyone else.

              Oooooh, I feel this. Between my ADD and my stroke, my memory is completely flakomatic garbage. I have to tell people, sometimes multiple times, “If you want me to do something don’t just verb all tell me, write it down! Otherwise I may not remember it five minutes from now.”

              3. Done is more important than perfect. Sometimes procrastination is perfectionism in a scooby-doo villain mask, and it sucks! But mopping the dirtiest bits of the floor is better than not mopping at all; writing a terrible first draft is better than not writing anything. Do what you can, and make it better later.

              I have struggled with this often over the years. I have to literally tell myself “Close enough for jazz” or “Good enough for government work.” to short circuit my perfectionist streak. I’ll also go “Okay, this wants to be perfect, but I can iteratively approach perfection by starting with good enough for testing.” and then improve it from there.

          6. Calmly neurotic*

            Agreed. I also have ADHD. I chose my career around my strengths and my weaknesses. I didn’t actually realize I had ADHD and noticed that having a first grader was MUCH harder than actually being in first grade or holding down a professional job (all those spirit days! Making the bus on time! Remembering a lunch and mittens! Filling out forms! And oh, those library books…).

            I agree with all of these things. I have a calendar, an agenda, and I rely on Alexa a lot (we have 15 minute, 5 minute and 3 minute warnings to get out the door in the morning… I also set reminders for recurring meetings and any important meetings. I can usually hyperfocus on my work, but make sure I always have enough on my plate that I can switch to another important task when I need to “procrastinate”.

            I take advantage of productive days (less frequent but more noticeable in COVID times…. after the kids are home it takes about 2 weeks before I re-adjust to working without interruptions every 3-5 minutes). And I don’t do it as often or as well as I should, but breaking tasks into much smaller pieces is a highly effective strategy as well.

            I will say I think it’s worth getting screened for ADHD, though. It became a lot easier to forgive myself for these things (procrastination, chronic lateness, losing track of time, forgetting to do things that are important) when I realized they were really not my fault. Medication was a godsend, and ended up resolving other mental health issues that I never would have imagined were related in any way. It also made it easier to really develop concrete coping strategies once I really understood why I was this way.

            (Caveat: I am not in any way saying I think you have this – I couldn’t possibly tell. I just think it’s worth looking into to rule it out or otherwise – I had no idea and wasn’t diagnosed until I was about 33. I also thing there are lots of ADHD coping strategies that would be helpful here, whether or not you have it).

        4. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          It’s so interesting hearing about other people’s experiences with this. I burn through a lot of executive function at work. I’d also consistently fail at paying bills on time if it weren’t for autopay/a spouse who is far more on top of these things than I am, but *damn* am I good at making phone calls. I’m the reason my spouse gets his teeth cleaned. He is the reason I have clean laundry.

          1. This is a name, I guess*

            This is me. I ended up getting diagnoses with ADHD. Even very high achieving people can be neurodiverse. The symptoms just show up on the margins, but not so much in the center where people notice. BUT I NOTICED!

        5. This is a name, I guess*

          I think ADHD/ADD are now considered the same thing, FYI. ADHD, with 2 different types.

        6. kicking_k*

          Yeah, me too. My husband is generally very organised (and has OCD as well) so he compensates for me a bit. But for years I have driven myself mad with my inability to get things done at home that I can do at work…
          I’m on a waiting list for an ADHD assessment.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I came here to say the same thing, I used to procrastinate terribly and have almost forgotten that I was like that!

      It never happened at work?, I think?

      And somehow, I grew out of it. Not helpful to the OP but as I got happier with me and control over things in my life, I just, got better?

      I will still happily procrastinate on medical things and anything cleaning-related at home (at work I’m the best at cleaning, don’t tell my long-suffering spouse!).

    4. Now In the Job*

      Also I just want to gently point out to OP as well–it’s OK if you don’t have ADHD and still struggle with this. I’m seeing a LLLLLOT of comments and support referencing ADHD and I’m so glad, SO GLAD, that people are getting access to a diagnosis and support and things that help them so much as adults. It needs to be talked about more! And broader access to support for people starting earlier in life who don’t exhibit what is “typically” seen as the markers for ADHD.

      But there are neurotypical people who struggle with procrastination as well, so if you look into ADHD and think “That ain’t me,” don’t feel like all hope is lost! I don’t have ADHD, but this was still a major struggle point for me.

      1. Kaittydid*

        Yes, I agree! Also, neurotypical people can use the tricks that help ADHD people. Whatever works, works.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        I think that things like- therapy and occupation therapeutic interventions can still be really helpful. Same with the techniques that ADHD folks use for this stuff.

      3. allathian*

        Yes, I feel the same way. I’m a procrastinator in some things, but not in others.

        I’d probably never book a checkup without a reminder from my healthcare provider, or dentist, not unless I have symptoms that require attention immediately or fairly soon, because I’m really bad at self care and I hate going to the doctor unless it’s absolutely necessary.

        Pretty much all of my bills are on autopay, which is how I can ensure that they actually get paid. The only exception is my credit card, because I usually want to pay more than the minimum. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t, I’ll just pay more interest, and I want to avoid that. But I’m very good about doing my taxes on time.

        I take a lot of breaks at work when we’re not exceptionally busy, but I don’t think that counts as procrastination, because I’m not taking the breaks to avoid work, but to give my brain a break from intense focus. Sometimes I feel like I’m procrastinating, but as long as my manager’s happy with my performance, it’s all in my head. I can take fewer breaks when I absolutely need to, but it comes at a cost and I can’t keep it up for very long (weeks at most). I’ll often schedule those tasks I really don’t want to do in the morning, because regardless of when I do them, I’ll spend all day thinking about them, so it’s best to get them over with sooner rather than later. I’d say that’s pretty much the opposite of procrastination.

    5. Kes*

      This is me to some extent as well. I think part of it is I just matured and got more experience in how to handle things that were stressing me out or that I didn’t want to do rather than just continuing to put them off, like doing a bit at a time. I also think some of it is I got better at prioritizing and managing things so that everything that has to get done, gets done, for varying definitions of ‘has to’ depending on how I’m doing, and sometimes more than that. And part of the growth is also to be able to realize that at some point, something that has to be done not being done is more stressful to me than actually dealing with it

  2. preaction (he/him)*

    I got over my “laziness” by finally getting treated for my ADHD. As a result, I believe “lazy” is something other people call you when you’re not doing what they want you to be doing (and, eventually, it becomes self-abuse).

    1. Lauren*

      +1. Before my diagnosis, I thought I was inherently lazy and morally inferior. Had a lot of learning and unlearning to do once I realized that I had spent my life trying my best, but my “trying my best” had a very different outcome than my peers’ “trying my best”.

      1. AVP*

        …oh. this rings a bell. perhaps I should schedule the adhd eval appointment I’ve been putting off for months and feeling bad about!

        1. Cedarthea*

          The first steps are hard, but the thing with ADHD is getting treated makes it possible to deal with the annoying process of getting treated.

          I hope you are able to get started on the journey because the self-awareness and acceptance I have found for myself as I deal with the process has been totally worth the toughness of getting started.

        2. Mad Harry Crewe*

          I say this with an enormous amount of love for you, an internet stranger: yes. You should schedule that eval.

            1. LC*

              Psychiatrist, therapist, neuropsychologist, etc. – many of the mental health professionals are able to diagnose, even the ones that can’t prescribe meds.

              In an ideal world, it would be with someone who can diagnose, prescribe meds, and do regular therapy (it’d be so nice to have that all be one person!) and who specifically works with people with ADHD (and more specifically, adults with ADHD, if the person seeking the eval is an adult or close to it).

            2. Triumphant Fox*

              I looked in my insurance’s in-network providers and searched for ADHD specifically. I found a psychologist who specialized in ADHD and also checked reddit in my area and googled drs for reviews. I was concerned I would be dismissed as a woman with ADHD, so I found one with reviews from women with ADHD. I’m in a major city, so it may be harder in your area, but I did do it all remotely due to covid. He had no problem with the diagnosis (he said it was pretty straightforward from my responses) and referred me to a psychiatrist for medication counseling after I did the eval. I don’t see a psychologist regularly, but having the diagnosis has been immensely helpful.

            3. This is a name, I guess*

              Two options:
              1) primary care will sometimes diagnose you and even prescribe you stimulants. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen men succeed through this method. While my sample size is small, I do think women have to jump through more hoops because ADHD is seen as a things boys have. If primary care gives you the run-around, DO NOT DESPAIR AND DO NOT LISTEN. Just move on.

              2) Call a psychology practice. A big practice is ideal with a lot of people. Ask for psychological testing for ADHD. They will set you up. It was 3 appointments (2 online) for me. 1 intake with a psychiatrist. 1 4hr session with a psychologist. 1 20min debrief a few weeks later with the psychologist to go over results.

              Pro-tip: if you don’t have any particularly trauma and you don’t have complex barriers, you can just go to a run-of-the-mill psych clinic. The testing isn’t particularly bad, just tedious. Wait times for appointments are SO LONG. However, I’ve noticed a trend where adults seek psychological testing, and they get recommended to these really fancy, zeitgeisty practitioners who have even longer waitlists or don’t accept insurance. But, if you’re a mostly functional adult (and not a child or someone with complex trauma), you probably don’t need a zeitgeisty psychologist. Save yourself the time and money, and just go to a big clinic.

              1. Mary Dempster*

                For what it’s worth, I went though my symptoms and my experience and my PCP was like “wow glaring adhd, let’s try…” and that’s the only visit I had to make, though I assumed I’d be asking for a referral to the (only) psychiatrist in our hospital system.

            4. Wolfie*

              I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD by a psychiatrist in 2009. She retired in 2020, and I had to find a new doctor to prescribe Adderall. First place I tried had me do some tests, and they came back and said because I didn’t have it as a child, and because I had depression, and because I drank more than was ideal, I did NOT have ADHD. I was just a terrible person (my interpretation). But I also knew the meds had worked for 10 years, so I found a new doctor.

              TL;DR if you really think you might have ADHD but can’t get diagnosed, please try again. Some doctors are still wrong.

        3. Marshbilly, not Hillbilly*

          I just got diagnosed (at 45), start meds tomorrow. Go for the eval – either way it will probably give you some answers.

        4. ad/hd*

          I got my diagnosis at 42, and have gently pressured other family members to get their eval done. So now we’re a family of 20 to 80 year olds with brand new ADHD diagnoses, and they all agree its literally life changing. IF you have ADHD, you procrastinate because of your physiology, because you are low on dopamine, not stimulated enough and because tasks don’t “activate” for you before there’s a clear consequence, usually a deadline. And likely because you have years worth of selfdoubt and blame because youve always thought there’s no good reason why you procrastinate, that of course you could work and manage your time differently! But you just…. don’t. And you dont know why!

          Or maybe your experience is different even if you have ADHD, and maybe you don’t have it, but its absolutely worth finding it out, because ADHD meditation can help a little, okayish or a TON (its roughly 1/3 each) and suddenly you finally understand yourself and have a huge amount of helpful information available.

          1. Caraway*

            This is a really interesting comment to me! I do have some of the characteristics of ADHD and really relate to many of these comments about being able to hold it together at work while letting my house become a mess. But I have a highly deadline driven job that I am very, very good at, so I’ve always kind of figured that, well, most people are better at focusing on the things they’re being paid to focus on. This is the first time that it has occurred to me to wonder if I’m good at my job *because* it’s deadline driven. Wow, this is kind of blowing my mind.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              ADHD comes with a symptom that sometimes gets overlooked especially by the media coverage: Hyper-focus.
              Those of us who can manage to trigger it are able to split our time between high stress tight deadlines with moving fast, and low priority low-intensity puttering to recharge.
              I also know that if I stay hyper focused too long, I get really crabby… does that sound like you?

            2. This is a name, I guess*

              I have an extremely deadline-driven job. I also got diagnosed with ADHD at 34. I think I have a deadline-driven job precisely because it allowed me to work around my ADHD. It’s much easier now.

            3. ad/hd*

              That was one of the things that kinda blew my mind too when I started to really study modern ADHD science.

              I’m simplifying somewhat but because ADHD brain among other things has fewer dopamine reseptors than a neurotypical brain, it lacks dopamine and nonadrenaline and doesn’t get enough stimuli from everyday tasks, while neyrotypical brain can get a small amount of stimulation from them. Those things can just tire people with ADHD out even when they’re easy – because they’re easy – if there’s no other payout than well people just generallyshouldn’t live with a ton of dust and society doesn’t appreciate if you don’t wash your clothes.

              The flipside is that when something is personally interesting, ADHD peoplw are able to hyperfocus for days, but they also shine under pressure, taking risks, in stressful or even dangerous situations. Those give a lot of that sweet stimulation ADHD bran craves and that makes sure people with ADHD don’t freeze or get overwhelmed in hectic and stressful situations. This means that people with ADHD make excellent emergency workers and also explains some of the typical impulsive, borderline danger seeking behaviour: jails have a lot of people with (untreated) ADHD.

              On a less dramatic scared, ADHD people let/need veryday taks to escalate into small crisis before they are able to fo them, because paradoxically its too tiring to do them when they aren’t pressing in anyway. And when everything is a crisis, it also tires you out.

              Hyperactivity is actually a way to self-stimulate, and ADHD medication calms the brain thats desperately seeking stimulation by filling the stimuli void that’s non-emergency everyday life.

              There’s been a really interesting study done about Kenyan men with ADHD, which basically lead to conclusion neurotypicals are happier and healthier and all other good things in industrial societies compared to ADHD people, but ADHD people are happier, healthier etc than neurotypicals in tribal societies.

              TL;DR: modern life has too many dishes waiting to be done and too few mountain lions to fend off for ADHD brain to be happy and succesful

            4. Wolfie*

              My current job is my first non-deadline driven job, and I have never sucked so much at a job before. I do have ADHD. I have asked my manager for deadlines, but I know they’re still arbitrary, and thus I keep failing.

            5. Exhausted Educator was Exhausted*

              Agreed–I don’t have an ADHD diagnosis, but I’m thinking of getting evaluated. I do fine in my very deadline-driven job, but struggled in parts of a previous job where the deadlines were fuzzy.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Even having a childhood Dx but no records it makes the process of getting an adult Dx.

            I’ve been wrestling with this for the last few years…

      2. ACon*

        +2! I just got meds at almost 41 and it’s made a world of difference. I’m mad I didn’t do something about it 20 years ago.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I came here to say the only people I know who have overcome bad procrastination did so with life-changing ADHD diagnosis and appropriate medication.

    3. SpreadsheetSuperfan*

      Fourthing the ADHD aspect- I still occasionally procrastinate but not any more than my neurotypical peers

    4. COBOL Dinosaur*

      This is me! I was diagnosed at 45 and started medication. That was 2 years ago. Things are so different now! I just got a promotion at work too.

    5. Starbuck*

      I like the article “laziness does not exist, but unseen barriers do”. If you google that phrase you’ll find it. I found it really helped me reframe some of the self-loathing thoughts I used to have about this.

      1. Anonym*

        Really, really great perspective. If something comes with a heaping side of moral judgement, it’s not likely to accurate or helpful for growth. Those of us with ADHD aren’t deficient, we just need to approach things differently and find our best tools and ways of living well (with help!).

        And I think that’s true much more broadly – there are lots of axes along which people aren’t deficient, just in need of something other than the standard approach.

        1. Anonym*

          Also *ahem* our society’s systems and expectations aren’t designed with the full variance of humanity in mind. We need to find alternate paths and tools because the system isn’t good enough yet, not because we deserve the extra burden.

      2. Mental Health Lawyer*

        There is also “You mean i’m not stupid lazy or crazy” which is a book for ADHD adults and it is a game changer

      3. Late. But I Still Made It!*

        thank you for sharing this. Just read the article and really loved it. (adult-diagnoses ADHD-brain with mental illness and other chronic invisible barriers).

    6. Cat Tree*

      For me, it’s a combination of anxiety and depression. It’s a weird form of perfectionism. If I might not do something perfectly on the first try, it feels emotionally safer to have never done it at all so no one can know if I’m mediocre (not even a failure). Then depression just is what it is in general. If gotten a lot better with procrastination by getting therapy but I’m not all the way better and might never be.

      1. LC*

        It’s a weird form of perfectionism. If I might not do something perfectly on the first try, it feels emotionally safer to have never done it at all so no one can know if I’m mediocre (not even a failure).

        Omg yesss. This is an excellent way to say something that I’ve always thought.

      2. Kat in Boots*

        Yeah, this is me too with the anxiety/depression, as opposed to ADHD. I wouldn’t say I’m all the way better either, but there have been many times in my life when I’ve procrastinated very little (i.e., no deadlines missed) compared to times when I have done it a LOT! OP, it might really help you to see someone for counselling, if you can afford it. It’s best to try to find someone licensed who says they can help with your specific problem: not every professional counsellor will be a good fit for you. But these professionals can really help in sorting out exactly what might be going on and what the best strategies FOR YOU might be (rather than just general strategies that work for some people, but don’t take your specific circumstances and strengths/weaknesses into account). Good luck!

        1. Bibliophile*

          I also went to therapy and that helped me to stop procrastinating. One thing I learned was that, for me, procrastination was a way I was trying to control my circumstances when I felt like I had little to no control. I find if I put a specific time on my calendar to do something I don’t like, and stick with that time, I feel more in control and get stuff done.

      3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Or even if it’s not “to have never done it at all,” to only give myself one chance to do it. I turned in so many papers in college that I wrote the night before and were good, but I didn’t even go over them for typos. I still got good grades on them because I was good at essays, but that’s just another thing that allowed me to skate through without noticing what I now suspect, which is that I have ADHD (which has led to anxiety and depression for me at various times since college).

        1. Tired social worker*

          Oh man, this was me all the way through grad school. With every new academic year I would be super optimistic about finally developing a less adrenaline-fueled work ethic, and then I would continue to get amazing feedback on last-minute work and fall back into old habits. It would have been fine if the late-night sessions weren’t so horribly stressful – not just the stress of getting the work done, but also the panicked certainty that *this* time, I would face Consequences(TM) for spending so little time on the assignment. It made the grades much less satisfying.

        2. This is a name, I guess*

          Same. I went to a really crappy high school and a really rigorous college, so I had a hard time my first semester. Then I got diagnosed with depression and they put me on Wellbutrin…which is a stimulant and works somewhat to counteract ADHD. And so, my ADHD was indirectly treated and I never had to think about it again for 12 more years! Except, Wellbutrin isn’t, like, Adderall, so I got “good enough” at college thanks to Wellbutrin. And then I was “good enough” at grad school. Better than nothing, I guess.

        3. Cat Tree*

          Yes, I used to hate proofreading or editing my work because I would see all the errors I made initially. Fortunately like you, I was a good enough student to succeed in spite of that.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        Yes to weird form of perfectionism. Also yes, my procrastination was at its worst when I was depressed. The lack of energy from depression contributed to lack of energy to start anything difficult.

        1. MEH Squared*

          Yes to all this.

          Also, for me, I use weave my procrastination into the deadline. I know I’m going to procrastinate so I just accept it and build it in. (One hour of work, ten minutes of browsing the internet, for example.) Knowing I have wiggle room really helps.

      5. turquoisecow*

        Yeah for me it was depression. It’s much easier to get things done when you’re not wallowing in a sea of despair and you actually have an interest in things you’re supposed to be doing.

      6. memyselfandi*

        Yes, this really resonates with me. I have taken a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach and more recently an ACT (can never remember – acceptance is the A, I think) and that has helped a lot. I have learned to pay attention to the thoughts I have when I put off a task and then refer back to my values (a big part of ACT) to help me question those thoughts. Using a Pomo on my phone helps me get over that initial hesitation to start the task. You can throw a little medication into the mix as well, although I try to manage without. One medication that surprised me was using a beta blocker when I started a new job and was having major anxiety attacks. My anxiety had been ratcheting up over time and I had lost touch with what it felt like to be without it. only took it 7 times, but it really helped me re-learn what my body should feel like without anxiety (it does nothing for the mental part) so relaxation exercises became more effective.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          My gf loved ACT!

          I was diagnosed with BPII at 21 , which is really just “My depression comes with depressing anxiety that makes my mind race.” Every professional led with my anxiety/BPII as the main issue. However, I’m starting to think anxiety is probably more often a symptom of something else than we give it credit for.

          I got diagnosed with ADHD in my 30s, and you know, taking Adderall made my anxiety better. That surprised a lot of people, but it now makes sense to me because I now realize that my anxiety is really just extra unused intellectual energy churning in my brain. This is really common for people with ADHD – brain feeling like it’s a motor running in your head. Except, I could never really focus at work, so my brain energy would attach to my anxiety triggers. Now, I expend a lot of energy at work (thanks, stimulants!) and I take classes to use up the excess brain energy, and I feel anxious very infrequently now.

          Glad your beta blockers worked!

      7. Coming to You Live from the Pit of Despair*

        There are two phrases I’ve heard that really ring true for me (though they won’t resonate for everyone’s situation, of course):

        Procrastination isn’t about time management, it’s about emotional management.
        Perfectionism isn’t about standards, it’s about anxiety.

        When I first came across each of these (separately), they really blew my mind. In thinking over the first statement, I’ve come to realize that I procrastinate on day-to-day tasks that are boring to me and seek mental stimulation elsewhere by reading articles, scrolling the web, or watching YouTube videos. I eventually complete them because guilt is a strong motivating factor for me, but it takes a lot of mental effort on my part. For larger tasks relating to long term goals, I procrastinate because I am very afraid I will remain deeply unhappy despite my best efforts to change things. The devil you know v the devil you don’t, etc.
        As to the second statement, I hold myself to a completely unrealistic standard which, as with fear mentioned above, is all tied to the anxiety of am-I-enough-ness. It is all a vicious cycle.

        1. Anonym*

          These are incredibly important insights. Both have helped me untangle a lot of problematic beliefs and behavior patterns.

        2. Feeling seen*

          > I eventually complete them because guilt is a strong motivating factor for me, but it takes a lot of mental effort on my part. For larger tasks relating to long term goals, I procrastinate because I am very afraid I will remain deeply unhappy despite my best efforts to change things. The devil you know v the devil you don’t, etc.

          This resonates with me so much. Thank you for sharing your insights.

      8. Ayla*

        Weirdly, the one time my procrastination improves is when my depression gets out of control. My anxiety-driven fear that I might not do well is overcome by a depression-driven certainty that I WON’T do well so I might as well drag myself through an attempt and be done with it.

        I do not recommend this solution. Getting treatment for underlying issues is much better than playing them against each other and hoping for the best.

      9. cubone*

        I don’t want to come across as pathologizing, but I honestly believe (/hope) one day we’ll understand more fully the extremely damaging effects of perfectionism. Maybe even have a different word/diagnosis/vocabulary for it. Perfectionism has been shown again and again to correlate with su*cidality, depression, and many more mental health challenges. Understanding perfectionism not as a quirk or personality trait, but a possible symptom and big big red flag could do so much for our health.

        Leaving my favourite Julia Cameron quote about perfectionism, it reminds me of what you wrote here:

        “Perfection has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing will ever be good enough.”

      10. KR*

        Yes to the perfectionism! One of my productivity mantras is “It’s better to do it and not do a great job than to not do it at all.” Because I sometimes won’t even try something if I’m not confident I can do a good job, so that means it’s hard for me to get things done!

    7. LC*

      Omg yes, getting treated for my ADHD (which for me means medication and therapy and my own research and learning from others with ADHD) made a huge difference.

      I 100% believe that I wouldn’t have graduated college if I hadn’t gotten diagnosed toward the beginning on my last semester. I’d have failed at least two of those classes, which would mean another semester, and given that it had already been 8 years of on again off again college attempts, I don’t think I’d have gone back.

      And yes, I also have serious issues with the word “lazy.” I’m still unlearning some of that shit that I’d internalized, 10+ years after diagnosis.

      1. COBOL Dinosaur*

        I failed out of college 2 decades before I got my diagnosis. I can only imagine how different things had been if I had been diagnosed much sooner in life!

        1. Just Me2*

          Thank you, LC and COBOL Dinosaur. I’m crying now because I never realized that’s why it took me so long to finish one degree.

          And thanks to everyone for the ADHD and anxiety/depression validation.

    8. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      I’ve been a lifelong “procrastinator” (although I’ve never really identified as such or seen it as a problem, I always pretty much knew how much time something would take, even if it meant a late night, and got things in on time that way). In the last year/few months, I’ve really started to think I probably have ADHD. I’ve been able to avoid any kind of suspicion of it by being successful in school, but it’s really coming to bear on work and on my art so that I actually have to notice the deficiency in focus and the resulting emotional fallout.

      So yeah. Even if you’ve never suspected, if you want to deal with your procrastination, maybe read up on different types of ADHD and see if that resonates.

      1. Shorty Spice*

        Yes this perfectly describes me. I know how late I can leave something and I’m a high performer so once I start, I can finish a great product. My daughter has signs of ADHD and since it’s hereditary, I am thinking I might have it too.

        For her, it’s about finding the will (not motivation per se) to do something she really doesn’t want to do (which describes 95% of school assignments so….). The ADHD hasn’t been officially “diagnosed “ though her doctor does agree that based on her answers to the diagnostic questionnaire, there are definitely signs. So medication isn’t in the picture, so we’re needing to look to other strategies.

        1. Forrest*

          Same here! Watching my seven-year-old very closely—the main thing I notice at this moment is that when she’s focussed on the television or reading, she literally cannot hear anyone calling her name, which I always had too. She doesn’t really have any tasks which require enough concentration to see whether she’s struggling with that. She’s doing very well at school but everything is very structured at this age so I’m keeping an eye out for what happens when she’s expected to take more responsibility for completing tasks alone.

          For myself, I tend to resonate very strongly with any description of ADHD except the parts where it needs to cause significant problems and low self esteem. I’ve always been able to coast pretty easily on being clever, getting a week’s worth of work done in two hours if necessary, and jobs which play to my strengths.

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            For both me and my mother, it’s been known all my life that if you want our attention you have to *start* with our names if we’re reading. We both hyperfocus and will 100% not actually register what you are saying to us if you talk first, say our name second.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              That was how I was too!

              My (not biologically related) nephew used to get so deep in games that he wouldn’t even register his name, and that was causing problems with his stepdad, who wanted to know how it was that I managed to get him to do things when he was doing that. *I* was familiar with how hyperfocus worked, so I made sure to get his attention first, and only then did I request the thing of him. But the kid was upset over his stepdad blaming him for “disrespect”, so I worked with him by practicing saying his name, and him responding “What?” and then me cheering and applauding. (I’m still mad at the stepdad, who didn’t last long after that.)

              For whatever reason, it took me about a decade after my nephew was diagnosed with ADHD to get my own diagnosis.

            2. allathian*

              This was me as a kid, too. I’d hyperfocus on reading to the exclusion of anything else, for hours on end. I’ve lost that ability as I’ve grown older, though. Luckily for me, it wasn’t a problem, my parents thought it was a cool ability to have. For 4 years when I was in elementary school, we lived in a rural area, and I went to a small village school with one teacher and 6 grades, and between 10 and 15 pupils depending on the year (I could really relate to Anne of Green Gables and A Little House on the Prairie). I could always focus on my thing even when the teacher was teaching something else to other grades. Sadly I’ve lost that ability now, and an open office environment is a nightmare for me.

    9. CFray*

      If the cause of your procrastination is ADHD, then getting treatment helps tremendously. Sounds like OP frames procrastination as a personal failing that’s been “lifelong”. Many folks with ADHD have been hit with this stick since childhood. Get screened.

      Even if ADHD is not a contributing factor for you, people generally do what they are able to do to the degree they are incentivized to do so. There’s a reason you procrastinate, and if you can figure out what it is, you can do something about it.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        I think this is a great point. Even if you get screened and it isn’t a major factor, some of the tools used by folks with ADHD may help you out.

        Even before I was formally diagnosed, I read a few books about organization with ADHD and some of the suggestions helped me out a lot. Just finding a different approach to things may be all you need. Just remember, it isn’t a moral failing, no need to beat yourself up.

    10. Mary Dempster*


      I was going to make my own comment about this. Of course we can’t diagnose, nor do I want to, but I struggled for years with this. I couldn’t complete tasks, or even get them started. But I’d spend hours researching HOW to be more productive, more efficient, more motivated. I really had the desire to do it, but it seemed to never happen. And definitely not consistently.

      Since I’ve been diagnosed with inattentive ADHD & medicated as a 34y/o woman, over the course of the last four weeks, my life has been completely changed. I still don’t WANT to do certain things, but the block that kept me from doing things once I decide to do them is gone. It also clearly was a source of years of depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.

      I would never have been described as hyperactive in any way, and I consider ADHD poorly named.

      1. COBOL Dinosaur*

        It was my son who was diagnosed before I was and ADHD was never on my radar for either of us. I always just thought ADHD was ‘hyper kids’.

      2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        It used to just be called ADD but they changed it to ADHD.

        More than half of my sibling are diagnosed with ADHD. I struggle with procrastination, guess it’s time to try it on myself.

      3. it's me*

        My mother associates ADHD so strongly with her very hyperactive nephew that I’m having a difficult time of it convincing her that she, someone who takes weeks, months, even years to execute some decisions and actions, might have a touch of some sort of attention disorder.

      4. Waffle cone*

        There is such a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (minus the hyperactivity). Not trying to diagnose or anything but in researching for my son (who definitely has the H part) ADD is often underdiagnosed, especially in girls/women. Two female cousins of mine have this as well.

        1. LC*

          ADD isn’t really used anymore, it’s all called ADHD now (there’s predominantly inattentive (ADHD-PI), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (ADHD-HI), and combined (ADHD-C). The hyperactivity part has just been poorly understood, many people who are primarily inattentive still have hyperactivity, just not of the “small boy bouncing off the walls” variety. Fidgetyness, sitting weird ways, picking cuticles/nails/lips/etc., things that are more like a hyperactive brain than a hyperactive body like, racing thoughts, interrupting people or talking over them, the things I have a hard time putting into words but I usually refer to as my brain being too loud.

          And a lot of what may have resulted in physical manifestations of hyperactivity are things that girls are often socialized to not from a very young age. We tend to learn masking pretty damn early, even if we have no idea we’re doing it or have no name for what it is.

          You are 100% right though that ADHD is underdiagnosed in women and girls (really, everyone but white boy children) and that, when they are diagnosed, it tends to be ADHD-PI, formally called ADD.

          I …. could keep going on a whole rant about ADHD in adult women and how eff’d up a lot of the research and treatment and common beliefs (even or especially among many psychiatric professionals) and and and and … but I’ll try to restrain myself, lol.

          (Also I feel like my response has a “well ackshually” feel to it, but that’s not at all how I mean it, hopefully it comes across the way I intended.)

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            oh gods. This resonates so.much!
            “Fidgetyness, sitting weird ways, picking cuticles/nails/lips/etc., things that are more like a hyperactive brain than a hyperactive body like, racing thoughts, interrupting people or talking over them, the things I have a hard time putting into words but I usually refer to as my brain being too loud.”

            My brain is noisy. There’s no such thing as quiet, meditative moments. Soundtrack; narrator; book that I read 5 years ago that resurfaced in a dream last night…

            1. Mirradin*

              I find my brain has quieted as I got older — I enjoy lie-ins now; I never used to. But even then, I’m usually daydreaming; my body is still, but my brain isn’t!

          2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            I got diagnosed ADHD-PI, but it turns out I am probably ADHD-C because I was a chronic hair and glasses chewer, and then I took up crocheting which reads as a kid with a little-old-lady hobby and not a fidget. Even though I was crocheting through classes in high school so I could pay attention.

            1. LC*

              Also diagnosed PI but feel certain I’m C, if you sub “hair and glasses chewer” for “cuticle and lip picker” then sub crochet for cross stitch, you’ve got me exactly!

            2. kicking_k*

              I often describe knitting as my fidget spinner. It has cut down on a lot of the more destructive stim behaviours for me.

      5. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, ADHD manifests differently in girls than boys, so a lot of teachers and parents and etc know the classic symptoms of hyperactivity and such that boys usually exhibit, but not the hyper focusing and others that girls are more likely to show. For many years it was seen as something that girls just didn’t really have.

        1. Mary Dempster*

          In fact, most girls are considered “delights” to have in class. They never speak up, generally follow the rules, etc. Another sure fire sign are those kids who could ace a test without studying but never turned in assignments. I’ve also heard SO many diagnosed women tell the same story (myself included) – at one point in our education, we were chastised for reading ahead of the schedule.

          Seriously, I hear that same story so much!

          1. VegetarianRaccoon*

            Yes, that’s exactly my (female w/ADD) story! Eventually the not finishing homework started becoming a problem, so I was fortunate enough to get diagnosed in middle school.

      6. This is a name, I guess*

        Got diagnosed at 34, been on drugs for a year. Like you, I haven’t really done a lot else besides drugs. A few things here and there, but nothing major. I will say, the effect of the drugs won’t be intense forever. Your response will soften, which is ultimately good because most stimulants are kind of…intense at first. I also notice the drugs’ effectiveness waxes based on my stress and burnout levels. Also, good sleep.

    11. Selina Luna*

      I had to get treatment for ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I haven’t completely stopped procrastinating (I have a grad school assignment that I should be working on now, for example), but I’m way, way better about starting things in a reasonable period of time. I did a bunch of things that don’t require an ADHD diagnosis, however, that the original letter writer might find helpful, as might anyone who is being treated for ADHD, but still finds that they are struggling with building the skills that were ignored for so long.
      1. Pomodoro method: this method uses a timer (it’s called Pomodoro after the adorable tomato-shaped timers common in Italian households). You set the timer for a period of “work” time (15, 20, 25, 45, and 50 are all pretty common) and during that time, you work on one task. After the timer rings, you reset it for a shorter period of time (5, 10, or 15 minutes; you want your total work+break time to add up to complete hours). During that time, you can do whatever you like.
      2. To-Do lists, broken up into as small of pieces as you need. If I put “clean the kitchen” on my list, it’s too big and it will never get done. If I put “empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher,” that will probably get done if I have the mental energy. If I put “take clean mugs out of the dishwasher and put them on the mug rack,” that will get done. Some days, I need even smaller pieces, and some days I can complete larger tasks without needing to break them up further.
      3. Time how long it takes to complete something. Does typing an email to your boss really only take 15 minutes, or does it actually take 45 minutes? Does researching a report and doing it well take you 2 hours, or do you need more time? If you procrastinate because you think something won’t take you very long, and you end up stressed because a satisfactory job is taking longer than expected, timing yourself can really be helpful.
      4. Take time each day to reflect on how you did (in writing) and if you’re feeling rotten, forgive yourself and let it go. I know this is easier said than done, but dwelling on something makes you more likely to procrastinate, not less.

      1. Vax’ildan is my disaster bicon*

        This breakdown is so helpful! I’ve struggled with procrastination my whole life, and while I’m in treatment for anxiety and depression, that alone doesn’t break through the practical difficulties of planning and initiating tasks. My new therapist flagged the possibility of ADHD, but I’ve never been diagnosed, so I’m uncertain about that piece. Recently I’ve been doing more pomodoro method, to-do lists, and reflection on how my day had gone, and all of those have been helpful! I like the idea of timing how long tasks actually take. I find it very hard to gauge that, and I usually underestimate.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          My rule for scheduling how long tasks take (having timed them) is that a) there must be flex in the schedule, and b) the flex must stay attached to each single task.

          If using-the-bathroom-and-getting-dressed, eating breakfast, and gathering your stuff to go out the door each take 7 minutes, assign 10 minutes to each instead. Keep them separate: if you are fully dressed and breakfasted at 15 minutes, do not say “oh, I can knock 5 minutes off the total time next time”. Instead, proceed to gathering your stuff, because that is the point where you realize you forgot the deodorant, and finding it where it fell behind your housemate’s towel will eat up that 5 minutes or maybe more.

          Plan for the real world, not the ideal world where you don’t get sidetracked. It’s so tempting to look at a whole routine, say “wow this is taking half an hour longer than it needs to” and cut out the half hour, but that’s going to cut out the time for distractions, errors, things beyond your ability to power through, and other problems.

          At that point you plan for the possibility of being done early, what do you do then? In some cases you leave early, in other cases have something else you can do while waiting (and often an alarm set for the planned leave time). I always have something to read on my phone, and an external battery, in case I get places early.

          1. Selina Luna*

            My problem is that things often take way, way longer than I (or my husband) think they will, but I do try very hard to build flexibility into routines where and when I can, just to make sure that if “life happens,” it won’t mess up everything after that.

      2. GlitsyGus*

        A lot of this has helped me as well. I love Pomodoro.

        My thing is that I actually have 2 To Do lists. I have my “big picture” to do list where I write down things as i think of them (Oh, right, I need to make that Dr. Appt…) and then I have my “Today list.”

        The rule for the today list is it never has more than four things on it. I found that if I lined up ten things to do in one day, even if time wise it was totally possible, I would get overwhelmed and not do any of them. So I pick the four things I MUST do today. If I have time for something else, great, I pick something off the big picture list, but watching out for that overwhelmed feeling is really important for me.

      3. Mary Dempster*

        Yes, this is all so important.

        What was particularly interested with my diagnosis is that I spent 25+ years doing all of the above in an attempt to get myself “on track” or “under control,” that when I started medication, I already had done all of the CBT work! So for me, it all clicked together one fateful day.

      4. SpiderWort*

        Another Pomodoro fan here. If I have two hours on a weekend to get things done around the house it’s the most effective way I’ve found to keep myself from frittering. 20 minutes on, 5 minutes off works really well for me. It was also great for when I was in my second stint in grad school to get started on my stats homework. I could much more easily convince myself to work on it for 20 min. than to commit to getting the whole thing done.
        Another thing I found helpful there is counting the prep as its own task. Like, in order to do my stats homework I need a clear space on the table, my laptop, my notebook, my calculator, a snack and two sharp pencils. Giving myself a timed task to just put all the crap together gave me enough of a “yay me” to tackle the homework.
        The other half of pomodoro for me is I have a little whiteboard in the kitchen at home, and a notebook at work where I jot down all the distracting additional tasks that occur to me in the 20 minute window. I find if I don’t write these down I’ll keep thinking of them over and over again because I’m afraid I’ll forget them.

    12. OhGee*

      Same. I’m not perfect and will probably never see the day when I no longer procrastinate, but understanding my brain better has helped me identify adaptation techniques that ensure I get things done much of the time. That comes along with therapy to address underlying emotional barriers, medication to help treat the anxiety that accompanies my ADHD, and a stronger focus on my goals and values (helpful for reframing the reason for completing tasks I’m procrastinating on, since ‘but I could get fired!’ often doesn’t motivate me).

    13. Bren*

      Looking forward to my ADHD screening in April. I’m hoping it’s not *just* a character defect like I’ve assumed for the past 40 years. I’ve done everything – paper calendars, lists, and notes. Digital calendar & phone alerts. Making people sit with me while I try to accomplish things. Internal deadlines, external deadlines… the gamut of self-help organizational tricks. And I can usually do it, but it’s freaking EXHAUSTING.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        Even if it isn’t ADHD it isn’t a character defect. We’re all a little bit different and some of us are better at some things and others are better at others. Don’t beat yourself up. Try to be kind to yourself and keep looking for the way that works best for you.

    14. PeanutButter*

      +1. I finally got diagnosed and medicated almost all the way through a highly technical graduate degree. The difference is amazing, I can actually just *do* stuff now, without last-minute panic to motivate action.

    15. Lucky*

      ADHD club, represent. Getting treatment and recognizing that my procrastination wasn’t simply “putting things off bc I am lazy” helped me tremendously. Now I know that, for myself, if I can figure out what difficult/boring/tedious/uncomfortable part of the task is making me procrastinate, I can focus on that part for a good 15-20 minutes to get some of it done, then I can do the other parts of the task that are not tedious, etc. Which reminds me, I need to read that long email that I’ve been avoiding.

    16. UpwardSpiral*

      For so long, I’ve felt like I’m using up all of my competence at work. I was finally reminded recently that as a teenager, a doctor recommended I get checked out for ADHD. I had other health problems at the time and decided not to pursue it. Now, I’m finally getting into therapy and bringing it up with my doctors. Whether we rule ADHD in or out, it feels good to be getting support.

    17. ambulanceguineafowl*

      +1 for ADHD treatment. Game changer. Not perfectly, but much much better.
      I didn’t present with classic symptoms, which I think is common in girls/women, especially.

    18. Orora*

      Along these same lines: Learning to be less of a people pleaser and perfectionist. For me, a lot of my procrastination came from feeling like, “I want it to be perfect so that people won’t be disappointed, but I know it won’t be.” So subconsciously, I’d procrastinate so I had an excuse: “Well, it’s as good as I could do at the last minute.” Once I started giving myself permission for an imperfect product to be good enough and not tied to how likeable I was, it became easier to just do the thing instead of put it off.

    19. Mambo No. 5*

      Since I started taking medication and receiving treatment for my ADHD the difference has been night and day. I wish I had sought treatment sooner. Personally I was in denial for a long time.

    20. canary*

      I am relating so hard to all of these comments. For so much of my life I felt like I was just a lazy, worthless person who only succeeded by the skin of my teeth. Getting my ADD (inattentive type) diagnosis was life-changing. Understanding that it’s not a “character defect,” as another commenter put it, it’s my brain chemistry. ADHD causes executive dysfunction, which means that when faced with a task, my brain is not capable of figuring out an entry point, so it just flails around not doing anything, or finding other things to do that have lower barriers to entry. I’m medicated now, and things are so, so, so much better. Sometimes I have anger and frustration about all those years I went undiagnosed, wondering where I would be now if I’d gotten help as a teen. But I am also so grateful that I finally sought help. Like others have said, ADHD presents differently in girls and so is under-diagnosed (I think girls are less prone to the hyperactivity part, which is usually what gets the attention of teachers and doctors). I don’t know if you have ADHD, OP, but I really really encourage you to talk to a doctor about it.

    21. Lady Glittersparkles*

      I second this 1000%.

      Getting evaluated and appropriately medicated made such a drastic difference for me. I’m not completely to where I want to be with procrastination and organization, but I know that changing decades long patterns doesn’t happen overnight. I am well on my way though and wish I had gotten evaluated sooner.

    22. GlitsyGus*

      Same. Getting treatment didn’t make the procrastination go away, but it is SO MUCH easier to get over the hurdles when it matters.

      I also think realizing that I do need to cut myself a break sometimes. Prioritize what is on your list and only worry about procrastination when it will actually affect the outcome. 100% efficiency really isn’t possible.

      I would get so down on myself when I put off anything at all, even if it wasn’t actually urgent, that it would create this horrible self-talk feedback loop. “If I can’t even do one load of laundry, why do I think I can finish this proposal??” Well, because the two are completely unrelated, that’s why.

      The laundry can get done tomorrow. Worst outcome is I have to go commando for one day. The proposal? That is actually important and other people need it done. It also affects your job and your future. Plus, you actually do like your work and once you get going you’ll do fine. Laundry sucks and is boring, of course you don’t want to do it. Breaking those unrealistic expectations for myself along with that correlation really did help me so much.

    23. JSPA*

      My distraction turned out to be ADD-like, but in fact largely a circadian defect (think, slow-moving narcolepsy / it’s 2 a.m. in my brain a few times a day, with a genetic basis)*.

      The solution was fairly similar.

      Even a micro-dose of the same medication used for ADD, in the morning, will give me several solid hours of focus. Then, the only trick I need to have a series of reasonable tasks listed and ready to go, ideally in officially 30 to 60 minutes increments. I’m allowed to go over allotted time (it’s my life) or to skip one task for one that’s further down the “similarly pressing” list (ditto).

      Sometimes that look like listing, “do 30 minutes of X” four times, then striking off one, two or three of them, in a session.

      Afternoons and evenings, I’m more scattered than ever…but proportionally more creative. So that’s also when random, “ooh, this also needs doing” ideas pop up, and go on the list. As the years have passed, the trade off between focused mornings and dreamy afternoons has not led to any increased need to medicate (always a background worry) and it’s let me feel good about (de facto) scheduling my rationality time vs creativity time.

      I do need to embargo tempting distractions for those key morning hours. (Except for sick days, websites and puzzles are not a good use of temporarily enhanced focus.)

      Then there are some tasks that I actually do better while feeling too gross for anything more creative. I have a flaring condition that’s absolutely fine for lying in bed and paying bills (because I’ll be weak and achey and ticked off at the world, either way, so I might as well do it all at once). Figuring out which tasks benefitted from being rendered bite-sized, which ones most required focus, which ones most required creativity, and which ones I mostly resented because they were intrinsically easy to resent, went a long way towards helping me get a handle.

      The final thing, for me, is to have some large tasks that you can feel procrastinatory about (if you draw energy from that, as I sometimes do) and use that energy to knock off a bunch of small but pressing tasks, and a handful of larger non-pressing tasks. In contrast, I benefit not-at-all from “not doing what I like until I’ve finished the stuff I have to do.” That makes me miserable, and I’m not effective when miserable.

      * Do you go on long walks with people, only to have them ask if something’s wrong, because you seem completely “out” on your feet? If you walk alone, ever notice that you’ve slowed way down, and done a half mile or so with no memory of it? Maybe you don’t really notice it’s odd, because you’re not really experiencing it in real time, though. How about falling asleep in class, in seminars, and zoning out even when doing important work, or giving a presentation, or teaching a class (unless your adrenaline is running high enough to keep you in fight-or-flight mode)? Had people assume you’re drugged, drunk, or hungover, when you don’t do drugs nor drink? That can have everything to do with serotonin, melatonin, and a circadian cycle that’s decoupled from day/night.

    24. MM*

      Yeah. I’m diagnosed ADHD but have still never started treatment. What happened for me is that I managed to put myself into a position where the work I had to do was also work I wanted to do–as in, I could get interested in it enough to be self-motivated. This doesn’t necessarily mean ~~dream job~~. When I was doing events, it worked because the tasks were varied, I could manage my time/priorities as I pleased (so if I felt “send emails” productive, I could do that; if I felt “write report” productive, I could do that), it had a rhythm of crunches and lulls, and the subject matter changed every couple of months. I couldn’t feel like I was getting into a rut and disengage. New stimulus all the time!

      Academic work offers me lots of those same things PLUS my actual passionate interests, but that other job worked very well without being some kind of “do what you love” propaganda case.

      1. MM*

        Oh, I should add: moving away from making things be necessarily ADD specific, I just want to echo others below who have said there’s generally a cause, and if you can work out what it is you can hack it. In my case a lot of the time it really is just boredom/interest. I used to be late to meet my friends ALL THE TIME because I couldn’t convince myself to get ready to leave, because that process was uninteresting and whatever I’m reading or doing is more interesting. But I didn’t want to be rude to my friends; I didn’t like the consequences; I just couldn’t break the loop.

        Then I started just putting on a podcast when it was time to get ready and listening to it while I did that. Hey presto, problem solved.

    25. Exhasperated Dot Gif*

      Yes yes yes. Now my “procrastination” is now an opportunity for me to figure out a way to do the task with my ADHD brain. In my personal life, this means not having a dresser (FOLDING??? clothes??? Absolutely not) and instead having Ikea cubbies with boxes. SHIRTS? In one box. SHORTS? Other box. Throw clothes in, push box in, voila, no mess, organized, and done.
      In my professional life, this means taking the extra steps to break down larger projects into small, actionable “bites”. IE I have to process 300 applications in the next three weeks, which is 100% overwhelming and something I would try and do in the last 3 days. Instead, I went through and flagged every 25 applications. I grab 25 in the morning, and at 3:30 get an alarm that says DID YOU DO YOUR 25 APPS?????? Invariably I am like, “OOPS NOPE I DIDN’T” and rush to finish them before 5. If I do this every day, I will have them done in time.
      It takes more work and I have to be very conscious of doing it before I get overwhelmed with a project, but it has pushed me from a job hopper who was bad at all jobs, to a super reliable employee who gets things done on time. Truly a shock to anyone who knew me 20 years ago.

      1. Baroness Schraeder*

        How has it never occurred to me that I could sort and file clean laundry without folding it??! If the alternative is having it all in one giant scrunched-up pile (and let’s face it, it is) that’s a much better solution!

    26. Antilla the Hon*

      I’ve struggled for yeeeeeears with ADD-like symptoms, including a mental paralysis that doesn’t feel like typical procrastination. I finally relented to ADD treatment as a 50-something. Unfortunately I have dry eye disease and the non-stimulant meds—which cause dry mouth—made my eyes so incredibly bad that I had to stop the meds (which had started to help a small bit). The stimulant meds could exasperate my motor tics so I’m not able to take those either. Back to square one. I’m curious if other readers are aware of any other off-label meds that could help.

      1. Claire A.*

        I found an Alpha Stim very helpful (it’s a medical device, with FDA approval for anxiety and depression). For me, it quieted down the constant “brain noise” so that I could get started on something.

        I was later put on an SSRI for migraines, and that helped even more. I have no idea if that will help you, but that’s what helped me. (I also can’t do the standard ADHD meds).

    27. What do you mean thats not normal*

      This was going to be my comment. My procrastination has gotten so much better with ADHD medication, which was proscribed to me just last year, at 31 years old.

      I distinctly remember the shift from being told that i was “gifted” and “smart” to being told i was those things “but lazy” or “but unfocused”. It was 5th grade. I can’t help but think how differently I might have done with school if instead of being labeled gifted, smart, but lazy and distracted, i had been given adhd coping tools.

      I was working for a company that provided support to neurodiverse students, and discovered pomodoro timers. Now i set a timer for 25 minutes, make a 25 minute goal and a stretch task, and then when that timer goes off i do something physical, lather rinse repeat. The success of this is what made me seek out more information about ADHD since that what what this was a coping technique for.

    28. The Other Alison*

      Me too! It still affects me sometimes, but it’s a lot better with medication and knowledge of my own brain.

      In terms of work, the main thing that has helped (but not cured) the problem is getting a reward for staying ahead. Mine is built into my job- if I do all my deliverables on time and upload them promptly, I get VASTLY fewer emails. I can go a whole day without receiving an email I have to act on! Sometimes I’ll get rush or special projects, but my day to day is much improved if I’m on top of my to-do list.

      I don’t know if that’s something the LW can build into their job, but I found it very motivating for me.

  3. Kit*

    Procrastination feels terrible, no one does it for fun. You have to figure out what is causing your procrastination and then treat it. Usually this means a long, long time spent procrastinating on seeing psychiatrists and/or neurologists. It took until I was 30 to get diagnosed but now that I am on ADHD medication my brain works approximately like a normal brain and I can stop procrastinating on things like going to the bathroom when I need to pee as well as work productivity, and the former is a much bigger quality of life boost. It doesn’t have to be ADHD but there is a cause and when you find it you can fix it.

    1. Kit*

      Since a lot of people are talking about ADHD, some of the other things it could be: anxiety, perfectionism, OCD, PTSD, depression, fibromyalgia, other chronic pain or fatigue disorders.

      1. Amber T*

        Anxiety and perfectionism here! Life long procrastinator who’s only recently changed her ways.

        Perfectionism is very much not a good thing. I know people use the term lightly or to mean “I work really hard and make sure things are the best they can be!” but perfectionism for me caused a helluva lot of anxiety for me in the form of “why even bother doing this thing if I’m not going to be able to do it perfectly?” But, coupled with people pleasing tendencies and the fact that, you know, you do have to do some stuff to survive, it all rolled up into major procrastination – I’d spend 99% of the time worrying about Doing the Thing and only 1% of the time actually Doing the Thing.

        Major shift for me was therapy. Where did these perfectionism tendencies come from and how can I move passed them? There was a lot of work involved with my therapist figuring out the answers to these two questions (and never my therapist telling me where they came from, but asking the right questions and leading me to discover it on my own).

        I will say, being diagnosed and treated for ADHD also helped – but that was more helping me figure out WHERE to start something, where as therapy helped me figure out HOW.

      2. Medicated but still needs help*

        This! I have ADHD, and unfortunately, medication only helps about 50% of the way. It can help me stay focused on the task at hand, but it doesn’t help with procrastinating other tasks, nor does it help my brain organize tasks any better. It does that for some, which is wonderful. It just wasn’t the complete trick for me. I learned along the way the anxiety, depression, and perfectionism were big contributors.

        1. Late. But I Still Made It!*

          Medication also only helped me part of the way. It helps me choose what I want to focus on for sure and I daydream less while people are talking, but it doesn’t help with so many other ADHD things – like time blindness, reward system, and waking up in the morning.

          1. kicking_k*

            I had an insight into rewards a little while ago: I can’t reward myself with something unconnected to the task. If I say “Do the dishes, then you can watch TV,” my brain goes “Those two things are not cause and effect.” Then I can’t do the dishes, but I can’t give in and do what I wanted either.

            Focusing on the upside of having clean dishes and a clean kitchen helps better. It’s not perfect (sometimes I don’t care) but making the task be a reward in itself does seem to help.

    2. GlitsyGus*

      I have always found it kind of ironic that the best way to deal with procrastination was to… stop procrastinating on asking for help. It took me almost two years after I thought I might have ADHD to do a self-screening survey and another 6 months after that to actually ask for professional help.

    3. DeeBeeDubz*

      Came here to say this! I am a lifelong procrastinator and for me it comes down to perfectionism/anxiety. I’ve been working on this in therapy for three years and only just started to feel like I am making progress. But I wouldn’t have made any progress at all if I didn’t understand why I was doing it, and try to address that root cause.

    4. StrikingFalcon*

      I second this. The times in my life where I have struggled with procrastination or called myself lazy were times when (a) I was too sick (fatigued from chronic illness) or (b) too burned out (I was trying to work so much that my brain wouldn’t focus on what I needed to do because it had no regular downtime to relax, so it just started… making time). It’s not been a constant problem for me the way I know it is a lifelong struggle for many, but I firmly second everyone saying there is no such thing as laziness and no one procrastinates because they enjoy being stressed all the time. The OP’s ‘why’ might not be ADHD or illness, but there’s almost certainly some kind of reason for it. A therapist/psychiatrist is a good place to start.

    5. Antilla the Hon*

      Ha! I didn’t know there were others who procrastinate about peeing, too…..high five? Oddly, hyperfocus is an ADD symptom as well and I neglect going to the bathroom when I’m hyper focused. The hyperfocus—in my mind—is just as distressing to me as the inability to focus/filter out certain stimuli/inattention.

  4. Brains or Bust*

    Perhaps this is controversial, but I had always struggled with procrastination as well until I got a diagnosis of adult ADHD and began taking medication and making life style changes. It was a huge game-changer for me, and honestly part of it was the fact that I was able to get out of the mindset of “I’m lazy, I’m a procrastinator, why do I keep doing this to myself?” It is something I will probably always deal with, but I have made great improvements. Maybe consider doing some research on it.

    1. Kat in Boots*

      +1! This. The message of “I’m just lazy/dumb” is so rarely helpful, yet so many of us internalize it! Counselling/Psychotherapy can really help with this too, but if you can’t get access to that, resources on self compassion are helpful.

      So many people (for so many different reasons) seem to have difficulty respecting ourselves and our own efforts. Usually if you don’t have basic respect for yourself whatever problem you are trying to improve in your own life isn’t going to get any better.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      YES. I also find that it’s easier to do the things that used to loom over me – dr. appointments, calling insurance, returning something, cashing a check, putting away the thing – when I acknowledge that of course my brain doesn’t want to do these things and is actively working against it, but it won’t take long.

      Strategies that have helped:
      1. setting a timer
      2. doing something next to the activity I don’t want to do (eat an apple in the kitchen if I actually should do the dishes – I’m more likely to just start doing them when I’m in the room)
      3. Doing one part of the activity to start. I’ll just send the email to get the conversation going, clean one dish, just wipe down the microwave, bring the ppt slides into the new template. Once I start, it’s likely I’ll want to keep going – but I’m ok to stop.
      4. Doing the activity with someone else next to me (they don’t have to help – it just anchors my focus).

  5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Well, kind of. I still have bad days/weeks/okay sometimes months where I’ve put stuff off for far too long but I think for me accepting that I’m never going to be 100% and that’s not a failure on my part takes a lot of the pressure off it.

    (Says she who missed the MOT on her car for the fifth year running)

    However, I’m a heck of a lot better than I used to be! Some of it I can give credit to medication but there’s a lot wrong with my brain anyway. The rest is a kind of talking-to I give myself like ‘No, play stardew valley AFTER you fill in that paperwork. No, don’t get a cup of tea first, just get it done now’.

    1. I edit everything*

      I do that kind of talking to myself, too. “Do this now while you’re thinking about it.” And “I’m choosing to [do X].” It doesn’t always work, but the conscious choice, being very specific about limits, and the like, has helped a lot.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I recognize that lecture-to-self. “Falling, sit down and go through all the medical bills. It is going to be a source of anxiety if you put it off, so just do it today and then you can not worry about this for several weeks.”

    3. Grace Poole*

      Yes, my mantra is currently, “everything you do now is something that you won’t have to do tomorrow/later”

      1. MK*

        YES. Two things in this vein that might help, or that I have found helpful, include:
        * Using “The Magic Question” (credit: the lazy genius podcast) – the question is “what can I do now to make later easier?”. Using this question when I have a minute and am not stressed out about anything at that moment kind of creates a positive reinforcement cycle. 10/10 would recommend.
        * Something to ponder – I read some advice once that many people are either “starters” or “finishers” – sometimes it’s a thing you can tell in context with family/partner/spouse/roommates. It could be that some folks who are identifying as procrastinators are also “finishers” – it doesn’t mean you don’t put stuff off, but also that maybe a way to reframe your thinking is that your strength is making sure things get finished once someone else helps get them started. It’s like having high activation energy as a person.

        I realize from the comments that some people also struggle to finish things, which I totally get, so it’s not necessarily going to resonate with everyone, BUT it has been helpful in my marriage to realize that I am a starter and my husband is a finisher – it has prevented some fights for sure.

        1. Medicated but still needs help*

          I’m a starter. Procrastination is in finishing the started projects. Thankfully, my dear spouse is a finisher.

  6. hipsterfish*

    I stopped procrastinating (for the most part, sometimes things suck and you don’t want to do them) when I got treated for my anxiety and ADHD. Getting medication was like the heavens opened up and blessed me with the ability to get shit done. I cannot emphasize enough exactly how incredible this was. It changed my life, totally, completely, utterly.

    So, uh, maybe talk to someone about that?

  7. LC*

    I’m not sure that thinking of it as something you can “get past” is the most helpful framing.

    At least for me, it’s very much a spectrum, not “I am a procrastinator” and “I am not a procrastinator.” It’s just another part of my nature, something that I can work on, something that I can and have improved, something I can learn to get better at, but something that will likely always take energy to do.

    It’s like how I’m very much a night person. As I found out when I was unemployed for a year, my natural sleep cycle is about 3:30am till 10am. I can get better at going to bed at a reasonable time, I’ve learned some things that have helped, found the right (or at least better) alarms to help me get up in the morning, I (usually) wake up on time now. But I’ll never be a morning person.

    1. Louise B*

      I like this. It’s about figuring out what works for you given certain requirements. The deadline isn’t gonna move, but the way you spend your time leading up to the deadline can change, if it’s something you work on and learn how to handle effectively.

    2. ABK*

      Similarly, I’ve decided that 1. I have a “process” for getting started, and it’s not sitting down and starting. It’s sitting down and easing into the task, reading email, adjusting my desk, AAM, etc. It’s part of the process and that’s ok. I also acquired certain key skills that would have been useful prior to age 30: breaking down tasks so it’s not so overwhelming. . identifying where I’m stuck and asking for help, being ok turning in drafts and seeking feedback, having tight deadlines and accountability to a team/clients, doing work that’s actually interesting.

    3. GlitsyGus*

      Yeah, agree with this too. The best thing I ever did was to tell my boss, “Look, we will both be happier, and you will get much better work from me, if we shift my day to 10-7.”

    4. Luna Lovegood*

      Same!! Going to bed and waking up at a “reasonable” time has always been an immense struggle for me. What things have you learned that have helped? I have a sunrise simulator alarm clock and I’m trying to keep my phone away from my bed. I’d love to hear about anything else that’s worked well for you!

  8. HelpWitch*

    For me, a mildly hardcore procrastinator, success hasn’t been so much about curing the procrastination but changing it to become a feature instead of a bug. Working in roles with a lot of tight or high stakes timelines is a big help, because everyone is always behind and you’re usually better at bringing things home at the last minute.

    I’ve also taken on more work that involves an emotional connection with my colleagues (managerial work, performance reviews, etc) which gives me a “face” to put on the consequences of procrastinating. This doesn’t cure it but it motivates me more than a faceless deliverable to work through it.

    1. Just J.*

      THIS. Plus 1000 times THIS.

      I am a brilliant procrastinator. I could win awards for my level of procrastination. The way I get by it is exactly how HelpWitch explains it. I turn it into a feature instead of a bug. For me, I stop procrastinating and get my butt in gear when I feel I am behind on things. My bosses know this. My colleagues all know this. So we all work to make sure I am completely loaded up with so much work so that I am perpetually behind. It works great. I become very, very efficient. I get A LOT done. And yes, I work in a role with a lot of tight deadlines and high stakes timelines and that also motivates quite a bit.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, I’ve realized I put more energy into “getting away with” procrastination than I do in … just doing the darn thing I should be doing. I am over-invested in the idea of getting away with things generally, in many aspects of my life. Part of it is that I don’t feel challenged by the things I avoid so I’m making a challenge for myself. It’s not good. Being in a field where there’s less opportunity for this has helped me somewhat.

    2. MK*

      I would not say I am a hard-core procrastinator, but the tendency is there and it usually has to do with feeling overwhelmed – it’s more of an emotional response than anything, I guess?

      Sort of similar to HelpWitch, one thing that has helped this year is taking on explicit supervisory duties – now that other people are actively relying on me to be on time with stuff, and any failures on my part to follow-up or follow through will negatively impact them, it sort of gives me a new sense or urgency. Or a more effective sense, maybe? Instead of looking at my to-do list and going “blaahhhhhhhh all of that looks soul-sucking and terrible because I already did the easy/fun stuff,” I can look at it and say to myself “shoot you need to get that answer for [colleague] like in the next day or two so they can move on that thing.” It makes it way easier to get started.

    3. Medicated but still needs help*

      I can be part way through a project and just put it aside until the deadline. In one job, that was sometimes a $1MM system for a customer. And, here I am on the darned airplane doing the configurations that I need done when I arrive at the customer’s site after landing… Anyway, the boss at that job recognized that and gave me a lot of the system upgrade jobs. Less initial configuration under a deadline, but I could work like the dickens under pressure with the customer sitting there waiting when the upgrade didn’t go well. I work well when the thing that should work is broken and I’m under the wire to fix it…

    4. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      For me, what really helps is having a job that’s 80% dealing with things in the moment, 10% projects and 10% low-stakes non-time sensitive projects that I can use to procrastinate anything else. And I do way better during our busy season then our downtime periods where everything is backburner projects.
      I’m a college librarian, so busy season is mostly–student makes an appointment, I do a little bit of prep work (which can be done *right* before) and then I help the student and then that particular thing is DONE. Much easier than projects where there’s no single definition of “done”

  9. Web of Pies*

    I think figuring out what’s at the root of your procrastination is probably the only way to go, is it boredom/apathy? Fear? Poor perception of how long things take you? ADHD or other mental/physical thing upping life’s difficulty level for you?

    I saw something the other day (on TikTok so, grain of salt) that described procrastination as a thing you’re avoiding, and in your lizard brain, things to be avoided = things which are dangerous, which was an interesting perspective on procrastination I hadn’t heard before. I’m not chronic, but when I do procrastinate it’s DEFINITELY fear…like it oddly feels scary to do the thing I’m putting off, even if it’s a super easy no big deal thing like answering an email.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I read that article with interest, because it described some of my procrastination perfectly. I procrastinate for two reasons: the first is I have set unrealistic (and unobtainable) ideals of what success looks like, so I avoid starting until I’m lucky to just get it done on time — and then I have a good excuse for not obtaining those unrealistic goals — I didn’t have time. To get around that one I use the mantra “anything worth doing is worth doing badly” to take the pressure off and get me started. The second is that I’m afraid of the task — I don’t want to deal with the mail because what if there are big bills in there? I don’t want to deal with retirement savings, because what if I find out I don’t have any money? For those I just have to face the fear and ask myself if it is going to get better by avoiding it. Sometimes that works, and I am almost always pleasantly surprised.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, I get easily overwhelmed so sometimes, like a child, I avoid doing the task that is going to lead to the overwhelm – which is obviously very short-sighted and makes many things worse. For example, getting a serious-looking letter in the mail; I often won’t open it, but will hide it away as if that means that I don’t have to deal with it. Great job, Sloan, that’ll show them; now you’ll still have to pay the fine or answer the IRS or whatever, but also you’ll be late and feel worse about it for longer. Five stars.

        1. gnomic heresy*

          it me it me it very much me

          And then the critical self talk, which is SUCH a good idea, because that REALLY motivates me to think about the stuff I’m avoiding, when it’s attached to both fear AND guilt.

        2. allathian*

          This sounds so familiar… Yikes.

          Fear is usually the strongest motivation for my procrastination, even if I’m not a particularly anxious person otherwise.

      2. LC*

        I don’t want to deal with the mail because what if there are big bills in there?

        Glances nervously at the pile of mail that’s been growing and growing because I don’t even want to look through it much less open it, then pictures what the poor mail carrier must have to deal with from the perpetually full mailbox from when I can’t even bear to bring it inside, then remembers all those times that something important was missed, then gets overwhelmed and tries to focus on something, anything else because my brain is so not up for dealing with this right now

        Nah, that’s just silly and makes no sense and I have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

        (giant /s tag)

        Yeah, I feel this whole comment start to finish on a cellular level.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          To be fair, I’m pretty sure the mail used to contain a more diverse collection of items, including fun things like letters and cards from friends/family. Now my mail contains only two categories: 1) Junk, some of which requires work from to identify it as junk, and 2) Scary Bad Things, like mailed tickets, fines for things, unexpected bills, or bills which are errors but still require me to jump into action. Who *would* want to open it??

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            Sometimes I have to break it down into extremely elementary steps, like, open the envelope and stack it in the Red Folder. Go through the Red Folder tomorrow and schedule any needed action (even if it’s overdue, I cannot physically have done it last Monday, so at this point getting it on the schedule is a win).

            Do the thing on the schedule.

            My taxes have the first step of “log in to the tax prep site”, which is fully sufficient for a day’s progress on them.

            1. LC*

              My husband, who also has ADHD, loves doing our taxes.

              And I love organizing things that I don’t actually have to then work on, so I get all the documentation gathered and organized.

              We’d both have a pretty freaking hard time doing it on our own. If I were in a position to do so, that’s definitely the type of thing I would just throw money at.

              1. This is a name, I guess*

                I have ADHD and I also LOVE DOING MY TAXES. Hah! I think it’s the mastery of arcane tax rules. It feels very satisfactory. I am not a math person AT ALL. Brains are weird

    2. Girasol*

      Absolutely this. At work I discovered that I procrastinated when I wasn’t really sure how I’d get the job done and the specter of having to confess my embarrassingly stupid questions or my failure loomed. I learned to write in my journal about tasks I was putting off to figure out just what I was so afraid of (since my fears seemed to lurk just below my awareness). The exercise tended to get me beyond that knee jerk “I’ll do this tomorrow” avoidance and get me thinking about possible solutions.

      The other thing that has helped is that now I’m retired I’m really busy with lots to do instead of being even busier with life plus work, with impossibly many things to do. It’s been the biggest surprise of retirement to find out that I’m very organized and I do the nasty tasks (grr, taxes) quite promptly. I’m not a procrastinator anymore! Maybe I never was. I begin to wonder if I was spending all my energy getting stuff done, and then when I was too worn out to do another thing, I felt guilty and lazy because my to-do list was still impossibly huge and full of stuff that had waited way too long. Maybe I just had too much to do. Do you?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I love this comment. And I relate.

        Fear can be lack of facts or it can be the lack of a trusted person to talk things over with. Collect up facts and/or hunt down a person you can trust to help you with a given matter.

        Stupid questions. It took me a long time, but I finally saw that what I deemed as my stupid questions were questions that most people would ask. For the most part the concept of stupid questions only existed in my mind and no where else.

        Taking on too much. It was amazing to me that I could run from task to task all day long and at the end of the day still have a huge to-do list. My wise friend pointed out that clutter or even just having too much stuff can cause worry/anxiety. I had four pets. As they passed, I did not replace them, except for the dog. I really want a dog, the others were “extra”. I sold off heirlooms that were here solely because of family obligation to keep them. I only kept the stuff I liked. I went at work the same way. I don’t need 5 sizes of Post-It notes to chose from, one or two sizes are plenty for my purposes. One color highlighter was all I needed, I could use up the 8 other colors and not replace them. It was years of streamlining and reducing the deadweight in my life. I thought more about what I wanted my life to look like and I got deliberate about it.

      2. idioalacrity*

        “the specter of having to confess my embarrassingly stupid questions or my failure loomed”

        This was/is my problem. I’m not good with uncertainty because I associate not knowing how to do a thing with bad outcomes (getting yelled at or scolded by my parents, and I learned better to be scolded as not caring enough to do a thing than be derided as dumb for doing it badly), so I procrastinate hard when starting new projects I haven’t done before.

        I started a new job recently and my new manager introduced the ’10/50/90′ concept to me: when working on anything, do 10% and then have a quick touch base. At this point all you probably have is an idea of what you need to do and a rough outline of how you’re going to do it. Manager can confirm if you’re headed in the right direction, and you can ask for clarification to any questions you have. Then keep working on it until you get halfway and check in. This keeps your manager updated and she can point out any adjustments you need to make. Finally, at 90% wrap up work and send in early as your ‘final draft’. Manager has time to review and make last minute refinements, and you’re not panicking wildly over submitting a subpar product they’ll hate because you’ve been checking in with them the whole time!

        It’s only been a few months but it’s already helped me a ton. The first touchbase breaks the nervous avoidance cycle where I’m ashamed of my work and can’t bear to show my manager, so I never get feedback and continue thinking it’s terrible work that I can’t every show anyone ever, right up until the deadline compels me and then we have to make last minute changes that ‘prove’ that my work is terrible. Now I just tell myself “it’s 10%, it’s SUPPOSED to suck” when my perfectionist anxiety flares up.

  10. Reed*

    Sincerely, get screened for ADHD.

    Procrastination is so very very often a symptom of executive disfunction and the massive anxiety that it causes and so very very rarely ‘mere laziness’ or ‘don’t wanna’.

    1. gnomic heresy*

      I got screened for ADHD and my perfectionism and test coping strategies kicked in and I did too well so they thought I didn’t have ADHD. *eyeroll* I’ve got to deal with the executive dysfunction, but the only ADHD medication I’ve tried makes me too anxious to function.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        There are other medications. Ritalin, Concerta, and Vyvanse are more gentle than Adderall. Adderall-ER is gentler than IR. Vyvanse is soooo expensive, but my insurance will cover it once I “fail” another stimulant. The manufacturer will cover part of your copay. There are also other options, such as Welbutrin. And there are non-stimulants as well.

        If you only took a stimulant for a few days, don’t write them off just yet. Just try a different one. The worst of the side-effects wear off after a few weeks, so you can find one you tolerate better.

    2. Luna Lovegood*

      Me too! I also find exercises like that interesting, so hyperfocus kicked in. Two years after my tests, I requested a follow up and explained to the neuropsychologist that I was still really struggling. I told her things that I didn’t realize were relevant the first time (like it is so hard for me to get up in the morning, which for some reason was the tipping factor for her) and things I was embarrassed to admit (I managed to do well in school despite barely doing any of my reading as an English major, I constantly told white lies to cover up my symptoms, etc). She gave me a diagnosis of “unspecified adhd” and referred me to a psychiatrist who was often willing to prescribe in those circumstances. I’ve been on low dose Adderall for a year and a half now, and it has completely changed my life. Ask for a reevaluation and get a second opinion if necessary!!

  11. CeeLee*

    I work in a profession where literally everything is a rush job, so there isn’t a second to procrastinate. Turns out, when you’re a procrastinator who has always made due dates with seconds to spare, you’re an ideal fit for a job where the deadline is always “this exact moment”.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Seconding this. (Will add in that I have non-hyperactive, inattentive type ADHD, and am working on medication as if its not a rush job, I procrastinate like a pro and no amount of “brain training” has managed to fix it)

      But I freaking excel at the last second “punch it, Chewie!” type of job.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Agreed. Unfortunately, after leaving a few of those jobs I did have procrastination creep up on me again. But it hasn’t been as bad as before. Now, when things get a little more busy at work I find that I’m able to ride the wave of productivity beyond that crunch time because I recognize the reduction in my procrastination and try to keep the associated “warm fuzzy” feelings going.

      2. officeolivia*

        Ditto on the agreement, and the diagnosis – and I love the “punch it, Chewie!” descriptor. That’s exactly it!

        Noticing this difference led me to change careers and I couldn’t be more thankful I got here. I still do procrastinate, for what it’s worth, but it’s on the order of minutes or hours, not weeks or months. It’s also usually more a result of being distracted by working on something else, and having to switch gears, rather than actually doing NOTHING – and my coworkers get that and will give me a little leeway with it.

        I also will add that enjoying my coworkers, general tasks, and workplace mission makes me want to jump in more, which helps a lot.

    2. Kat in Boots*

      LOL, this is great! Finding a good niche for your particular combination of strengths/weaknesses is an excellent life hack.

    3. Dana Lynne*

      This is what I was coming to say too. I was a procrastinator in my youth mostly out of a lack of patience with anything that I defined as drudgery. Then I got into journalism and there was no way to procrastinate, no way to give in to perfectionism and absolutely real deadlines. After working as a newspaper reporter for some years, I was much more able to “just do the thing.”

      I agree with the discussion about ADHD. A lot of what gets criticized as laziness or procrastination is a genuine problem for people. It can be improved, but not by finger-pointing and harsh words.

      Now when I have something I need to do that I don’t want to, I talk gently to myself and take lots of breaks and promise myself a little reward when I finish.

    4. aubrey*

      Lol so true for me. If the deadline is ‘preferably yesterday’ I’m all good, if it’s ‘when you can’ it will never get done and also I’ll stress out a lot more about it.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      In some roles you can create this for yourself, too. A large part of each of my jobs has been independent research without many hard deadlines, which is a recipe for indefinite procrastination! So, I commit to giving informational talks on topics that I know I need to learn more about and will put off indefinitely unless ‘forced’ to do it. I’ve gotten to a point where I like public speaking and being seen as an expert, so I use those as my tools to get things done. I’m more motivated by fear of looking like I don’t know what I’m talking about than by learning for learning’s sake, apparently.

  12. Presea*

    I already see several comments along the lines of “get treated for or diagnosed with ADHD”, and that is genuinely what helped me, but I will add this caveat: You don’t actually have to a formal diagnosis of ADHD, or have to suspect you have ADHD at all, to look into ADHD-specific procrastination tips and see if they help you. Starting with resources like the How To ADHD YouTube channel can give you some new ideas for ways to move forward that maybe you haven’t heard before.

    My main advice is, you can’t mind-over-matter your way out of procrastination; you have to make the things you procrastinate on not suck. This is easier said than done, but is doable!

    1. LC*

      Excellent advice.

      Getting a diagnosis can be incredibly difficult. Insurance, availability, cost (financially and emotionally/energy-wise), psychiatrists who don’t believe in ADHD or don’t have a good understanding of it, the general stigma it can have, etc. etc. etc. – getting an ADHD diagnosis and treatment is not very ADHD friendly.

      But there are definitely things you can do to look at helping with ADHD-type symptoms, even if you don’t actually have it or can’t get a diagnosis.

      Hard agree on the How to ADHD youtube channel, she is amazing and that’s a fantastic place to start.

    2. Sylvan*


      While I have ADHD, I don’t think you need it in order to benefit from ADHD-oriented advice. Take what works for you and ignore whatever doesn’t.

      There’s a magazine for adults with ADHD, ADDititude. Their website’s full of various articles about managing your time and avoiding procrastination (very common issue for us).

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        ADDitude also has an ADHA Experts podcast. It may be worth it to you; my child and I have learned a lot from it.

        1. Sylvan*

          Oh my God, thank you for mentioning that. I listen to podcasts 24/7 and a helpful one about ADHD would be fantastic.

          1. LC*

            Also the subreddits ADHDwomen, ADHDmemes (yes, really), and ADHDers (not the one that’s just ADHD, that subreddit has some … harmful policies).

            And Twitter! ADHD_alien, finnattentive, blkgirllostkeys, danidonovan are all excellent people to start with, they are brilliant and they share brilliant things from other people.

            I’ve learned more about actually living and thriving with my ADHD from these internet strangers than I ever did from professionals. Seeing how it affects others, what they do that works, what they’ve tried that didn’t, how they approach things, how it can be just like me, how it can be nothing like me … It’s invaluable, really. Both from a practical, “here’s a thing that worked for someone that sounds like it might work for me” kind of way and a psychological/emotional “holy shit you mean I’m not alone and I’m not broken and I’m not inherently a terrible person who will never get anything done and will always eff up my relationships and will never succeed in anything, unless I do actually succeed and then it’s obviously an accident or I somehow tricked people and they’re obviously going to figure out I’m a fraud” kind of way.

    3. Ever Upward*

      +1000 this. My spouse insists that they do not have ADHD despite finally getting screened for it (bluntly, I think they were not candid with their doctor), but relying on advice meant for people with ADHD has magically improved both their procrastination and my frustration with their behavior.

      I highly recommend KC Davis’s book “How to Keep House While Drowning” and her video on how to clean a room. Black Girl Lost Keys is also a great resource.

    4. This is a name, I guess*

      This is great advice!

      But, medication has helped me (and many others) the most, and there’s quite a bit of stigma about medication. So, if people still struggle with coping techniques, they should know they haven’t failed! Some people just need the bigger guns!

      1. Presea*

        I am absolutely not anti-medication, for sure! If OP thinks they could benefit from pursuing ADHD treatment, they should go for it. I just wanted to present my opinion in the event that OP doesn’t have ADHD or they think it’s unlikely that they do; I didn’t want them to just ignore a bunch of potentially-great resources because of other people (rightly) shouting the benefits of ADHD diagnosis from the rooftops if it wasn’t actually relevant to OP.

  13. Elfine Starkadder*

    Yes, there’s such a thing as a recovered procrastinator. I’m one.

    It took me years to internalize the fact that procrastination was taking up more of my time and energy than completing the task would have done.

    Once I realized this and accepted it, I was cured.

    It can work out for you, too.

    1. Resident Catholicville, USA*

      Yes- if it’s not an actual disorder and one just needs to change their mindset, also viewing doing tasks as a kindness to one’s future self is very helpful. I never had an issue with procrastination so much as I just started viewing tasks that I put off because I didn’t like them as a kindness to Future Me. Now, I run into the issue that I’m doing so much that I forget to be kind to Current Me. Finding the balance is tough, but this method at least helps me get stuff accomplished and without the angst.

      1. maybesocks*

        Yes. I read somewhere that we tell ourselves we should wait until we feel like doing something but we should realize that we won’t want to do it any more later than we do now. I also notice how long it actually takes to do the thing. That can help me realize that I should just go ahead and do it. Another idea is to tell yourself how great it will feel to have it finished (or one step of it finished).

        Still working on becoming less of a procrastinator.

  14. Becky*

    I used to procrastinate school work occasionally, but it got worse when I was in a depression cycle (I have Seasonal Effective Disorder). Managing my depression cycle better helped resolve most of the more detrimental procrastination issues.

  15. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I think the crux of it is that the premise is wrong. I think procrastination is a symptom, not an issue in and of itself.

    Now that can mean a LOT of things. Are you someone who performs better under pressure and procrastinates to create artificial urgency? Are you someone who’s anxious and has trouble starting things? Do you struggle to concentrate? Are you overwhelmed and in task paralysis? Do you just not like doing whatever work is in front of you and put it off as long as possible? Do you struggle with time management or conceptualizing time correctly?

    There’s probably a bunch of scenarios I’m not thinking of but there’s usually something motivating procrastination – some of which are easier to break than others, especially once the procrastination becomes a habit. I’m the performs-better-under-pressure kind, as well as having ADHD (or in conjunction with that), and I procrastinate much less when there are a lot of things going on and I need to get to all of them because the frenzy gets my adrenaline going. But whatever the situation, I think looking at why you procrastinate and if that root cause is something that can be addressed is the best route to success.

    That said once you’re in a groove or a habit of doing something a certain way, your brain has a hard time breaking that, so that’s it’s own issue. But I think it’s ultimately breakable, for most people. It just depends on what your drivers are.

    1. Janne*

      I think this is a really good answer. LW needs to find out what causes their procrastination, then break that, and also form new habits (which should be easier once there isn’t a cause for procrastination anymore).

      My cause was burn-out and anxiety. I was too tired to do anything anymore, but also too tired to really rest, and I still expected myself to perform normally so I stressed myself out a lot. Therapy and some actual free time, free from most of my responsibilities, really helped. Now I still procrastinate sometimes, mostly on things that my brain connects with the burn-out (e.g. things that I used to procrastinate on a lot at that time). I think it’s not only because I have a habit of procrastinating on those things, but also because they bring up the old anxiety. But over time, things are becoming less scary and that helps a lot.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Good point. This question is a bit like “how did you overcome a fever?” without identifying the cause of anyone’s fever.

    3. SPDM*

      I was definitely a combination of anxious/overwhelmed–I’d look at “write a paper” in school and think of the enormity of that task. Breaking it down into more manageable subtasks definitely helps, but it turns out I also thrive on artificial deadlines. The first thing I ever got done early was my dissertation; my advisor asked for the Intro in February, Chapter 2 in March, etc., even though I didn’t need it all until June. After that, I had other people set pretend deadlines with me and I do it for my students, the feeling of accountability helps me a lot (even if my husband really does not care if I finish a document or whatever by Tuesday). Sometimes, apps can help too–there is a satisfaction in checking off tasks on a list, even if they are the tiniest slices of a larger task.

      Another question worth asking is whether you just have too much to do, period. If you have so many fires that you can only put out fires, you’re not going to be able to bump up tasks-that-are-not-yet-aflame in the calendar very easily.

      Another dissertation lesson: I would set goals for the day (e.g., write three pages) and then I considered my job done whenever that was over. If I was efficient, that might be 3 or 4 pm; if I procrastinated, it might not be until 8 or 9. This is a bit harder to do with a 9-5 or when you have a lot of tasks, but it’s worth considering if you can do it for a few larger, unpleasant tasks. (Or at least incentivize with a treat afterwards!)

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed. For example, when I switched the sort of work I was doing (individual, long-term deadlines, process-oriented work) to something different (collaborative, short-term deadlines, customized work) a lot of procrastination issues just…disappeared.

    5. Indywind*

      Cosigning Eldritch Office Worker.

      Most of the time I don’t procrastinate enough to matter: my home chores are done, bills paid, my dayjob work is done well before deadlines if it’s within my power to accomplish that (not dependent on someone else’s contribution), my routines and habits are mostly satisfying and effective.

      But occasionally I have procrastination flareups (I am having one now, commenting on AAM when I have a ton of work to get done). In my case procrastination happens at the intersection of my being overwhelmed (which tanks my executive function across domains) and the task that I’m procrastinating about being unrewarding, poorly defined (such that I can’t tell what I need to do or whether I’m making progress; shifting expectations or catch 22 is even worse) or both.

      If I notice myself procrastinating, and I can focus on very well-defined tasks (and give little rewards for progres if the tasks aren’t themselves rewarding) I can usually go back to getting things done until I can identify and reduce/remove the source of overwhelm and restore my ability to tackle tasks calling for more executive function.

    6. singularity*

      Definitely this. I procrastinate, but it’s under a specific set of circumstances that aren’t related to ADD/ADHD. For a while, it was depression/anxiety related, but once I started managing that appropriately, it became an issue of triage and understand what could wait versus what couldn’t, especially when things weren’t clear from the beginning.

      I had a hard time figuring out which things needed my immediate attention first, especially when there was a lot on my plate. Some of this came from poor communication from the people who needed things from me. I couldn’t work in a gray area, I needed specific guidelines, specific due dates for deliverables, specific expectations outlined. Structure was important to my success.

      When I was at my worst, I was so busy always catching up on things that when I *did* get to stuff that I’d previously missed, I didn’t give myself enough time to sit down and plan out how I would get my work done. So my issue stemmed from being overwhelmed and not planning a good course of action. Once I had that down, I was fine as long as I stuck to my plans.

    7. This is a name, I guess*

      Good answer!

      I would also say that if none of the more straight-forward psychological causes (e.g., addressing perfectionism or depression through therapy) seem to fit and ADHD feels nebulous to you, then that’s totally normal, too. ADHD feels really obvious for some, but can come as a surprise to others. It affects us all differently.

  16. Gnome*

    I struggle with it. If I’m cleaning something, the question is what am I avoiding?

    There are two things. First, can you make procrastinating work for you (at least the house is clean?) Or help you identify what you are more or less procrastinate-y on? Second, consider there might be a valid issue. Anxiety or executive function issues (such as ADHD) can look like procrastination, but that’s like a fever is a symptom of the flu (or a bunch of things), not the actual underlying problem.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      As a non-reformed, still-failing person, I’ll say that Captain Awkward described a way of using procrastination on some tasks to at least get other tasks done, which kind of resonated with me; so often I spin out and achieve literally nothing, and it would have honestly been better at the end of the day if I had at least gotten the dishes done if I wasn’t going to work on that Big Scary Project or whatever. I’ll try to find the link if I can and reply to this comment.

  17. A Frayed Knot*

    I think a lot of it is how you view yourself. If you think you procrastinate, you do. I rephrased “procrastination.” I now work well with deadlines. When a deadline looms, I get busy. My husband says he’s a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Short bursts of productivity work better than digging in for the long haul.

    1. NYWeasel*

      While I’m probably dealing with some undiagnosed ADHD, the point when I was able to change my procrastination was when I read an article that talked about procrastination in a different way. What the article said was that procrastination in itself isn’t the problem. We don’t separate out the novels that were written in a coffee-fueled mania over a couple of days from ones that were written a few paragraphs each day, because the quality is more important than how it was assembled. The problems are if you miss deadlines, do poor work, or put others in a bad spot. Those behaviors are what’s damaging. So the first thing I did was grant myself grace when it comes to zoning out. If I choose not to vacuum today or decide not to get started on a big project, I stop myself from beating myself up over the choice.

      The second thing I do is “eat the frog”—do the worst task first bc that usually gives me motivation to do more. I use pretty detailed to-do lists so I don’t forget stuff, but to keep things getting checked off, I’ve added in a step where I take any task that’s sat around too long and break it into smaller tasks. So for example I had “Do dad’s taxes” on my list. I changed it to “Sort the paperwork”. When that was done, I was dragging my feet on getting an accountant so I put down “look at Yelp reviews” then “Call CPA”. Just focusing on a small thing usually is enough to move.

      If I do all of that, sometimes I still ignore stuff I say I want to be doing, so then I look at whether it’s important or not. I haven’t built out some documentation that I need for my dad’s legal stuff, but I will have time to do it when they want me to bring it in. So it’s not critical for me to do it now. OTOH, we wanted to get some work done on our house in April, so I pushed myself to get it moving now bc we need time to order the materials.

      The main thing is that even with my procrastination, my output is still high quality and I don’t leave people hanging. If I had issues from my zoning out, I’d go seek a medical assessment of my potential ADHD.

      1. NYWeasel*

        BTW I just procrastinated on a deck I need ready this afternoon by responding so now it’s time for me to focus hahaha! ;)

  18. High Score!*

    Oddly, a side effect of all the quarantine these past couple of years is that I don’t want to do anything and procrastinate a lot. Finally, someone suggested just doing a little. Like commit to 5 minutes. Start a task, any task, and after 5 minutes takes break if you want. I find once I get started and put in the 5 minutes, I don’t feel the need to stop. Then I give myself a small treat on completion, like a coffee, a short walk, an email check or text message or maybe look at a meme that makes me laugh. Something small. Then I do it again. One bite at a time.

    1. Metadata minion*

      I do that for cleaning. Since that I-don’t-wanna inertia is most of my problem, my goal is to Clean A Thing. And that one thing can be picking up a single sock and putting it in the laundry basket. Sometimes if I’m having a really bad brain day, that’s all I do, but usually it gets the needed momentum going and I end up cleaning a more reasonable amount. And if the one sock is all I get, then that’s one less sock that’s on the floor.

      Not all work is conducive to that sort of thing, but if there are tiny drips you can do, maybe try doing one tiny thing and see if it helps?

    2. Louise B*

      This can be really helpful for me too. I don’t do dishes at night or after dinner anymore (because my husband and I are both night shift people) because then the first task of the day is doing a load of dishes while the coffee machine grumbles. I used to sit on my phone going through Tiktok while I waited for coffee, drank coffee, drank a second cup of coffee… it could easily become my whole morning because nothing had started yet and how much is one more 10 second video gonna put me behind schedule?

      So finding an easy, no brained task, but visually completable (like making the bed as opposed to long term strategy) to do first thing in the morning might be a good way for the OP to just get their blood flowing and that inertia started.

    3. Circe*

      One thing that’s become my mantra when I’m stuck: a thing worth doing is worth doing badly. If I need to write a proposal, can I write rough bullet points and then fix it. But for me, it’s often easier to improve something bad than to start something from scratch.

    4. eastcoastkate*

      Yes- this has helped me too! Especially with things I was dreading doing- and most of the time once I start them they realllly aren’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, or I get it done quicker than I anticipated- I’d just built up anxiety/worries about getting that (insert awful/boring/tedious) task done

  19. JH*

    Like many others here, things got a lot better when I got diagnosed w/ ADHD after wondering if I was just gonna be a f*ck-up the rest of my life. Obviously, not everyone has a disorder, but if you have tried literally every planner, timer, time mgmt app in the book, getting a new job you think you won’t hate, etc. …worth talking to a doc. Capitalism is really hard on neurodivergent people. Frankly, the meds help me be a good enough capitalist to stay employed. And I still have to switch up my routines once they become well, routine, due to time blindness and lack of sense of object permanence. All that said, it takes time and money to figure all this stuff put, which is also a luxury in the US.

  20. Creeping In This Petty Pace From Day To Day*

    I also find that those solutions like making lists and checking them off lasts for about the time it takes me to write the list. Bullet journals not only don’t work for me, but allow for procrastination, so it can keep getting added to the next day until I realize it’s been 2 years and I still haven’t done it! I guess it doesn’t need to be done.

    I try to get it off my to-do list* immediately, because otherwise it will be forever until I get back to it. It’s sometimes a matter of “out of sight, out of mind”, other times it’s poor time management, and other times it’s me just dreading a task that has to be done.

    I try to give myself shorter deadlines so something isn’t lingering into the abyss.

    There is a difference for me if it’s something that I need to do, or if it’s something that someone else needs me to do. I am much better at doing things for work or for other people, or for people who depend on my part to get their part done. (I thrive in group projects!).

    So I guess what actually helps me with procrastination is accountability.

    *Metaphorical To Do List. An actual list doesn’t exist.

    1. GlitsyGus*

      I have a similar way as you do. I tried planners and journals, etc. etc. and guess what? I would spend four hours getting the journal “just right” and completely ignore all the actual work I had to get done. Then, I would get bored with the journal and the overly complicated process I had invented for myself and stop using it, so I was back to forgetting things and not finishing them again.

      Now I have a general “things to do eventually” list where I can write things down as soon as I think of them in no particular order, and a “things to do this week” page that I can use to roughly plan out which days are best for which types of tasks. If I try to do more than a week, I get overwhelmed and stop doing it. If I try to get too detailed with a particular day, too rigid and stop doing it. I had to find my sweet spot.

  21. SongbirdT*

    I don’t know that hardcore procrastinators ever get past it per se, but rather find successful strategies to mitigate the impacts.

    You’ll find a lot of great strategies in ADHD communities, even if you don’t have an ADHD brain yourself because challenges with task initiation are incredibly common in neurodivergent folks. It also tends to be much more compassionate advice because its geared toward people who have (what the social order deems) a disorder, rather than the motivational “you just gotta do it” stuff you get for neurotypicals.

    Good luck finding the right tools and strategies that work for you! And remember to be kind to yourself.

  22. Calikat*

    I can’t say I completely conquered my lifelong procrastination problem (I’m in my 50s), but I made enormous progress in the last 3 to 4 years. What really did the trick for me was a book called Minihabits by Stephen Guise. Following his recommendations really helped me in preparing to move. Always before a nightmare, exhausting process with late nights and turning the keys over at the last second. This time I was methodical and actually finished early. Pretty painless. It has also helped me deal with procrastination on the job.

  23. bee*

    lol adding to the “I got diagnosed with ADHD and started meds” chorus. It’s not a magic bullet (I do have an email in my inbox that I’ve been meaning to respond to since uhhh August) but it was so bad I didn’t even submit a final in college and now I am a competent professional.

    I do think that job type helps with this too: my job is fundamentally reactive, in that people ask me for things and I fill them, and if I didn’t do that reasonably quickly people would notice. If I had a job that was more long term strategy with no deadlines besides “this has to get done eventually” I think I would still struggle a lot.

  24. Blarg*

    All the procrastinators intended to come here and make comments, but we got distracted …

    In all seriousness, for me some of it has been reframing procrastinating versus when my process is different than other people’s. I was never a person who wrote a “first draft” and then had others look at it and then reworked it. I’m still not. But that first draft is being composed in my head. When I finally put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard, it just pours out.

    There’s also something to be said for working well under pressure. If you need a person to step in at the last minute to review hundreds of pages of documents and speak to the content in 48 hours, I’m your girl. If you’d given me the documents six weeks earlier, I still would have done it in the last 48 hours. I’m now the go-to for “uh-oh, someone can’t make it/we forgot about this” at my org, even with external partners, and it’s been great! It’s how I work best but I still come off as like “saving the day.”

    It’s not perfect; things that aren’t my favorite tasks that don’t have firm deadlines tend to get pushed off til they make me anxious which compounds the problem. But I’m working on it. It’s a process; I don’t think it’s ever over.

    1. Nynaeve*

      So much this. Especially your second paragraph. I am a chronic procrastinator, but, I also have never, not once in my LIFE, missed a deadline or passed in something I felt was sub-par (this particular quirk makes that one interview question “tell me about a time you missed a deadline, or were behind on a project” tricky to answer. Because the actual truth sounds like a complete fabrication and comes off as boasting.). It’s a delicate balancing act, but if you can manage it, you become that person.

      The only thing I would add to this advice is to become the person who knows their limits. If the boss asks if you can get something done by Wednesday at 3, KNOW whether or not you can. I know instinctually whether or not an ask is possible, and I have never been wrong. Even when they asked me 2 weeks in advance because they thought that’s how long a task would take, and I put it off until the day of and bang it out in about 4 hours. They can’t tell, as long as it’s done, and done well.

    2. mli25*

      I definitely procrastinate; more of the “I don’t wanna” variety. I find the word dump or word vomit approach really helpful. I will just put all the thoughts on the paper and who cares if its not right? I don’t show it anyone and then I can go back and edit/rework it.

      When I use to design, I could never go from the need to designing in my computer program. I would site with paper and pencil (so I could erase) and start sketching something out. It gave me a blueprint for putting into the computer program.

      Consider if starting small or using a different mode could be useful, depending on the task

  25. cookie monster*

    I don’t know if what I do is as bad procrastination as what others are saying, but honestly I just learned to work with it. For example, I’ve decided to wake up earlier in the morning so that I can build in procrastinating getting dressed, something I do. I’m just happier when I get a chance to do that and don’t feel rushed.
    At work I am very organized, lots of Trello boards etc. My coworkers think I have an organized personality which is hilarious since that is definitely not what any of my middle school reports said.

  26. Clorinda*

    Try all the things. For me, it’s a combination of routines and chunking. Pomodoro for all tasks; to keep up with my home; reminders and lists and all the rest of it. Also, rewards.

    1. Clorinda*

      Also, you have to know your own triggers and avoid or restructure your tasks. I hate hate hate making phone calls. As a teacher, I have to do a certain amount of that, so there’s a particular time of day and I don’t have to make calls any other time. Home and life related phone calls are my husband’s job (and I do the things he can never get around to, so we both feel it’s fair).

  27. Artemesia*

    I am old and retired and am reading this site as part of my procrastination about heading to the building gym today. I never got over it, but still had a pretty good career. I had to organize myself around lists and structures to get things done. When I had writers block or was having trouble on a serious long term project, I would force myself to do something — a little piece — maybe from the center of the project, but that could be easily done — or something else that needed done so that some progress on something would be made. Things getting crossed off on the list is reinforcing to me. I remember being really stuck on a couple of research articles that I really needed to work on. So I sat down and did a short instructional article for a magazine for teachers that was immediately accepted for publication. Just to get my mojo back. It was not a reputation builder but it was a minor publication.

    Every book I wrote was written out of order — did the chapters that interested me first and were easy to write and backed into the more challenging parts. And because I had done all the easy parts first, suddenly it was ‘almost done’ and I could finish.

    Housework? I try to do maintenance tasks in small moments waiting for other things — e.g. the dishwasher gets unloaded or the kitchen floor gets washed while waiting for the coffee to drip through the cone. My bathroom gets cleaned while I am running the bath and my husband’s bathroom gets cleaned when I am gathering up the laundry (yeah I know — but he is not going to and it matters more to me — he more than pulls his oar on everything else). Doing deep cleaning tasks 5 minutes at a time works pretty well and then the place gets a blitz of cleaning before a dinner party.

    You can lean into the fact that you procrastinate and then think about the rails you can put up to keep things on track in spite of it. And think about the things you can eliminate. Buy a Roomba, hire a house cleaner, re-arrange your job to focus on the things you actually want to do (to the extent possible). Part of controlling all this is acknowledging it and owning it and then designing the work arounds that work for you.

    1. OceanDiva*

      I use these same tactics. When I’m on the phone with my parents (another thing I procrastinate on), I’ll fold my laundry or do food prep. Magic!

  28. OyHiOh*

    For me, procrastination was/is tied up in anxiety – the kind of anxiety that can be worked on in therapy because it was/is a product of the way I was raised. Fix the anxiety and most of the procrastination went away, more or less on its own. So I would suggest therapy. Find out what may be chemical, what might be behavioral, and use the tools you gain to build new habits.

  29. Anonymous Hippo*

    So how are we defining “reformed”? Because I still have a tendency to procrastinate, but I also tend to breakdown tasks into smaller deadlines, plus I build in time for emergencies and what not, so while I’ll wait until “the last moment” to do a paper, that’s usually two days before it’s due.

  30. theythemtheirs*

    One thing I read is that procrastination isn’t about managing time, it’s about managing emotions. Once I realized that it’s a game changer. But I still struggle.

      1. theythemtheirs*

        TimTom on Youtube (he does animation but he still had a great video on it) has a video on procrastination that was helpful.

    1. Grievance Commissioner*

      Same! I finally had the cause of procrastination reframed for me – it’s less that I don’t want to do a task, and more than I want to avoid the feeling that the task gives me (usually for me it’s fear of not doing a good enough job, or that the task is boring). Once I started approaching things more mindfully and accepting that I could work through those feelings (rather than escape them by scrolling on my phone or whatever), it got a lot easier to get stuff done.

      1. GlowCloud*

        I identify with this so much! If I’m avoiding doing something, it’s because on a gut level it makes me feel some kind of way. Often bored, or anxious, or resentful.

        It’s also worth noting the types of things you *don’t* procrastinate over – if partly to remind yourself that you’re capable of doing things without putting them off.
        Are they low-stakes, fun, finite, urgent, sociable…? Figure out how to incorporate elements of what you find positive and motivating into your chore list.

  31. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I still stuffer from mild procrastination – but I’ve relegated it to things like doing the dishes, not paying bills or doing my job. And of course procrastination can be a symptom of, or entangled with, things like anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

    That being said, here are a few of the things that have worked for me:
    1) Installing a distraction blocker plug-in to my web browser; give it a list of URLs and some time frames, and it will prevent you from visiting Netflix between 8am and 6pm, etc.
    2) Try to get one small task done first thing. This helps give you mental momentum to deal with the rest of your list.
    3) Compartmentalize and prioritize, know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, mentally separate work tasks from home tasks. That might mean leaving the work computer in one room and not taking it elsewhere in your home after 6pm (don’t say to yourself “I’ll read some work emails while I fold the laundry” because that’ll never work)

  32. That IT Guy*

    I can’t say that I’ve gotten past it myself, but then I’m autistic with a PDA profile (pathological demand avoidance, for those not versed in the lingo). This basically means that I have a limbic response to certain tasks that feel like I have no choice but to say yes to–the loss of autonomy is crippling. If it’s not *so* bad, I’ll put the task off and I’ll have to psych myself up just to do the thing and get it over with. Occasionally, it’s bad enough that I never actually do the thing, which as you might imagine sometimes causes problems.

    So, I’m sorry this isn’t directly helpful, but I hope you can accept the commiseration.

  33. A Feast of Fools*


    I was a lifelong procrastinator — literally, I remember putting off reading a book for school in 2nd grade — and two things helped me change in my 40’s:

    (1) I was successfully treated for depression. For me, that meant massively increasing my Vitamin D3 supplementation, getting off hormonal birth control, and finding the right antidepressant.

    (2) I ended up in a 17-year relationship with a man who would rather play video games and look at p@rn 24/7 than do even something easy like brush his teeth. The amount of energy I expended keeping both of us (and our finances) afloat, kind of broke me out procrastination mode. I knew that if I didn’t get up and get it done, it was never going to get done and there could be severe consequences.

    I’ve talked to some of my friends about this and they’ve said they experienced something similar to #2 when they had children. Suddenly, they were the adult in the room and lives were depending on them. The habits they developed keeping infants alive and flourishing bled over into other areas of life later.

    Now that the manchild is out of my life, I do an outward expression of fun whenever I knock something off my To-Do list, whether it’s for work or home. Like, I’ll stand up and dance for a minute or two, or just twirl in my office chair until I’m slightly dizzy. Basically, anything to enhance the good feeling of accomplishment and to make it “stick” more so I’ll want that good high (carrot) again instead of being driven by fear of severe consequences (stick).

    1. sp*

      Yes! Having kids forced me to develop some coping skills. I still struggle but not as much. Also my antidepressant is also used for ADHD, so…

  34. J*

    YES! I’m not totally reformed – I still definitely procrastinate, but I think it’s much more in the realms of “normal” procrastination than chronic procrastination. FYI I am in my forties and have only really started to change my ways in the last few years.

    Things that have helped me:

    – An adult diagnosis of ADHD (NB I am very much not diagnosing anyone over the internet here, just talking about my own experience), and working with an ADHD coach (again FYI, I am not medicated for a whole host of reasons, though I gather that this can work well for many people). My coach helped me to identify the reasons behind my procrastination, and I realised that I have two quite distinct forms of procrastination – stuff I don’t want to do because it’s boooooring and I would rather do fun stuff, and stuff I don’t want to do because it’s anxiety-provoking (and my response to anxiety has always been avoidance), usually because I’m scared I won’t be able to do it and / or will mess it up. Just understanding this distinction was enormously helpful and, honestly, made some of my issues melt away on their own – I don’t really understand why.
    – Related to the ADHD but also separate from the above – I spent a long time thinking that if I had a big task to do (e.g. a report I needed to write for work), I needed to “clear the decks” so I didn’t have any other smaller tasks that would distract me. I couldn’t have been more wrong – nothing is WORSE for my productivity than a clear day where I have just One Big Thing that I want / need to accomplish. Instead, I am much, much more productive when I am able to tab between multiple tasks – not only work-related tasks but, e.g., getting up to do laundry in the middle of the day if I can’t settle to something. It sounds facetious but I do find that if I have a big enough list of disparate tasks that I want / need to get done, I’ll generally cycle through wanting to do each of them least, and thus my procrastination becomes almost a positive (procrastinate boring Task A by doing scary Task B, procrastinate scary Task C by doing boring Task D). Obviously I’m lucky that I have a job and a lifestyle that makes this possible – I know that there are a number of jobs that wouldn’t allow for this (and, honestly, it’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve only got a handle on this in my forties, as I’m now at a stage of my career when I’ve got a lot more autonomy over my workload – this sort of thing wouldn’t have worked when I was much more junior and based in an office).

    Those are the kind of system-level changes that have helped – I’ve also developed a suite of tricks and techniques that can help me get unstuck in the moment, if I’m feeling myself in a procrastinatory rut. These include the pomodoro approach, external accountability (I have a couple of friends who I do this with – so we will tell each other “I want to do Task X by Y time”, and then check in on each other), loads and loads of to-do lists, a paper planner (I use an online calendar for scheduling work meetings for the sake of other people, but for my own sake I need to write stuff down), and, for particularly complex or anxiety provoking tasks, I effectively journal my way through them by writing myself a running commentary of what needs to be done, how I;’m going to do it, and checking back with myself once it’s done.

    Anyway that’s just what’s worked for me – good luck!

    1. J*

      Coming back and reading the seven million comments that came through while I was typing mine – another thing that makes a massive difference for me is starting the day right. So, if the first thing I do in the morning is something I define as “productive” (and I deliberately use quite a broad definition), it creates its own momentum and I am much less likely to procrastinate for the rest of the day.

    2. J.B.*

      My procrastination is normally your second kind, and for that breaking down everything I need to do into small parts and starting with just one part is how to jump start myself.

    3. Jaydee*

      The cycling through tasks as each becomes either “most urgent” or “least desirable” is something I’ve recognized in myself and am trying to harness for good. Today I just could not focus on the big task I said I was going to do. Instead I checked a dozen small things off the to-do list that all have deadlines quickly approaching. No panic at the end of the month when they’re all due! Momentum to make progress on the big thing tomorrow! Yay!

  35. FrenchCusser*

    I’m not a procrastinator, per se, here’s what I’ve observed in others:

    Most of the people I know who procrastinate are ‘perfectionists’ – they’re afraid of not being the best at everything they try (which no one is!), so they put tasks off until near deadline, so they have an excuse for not being ‘perfect’.

    I think that this is a form of anxiety, perhaps brought on by childhood trauma (abusive parents with absurdly high expectations).

    I agree with the folks above who recommend getting a good diagnosis and treatment for whatever your underlying cause is – anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. Unhealthy procrastination is a symptom, not an illness in itself.

  36. Wants Green Things*

    I second the comments that mention treating ADHD – that’s helped my life a lot, in ways I never expected or knew were impacted. Including the ability to magically just *start* something.

    But until I got treatment, I had several hard lessons from putting off major assignments and deadlines, which helped me learned how to procrastinate smarter. I learned to break things down into smaller bites – if my calculus homework is due Friday by 8pm, then I just need to do 3 problems a night. If I do more, great! If I don’t, I’ll still finish in time. If this report is due in a month, I need to write a paragraph a day. A sentence an hour.

    I was/am still putting things off, but in lesser ways so it doesn’t snowball. The stress of the unfinished project doesn’t paralyze me into inaction because it’s already 80% done.

    1. Evonon*

      This is what I did in college as an English major who had so many papers due I would break it down by one page a day. People were mystified at how I didn’t pull overnighters but it was because I broke it down to little pieces

    2. Anonomatopoeia*

      This is a strategy that might work for a lot of people and fully does not for me. I just procrastinate all the pieces until the last day anyway. I am another in the amazeballs last minute production/terrible long-term follow-through boat, and yeah, college papers? Always written the night before, directly from brain to typewriter (not word processor, so no going back and fixing), sometimes while still reading Middlemarch the book about which the paper was being written.

      (I hated Middlemarch so much. SO much. I did write that paper, and I did get a decent grade on it, though)

      Anyway. Bite-sized for me just makes more bites to pile up until the deadline. And why yes, I have become reasonably certain in the last few years I have undiagnosed ADHD like the other 394534 people in these comments.

  37. Evonon*

    I took a couple time management classes by someone with ADHD (not diagnosing you but providing context) and one thing that has helped me is having designated spots for mental and physical clutter, then setting aside time weekly to work through the clutter. I used to get so overwhelmed by projects piling up that I would just keep “accomplishing” more time sensitive things as a way to delay facing it but by having the space to look and break down each task and put time on the calendar it made things much easier

  38. knitcrazybooknut*

    There’s a website called Unfuck Your Habitat that is focused on cleaning, but is really useful for any task or area of life you’re procrastinating about. The About page is great, and includes: “[T]he whole point of this is that you might not be able to do everything, but you can do something. You just need to figure out what and how, and that’s what UfYH is here to help you with.” It’s a really inclusive approach, and was helpful to me in the past.

  39. fort hiss*

    I don’t have great advice on this, but yes, I was a former massive procrastinator, the kind of person who would do homework walking into the class, who left ten page papers until the day of, who sent off a job application the last day it could be mailed, etc, who became someone who does things early or not last minute. I’m considered a high performer at my job and get praised for being on top of things.
    Not to say I never procrastinate, but I have gotten much better. One thing that has worked is just not letting the time something is due be when it’s acceptable to have it done. As in, I do things right away when they’re assigned or I set my hard end date to be a few days before it’d actually due. Using my Outlook calendar to remind me has helped a lot there. And working collaboratively has ended a lot of it too because I hate to be unprepared when helping others. Basically, my job makes it harder to procrastinate and perform well, so I just… stopped letting myself get away with it and hold myself. to a different standard now. I acknowledge this sounds impossible to some, especially people with executive dysfunction, but it worked for me.

  40. Generic Name*

    I miiiiight have ADHD (my son, dad, and sister all have it). One way I’ve addressed procrastinating is I delegate the tasks I was procrastinating on. Luckily, I’m in a position to be able to do this. Turns out the tasks I drag my feet on getting started are the ones that I find super tedious and boring. Turns out those tasks are actually tasks that someone at a lower level than be should be doing.

    I also try to look at my workload as a whole. I really don’t work at a steady pace. I work in fits and bursts. So I have periods of very high productivity and periods of lower productivity. I meet budgets and schedules on my projects, so it’s not a huge problem for me to not be at top productivity at all times.

  41. Ocho*

    I’m a mostly reformed procrastinator. I think a big part of it for me is that I would often tell myself I didn’t have to do X, Y, or Z because I felt bad (depressed, tired, overwhelmed etc) and deserved a break to try to feel better. But something I read made it click for me that putting things off only made me feel worse. Instead of trying to “treat” myself by avoiding things I try to make progress on some (anything!) which makes me actually feel better. I use tools like setting a timer, making to-do lists, and giving myself small chunks of things to do (pick up 10 items off the kitchen counters; research work thing for 15 minutes).

    1. Ocho*

      I will also add that I think getting older has helped too. In my early 40s my life is a lot less chaotic, my moods are steadier, and I just know myself a lot better than in my 20s.

      1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

        I think getting older has helped me too – I feel more connected to my future self, and near-future deadlines feel less far away (like, a month used to feel like an eternity but now I know a month can go by in a flash).

  42. aceinplainsight*

    So I definitely procrastinate, and have for years. It sounds cheesy, but weekly and daily to-do lists have helped me a lot. Part of what happens is, if I have a long list, I can get overwhelmed and then not do anything, so what helps is to sit down and give myself a schedule for everything on my list. Then each day I can say “ok, today I’m painting this batch of teapots. It should take most of the day. If I have extra time, I can chill or I can start on the chocolate engineering homework that I’ve scheduled for tomorrow, but the goal is to paint these teapots.” Then I wind up painting the teapots in the afternoon- but the procrastination went from at the last minute to done a few days ahead of time, and I haven’t had to worry about having time for everything else as well.

  43. Jennifer*

    I went to therapy! So much of it for me was a fear of the work not being perfect. The whole project would seem so daunting that I would avoid it as long as possible…to also avoid the discomfort of doing something that might not be “the best”. Now when I have a big report or project, I break it into teeny tiny chunks. If I write 1/4 of the report each day this week, and edit it on Friday morning, then it’ll be done by EOD Friday. Then each time I work on it, it doesn’t have to be “the best”, I just need to get today’s chunk done, and I can always edit it later! I usually don’t have to make big changes – but I feel better knowing that I’ve given myself the time to focus on and complete one tiny thing that day that I can still improve before I actually turn it.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      A common term for this that a lot of creative writers use is the “sh*tty first draft.” You can say to yourself that it’s not a big deal, you’re just writing a SFD. There’s no pressure, just writing something terrible so you can edit it later.

      1. Short’n’stout*

        When I was trying to stop procrastinating on writing my master’s thesis, I would kickstart myself by writing what I called Draft Zero, that nobody but me would ever see.
        It was basically a stream of consciousness in which I would dump all of the thoughts I was having about the piece of writing into a document, mostly how I was feeling about it and what I thought the purpose of it was, what question I was trying to explore and where it fit in to the overall project.
        Eventually it would turn into actual usable content, but I needed to get that brain dump out of the way first.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I did something similar for my thesis. I hate writing full sentences from scratch, I get hung up on the “best” way to say something and lose my train of thought. So what I do is write very rough bullet points, then go over those and add more detailed sub-points, then go over it again and just add verbs or whatever it needs to turn into full sentences.

          I still hate writing, but this technique makes it manageable. As a bonus it naturally splits into subtasks that feel more approachable.

  44. knitcrazybooknut*

    I agree with others that procrastination can be a symptom of something else, or even a coping mechanism. When I started college, I had never had to truly study before, and I had no methodology or idea how to start. I kept procrastinating my papers as a coping mechanism for my stress and anxiety, because if I wrote the whole thing the night before, then if I only got a B, I had an excuse for ONLY getting a B. It gave me an out.

    I later went to a college that did not have letter grades, which made learning much less stressful and so much fun, which is what I thought college would be in the first place.

  45. Happy happy*

    I find that “jump starting” is all I need when procrastination rears up. I make a list of 1-3 items, in a specific order, like Tetris so to speak – and once I have those few things moving, I am ready to go! On tough days, I may repeat, but boy howdy it works.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I used to put off writing a feature story in journalism class. I’d struggle with how to start.

      I started writing the third paragraph first, and once I was done with the story, I had an idea for how to write the lead.

  46. notajokejustafact*

    I used to procrastinate with everything, due to anxiety around failure. Ironically, as my career has gone on, I’ve realized that the more responsibility I have the more on top of things I am. I still procrastinate on personal things that have little impact on others, but I’ve realized I need to find ways to be held accountable to seal the deal on things I don’t want to do.

    1. TootsNYC*

      perhaps it’s because there are fewer people judging you.

      Worrying about meeting other people’s expectations is a biggie!

  47. Homebody*

    I used to think I had a procrastination problem, but what was actually going on was that I was struggling with several undiagnosed autoimmune diseases! It was quite the shift in perspective! And even now I’m still learning that taking care of myself and not “pushing through it” is a good thing to do…there are decades of “rewiring” that need to happen for me on this.

    I can’t speak for your experience, but in my life (and many others I’m sure), the procrastination was a symptom, not the problem. It’s worth examining if your expectations on yourself are realistic. Do you work in a job that isn’t a good fit for you? Are there other things going on in your life that may take priority over work but you feel guilty that work isn’t at the “center”? Maybe it’s time to see if there is an underlying health issue contributing to your “procrastination”? It might not fix things right away but I think it’s a good place to start! Good luck OP.

  48. AustenFan*

    I’m a professor and the biggest procrastinators in my classes (where I know students well) tend to also be major perfectionists. In fact, I have a saying on my door that says, ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.’ I encourage them to go to the counseling center and often times they return and tell me they’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or ADHD. I second the ideas of seeing a health care provider about ADHD or anxiety.

  49. Person from the Resume*

    I struggle with procrastination because of uncertainty/ being overwhelmed and desire to be perfect. I tend not to start things that I right off the bat I don’t know how to do. The solution is little steps, starting with small steps and allowing yourself to take a break after each step, and some successes where I look back and the task was easy and not worth all the stress and worry I put into it before I even started. And also accepting good enough and turned in is better that the never submitted mythical perfect project.

    It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I completely stall out in doing things and then I recognize that my next task is related in some to some past epic failure. Recognizing the cause helps. I recently put something off for a long time (overdue) then finally committed in my head to definitely do it this weekend and when that didn’t happen first thing Monday. I finally started tasks close to it on Friday morning and started it Friday night. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I worked on it on Saturday and finished it Sunday. It’s totally one of those that I said “this is my best effort” (There wasn’t a right answer to the question) and wondered after “why did I stress over this for months afraid to even open the email?” It wasn’t easy per se but it wasn’t the monster it had become in my mind or worth the stress it gave me.

    This is rambling, but it how I’m better at procrastination than I used to be.

  50. Crystal*

    I am also a reformed procrastinator. I have two tips that really helped me:

    1) Break down the task into small parts. Producing a certain large report was daunting, but producing 23 individual components was better. It doesn’t change the task, but it helped me change my outlook.

    2) If you really don’t want to do something, if it’s certain tasks that trigger procrastination repeatedly, try to find a way to not do that task at all. If you hate making outgoing phone calls, for example, maybe that’s a task you can trade to someone who hates working in Excel. When you can get the hated stuff off your list, it makes everything seem easier.

  51. learnedthehardway*

    I don’t know – I know that procrastination is one of my strengths (well, traits.)

    Sometimes, it does work for me, though. The project that got cancelled last week – totally procrastinated on getting started with it, and I was right. There was something off about the whole thing and the client pulled the engagement. I could have worked really hard on it for nothing.

    I find that some of my procrastination relates to whether I feel comfortable with a situation and some of it goes along with needing stress to overcome my ADD tendencies. I’m starting to use music in the background to help me deal with my lack of focus, which is helping me get things done, so that indirectly helps with the procrastination.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I used to put off small stuff (shipping a file to the printer; it wasn’t really needed for a few days, and I could do it in the morning instead of staying late, and then I did something else instead because it had to get started and the file could wait), and then be “rewarded for bad behavior” (the art director would come and say they made a mistake, how much would the printer charge us, and I could say, “I didn’t send it yet.”)

      It happened so often at that job that I coined the phrase “rewarded for bad behavior.”

      1. Liz*

        Oh yes, I can relate to this. I completed so much homework at the last minute because there was no impetus to do it until then but I always got outstanding grades, and I felt like I could milk every last bit of free time out of my week until I had to do something productive.

        I also had the reverse equivalent – punished for good behaviour. One time in college I tried to do an assignment in a sedate, calm manner instead of churning it out the night before. I took a notepad around with me all week and I sat in cafés quietly and thoughtfully adding to it. I felt so proud! I felt like a proper student! I was getting my work done in advance, even thinking of extra ideas and adding to it!! I handed it in on time! Then i got the paper back and the teacher did not appreciate the food-stained scruffy paper with additional notes scribbled in the margin because i thought of extra stuff and i was told “do not hand in work like this again”.

  52. Contingency planner*

    I am in the process of trying to tackle my procrastination, so I’m really looking forward to the collection of tips and advice. But two things that have helped me improve have been:
    1) consciously deciding to accept “good” if not perfect solutions to things I’m doing. If it is a satisfactory solution and its not imperative for that specific problem to be perfect, do it and move forward
    2) when I can’t get work done (very burnt out on writing technical reports), I do something brainless but helpful related to the thing I need to work on. Can’t figure out what to say? Better check the document for extra spaces. Or read it backwards to find typos. Maybe make sure all the documents are saved correctly in the folder. Or fix something that annoys me in the database. Doing this has actually made my life easier on the backend by reducing the time required for final quality control on a project.

  53. GOGO*

    I am a recovered procrastinator. I think two key things helped changed me, both of which involved reframing how I look at tasks.

    1. When I was an education grad student (procrastinating my life away), I read an academic article about the writing process that argued that “ruminating” was part of the writing process. Ruminating included all the things people do to procrastinate before getting to work and throughout the process. I decided to accept that ruminating (a positive thing, as opposed to procrastinating, a negative thing) was a necessary part of the process. As such, I had to allow time for ruminating and be honest with myself about how much time that was.

    Now, as a professional who has to regularly produce written work, I have deadlines that cannot be missed (unlike in school). I have a good idea of how long it will take to get the actual work done, but when I budget my time, I add in time for what I know fully embrace as f-ing around (aka ruminating). To me, this is justifiable because I can get the actual work done in a shorter period of time than many other people, so the extra time doesn’t truly add unreasonable time to the entire process. The result is that I now easily meet deadlines because the added time prevents me from leaving anything to the last minute.

    2. As a student, procrastinating was largely a personal issue. I was wasting MY time. This was also the case when I was a teacher, as the stuff I was procrastinating on (marking, lesson planning) largely took place during my time. When I changed careers to one that involves more traditional office word, it was much easier to separate work and life. I changed my outlook: I work for money. If I work unpaid overtime to complete work that I procrastinated on, I am working for free and losing my time. Also, procrastinating causes stress, and sometimes makes other people’s jobs unnecessarily stressful as well. So, basically, I changed my perspective on work–I respect my time and other’s time, and I don’t want anyone (including myself) to be stressed out because of me.

    What really helped cement this was working for truly unmanageable procrastinators. Everything was always last minute, and a disaster as a result. I saw this as immensely disrespectful to support staff, particularly when they got blamed for things being late and going wrong. In my work now, I ensure I budget in extra time for support staff to do their work (including time for IT issues and mistakes), because it’s not their job to make up for my inability to manage my workload.

    This was a very long process, but it has worked.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I decided to accept that ruminating (a positive thing, as opposed to procrastinating, a negative thing) was a necessary part of the process.

      This isn’t procrastination related, but…

      I used to come up with something I was going to do at home–install a pulley system so that my closet-light chain could hang closer to the door. I’d buy the stuff. Then I wouldn’t ever do it. Or: make a bookcase to stand over the steam radiator, or make a bulletin board. Again, I’d research, measure, buy the stuff…and never make it.

      I finally decided that my hobby was planning those things. Not making them, planning them. Once I was freed from this assumption that I had to do all the things I was diagramming out, it became fun. I’d plan whole projects, diagram them out, measure the wall, research all the hardware, write a cut list, a shopping list…and then stop. And beam proudly at the plan.

      I actually gained from this, because I’d learn things planning a pipe-dream project and use it on a real project.

      1. GOGO*

        This is excellent insight! Planning is also one of my hobbies :) Occasionally will I actually do what I planned, and when I do, I feel most proud of executing the plan, rather than doing the thing.

        Perhaps having an outlet for this outside work helps with not needing to apply it at work?

  54. olusatrum*

    I count myself as a partially reformed procrastinator. My success can be pretty situational, but in my opinion that’s sort of the key to overcoming procrastination in the first place.

    In my experience, overcoming procrastination has a lot less to do with finding the right systems, pomodoro techniques, reward mechanics, bullet journals, etc. and a lot more to do with reaching a holistic level of inner peace and doing my best to align my daily tasks with my actual personal values and interests. I used to have an extremely difficult time focusing on work, and it had been noticed and was starting to be addressed by people at work. I sought therapy (for unrelated reasons), and once I started making some progress in that healing work, I started seeing results in how I managed my time at work as well.

    Nowadays, I generally like myself as a person, am less critical toward myself when I make mistakes, and have some positive experiences under my belt reassuring me that good things often happen when I engage with the world in an emotionally healthy way. The result: I will often go the extra mile to make life a little easier for my future self, because I like me and think they deserve it. I am less afraid to just get something on paper, even if I know it’s not going to be good enough for a final product, because I’m no longer as afraid of criticism, and I’ve learned from experience I actually kind of enjoy editing and refining subpar work. I have more confidence that my point of view is valuable, so I take more ownership of my projects, which means I get more autonomy to do things how I want to, which means I get that rewarding feeling of independently solving a problem that keeps me moving. The more good experiences I have, the more it compounds and I learn “Hey, I really can do this, and even have fun doing it”

    It’s situational – I do poorly when my mood is lower (like in this damn winter!), and when I’m struggling to muster up a personal interest in what I’m doing, or if I’m being asked to do something that goes against my values/integrity. It can be tough aligning my job and my career so that I do get to work on stuff that I’m interested in, but when it comes together I find myself going months at a time where work just flows smoothly and I don’t have to feel guilty about procrastination at all

    1. TootsNYC*

      . I have more confidence that my point of view is valuable, so I take more ownership of my projects, which means I get more autonomy to do things how I want to, which means I get that rewarding feeling of independently solving a problem that keeps me moving.

      This just encapsulates what it is that’s lacking in my job now.

    2. GlowCloud*

      “I used to have an extremely difficult time focusing on work…
      Nowadays, I generally like myself as a person, am less critical toward myself when I make mistakes, and have some positive experiences under my belt reassuring me that good things often happen when I engage with the world in an emotionally healthy way.”

      Yes! I really think what you said about *values and interests* is a key part!
      The most productive time of my life was when I had plenty of structure, and within that, the freedom to pursue my values and interests. I could blitz through a phenomenal amount of work with boundless energy, because I was having fun doing it!
      I’ve since been recovering from a situation where I was burnt out and miserable. The contrast was night and day from how I had been before – I hadn’t realised how badly it had been affecting me. No wonder I struggled to start anything! I was having to centre my entire life around things I found boring and personally not very meaningful. And dragging my feet trying to force myself to complete them was sucking away all my time and energy, so I couldn’t engage in anything valuable and interesting.

      This is so overlooked in all the usual productivity advice. All the pomodoros in the world can’t trick me into doing something I find both tedious and asinine.

  55. cactus lady*

    For me, it is constantly telling myself “stop thinking about the thing and do the thing”. It generally takes way less time and energy to actually do something than to think about how you should do it and putting it off. I also notice that when I procrastinate at work, I tend to think about work a lot more in my off time. Over the past few years, I have been working on prioritizing work/life balance, and so addressing procrastination is one way I do this. I don’t love forcing myself to do things when I’d rather be researching my next vacation, but the benefit to my quality of life makes it worth it to me. My anxiety basically went away since I started doing this, and it’s left me a lot more energy for things I enjoy outside of work too. I still procrastinate sometimes (I think it’s normal to an extent), but now I see it as sabotaging my happiness and free time and that helps me reframe it and do the thing.

  56. Xaraja*

    I’m not sure I’m exactly a general procrastinator, but I’ve discovered a few things. For projects, like writing a paper for college, i would often wait until the last minute, but i would do it, get it done on time, and get a good grade on it. I finally realized that i wasn’t *just* procrastinating, i was also thinking about the paper and figuring out what to do in my head. I don’t write rough drafts or outlines, but i guess i do that in my head during the time I’m “procrastinating”.

    The other thing I’ve learned is that i put off doing things that i don’t have spoons for or that i don’t want to do. This seems obvious but it’s deceptively important. For example, I’m a good writer but i dread doing it and put it off, so i don’t need to choose life activities or jobs that require a lot of writing (like blogging). Another example is that i used to procrastinate things like listening to voicemails because it felt overwhelming. I don’t know why exactly voicemail triggered anxiety for me, but dealing with the anxiety helped make some of those take less stressful.

    I guess my point is that what I’ve found is that it’s not about pushing harder to get through the procrastination, it’s about deciding a) is it actually a problem and b) why is this task difficult and what can I do to change the task, the way i think about it approach the task, etc to make it easier.

  57. I AM Sparkling }:(*

    That’d be me :D

    Lifelong procrastinator here, who was in real danger of getting in trouble at work last year because I’d gotten so bad, I wasn’t returning phone messages or correspondence and my bosses were getting justifiably fed up with it. It was the same kind of thing at home with cleaning and other chores not getting done but I live alone so it didn’t matter as long as I got to it eventually, right?

    That article kept popping up in the “you may also like” suggestions when I’d read other articles, and ironically I put off reading it for ages because I guess I was afraid of what I’d find out about myself. What stuck with me was where Alison asked the person the zillion dollar question: “why are you doing things you know will harm you professionally?”

    It was like a slap in the face. I’d been procrastinating, promising not to procrastinate and still doing it, feeling guilty about procrastinating, and never once asked myself WHY as the work piled up and my carpets at home got crumbier and the sink filled up.

    I read the update, and the LW’s talk about how their parents were loving but emotionally distant resulting in parental emotional neglect and it was another slap in the face, but a good one because it finally jolted me into thinking about my hella toxic relationship with my own mother who passed away in 2018. I basically hadn’t allowed myself to think about it while she was alive, and after she died I told myself it didn’t matter and forget it.

    When I was growing up she was a domineering perfectionist who’d withhold affection if I didn’t do what she wanted. Everything bad tht happened to me, from problems with teachers to being bullied, was obviously my fault for doing something wrong and don’t complain because other people have/had it worse. I was, in plain English, a total crybaby and oversensitive and she’d tell me to quit making a stink, so I just internalized all my bad feelings and let them fester. because I wasn’t allowed to feel them.

    On top of that, every decision I made would be met with either silent or outright questioning, and I’m talking everything from who my friends were to the kind of clothes I wanted.

    I also ended up taking care of her in her old age after her health went to hell, a job I had zero desire for and definitlely do not have the temperament for :o She basically made me make all decisions for her, still questioning my every move, and reverted to a sort of toddler-like state but never hesitated to pull the mom card when I did something she didn’t like.

    With some professional help, a lot of self-reflection, and a LOT of late-night crying jags, I realized that she’d made me doubt myself so much, and not trust my feelings and believe my feelings weren’t worth feeling, that I’d become afraid to try. Afraid to fail. Afraid of uncertainty. Not knowing how to handle emotions, especially negative ones.

    In short, I was afraid of whoever was on the phone, because I had it in my mind they were going to be nasty and angry with me and not believe me (I knew intellectually that 98% of my calls are routine requests for information and the rest is harmless grouching). The recipient of the letter was going to get mad for hearing what I have to say (even if I had to send them a refund for overpayment – who’d get mad about that?)

    I was mentally paralyzed, and being able to break away from that and feel all the anger and resentment and helplessness and process it properly helped so much. Yes, the person on the phone might argue, but I know my job and there are set procedures limiting what I can and can’t do. Whoever gets the letter might be mad, but that’s their problem, not mine.

    The best advice I can offer is ask yourself the same question Alison asked that letter writer: “why are you doing these things?” Best of luck finding your own answers and path to clarity, seriously.

  58. TootsNYC*

    This comment is what I came here to say:

    February 17, 2022 at 1:16 pm
    I like the article “laziness does not exist, but unseen barriers do”. If you google that phrase you’ll find it. I found it really helped me reframe some of the self-loathing thoughts I used to have about this.

    I haven’t read the article, but that phrase is what I discovered.

    I’m not a major procrastinator, more a minor one.
    But once it became a major problem for me. I was not booking freelancers for our crunch periods early enough.

    And I had a revelation.
    First, I stopped just scolding and berating myself. That made room in my brain for me to observe myself. To listen to my thoughts, my reactions.

    And I realized that I would mentally recoil from the task.
    I thought about why.
    I realized that I wasn’t sure about what I should do. My pathway forward wasn’t clear.
    I didn’t know if I had money in the budget. I didn’t know if I had the right dates. And I didn’t know which person to choose.

    So I dug into those uncertainties, one at a time. And focused only on solving that uncertainty.
    I created a spreadsheet/calendar combo that let me plot out my spending month by month, and forecast accurately as well as track previous expenditure.
    Now I knew I had the money.

    I talked with my boss about dates, but the message I got from her left me still unsure. She was very aspirational, and wanted me to focus on early dates, and I knew it wasn’t going to work that way.
    So I gave myself permission to follow my previous dates à la my spreadsheet/calendar. And I gave myself permission to be wrong. I knew that if I booked someone and didn’t need them, I still wouldn’t destroy my budget. And I realized that if I didn’t book someone for an early date, that I would be able to handle the workload without the freelancer.

    Then I gave myself permission to disappoint some of the freelancers (that was part of why I struggled to decide), and reminded myself that once I booked someone into a repeating cycle, I wouldn’t need to re-make this decision every time. I knew that I could be decisive with a permanent hire, so I approached these hires with the same mindset.

    Ever after, I try to listen to myself when I’m putting something off.
    I try to find the reason I’m procrastinating.
    I’m unsure? I try to find the surety.
    I don’t want to do it? I question whether I need to. And if the answer’s yes, I try to focus on the end result that I know I do want, and not the process that I’m dreading.
    (example: My mom once said, “I should go mall walking for exercise.” I told her, don’t say that; “should” is a motivation killer. Say “I want to go mall walking” and listen to yourself. You’ll probably recoil. Now say, “I want to feel strong and flexible, I want my muscles to feel that ‘good tired,’ And I want to feel in control of my weight.” Focus on that. Then you’ll be able to say, “Mall walking will do it, I’ll go mall walking to get my ‘good tired.'”)

    1. GlowCloud*

      I like this diagnostic approach, and your reframing of the mall-walking “should” statement very much.

  59. Lunch Ghost*

    Like others are saying, for me it was about figuring out the root cause. Junior year of college I finally figured out that my root cause of procrastinating on projects was not knowing where to start– and when I examined that further, I realized I DID know where to start, I just felt like the finished project was intimidatingly far from that starting point. I forced myself to start earlier, reminding myself that my work didn’t have to be “good to go” right away (whereas if you put it off to the last minute, you DO have to create something submittable right away: vicious cycle), and found that if you start early you still get to procrastinate, with less guilt! (i.e., you get to stop for the day, leaving the rest of the work for future you) That was a breakthrough.

    I’m still working on my other root cause, which is worrying I’m going to make a fool of myself or people are going to judge me. The mindset shift there is “This is not going to be any easier if I do it later, in fact people might judge me MORE if they realize I left it to the last minute”, but I’m not sure I’ve achieved it yet.

  60. RPOhno*

    Over time I learned to pit my anxiety about letting others down against my procrastination (which is more like avoidance of monotony; paperwork and I are not friends).

    It may not be the healthiest method, but if you can find something you are more averse to than the work and set it up in opposition to your work aversion in your head, it can help you convince yourself to get things done more proactively and start you on forming better habits.

  61. Yet Another Alison*

    I heard a phrase from a colleague (probably from a ‘business book’) which was “biting the frog”. I think the idea was that you do the hardest thing first. Well for me that’s rubbish advice. I need to ease my brain in with stuff that I don’t find difficult.

    I got diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago and one of the life changing things for me is the realisation that all my life people have told me to “just try harder”. Again, that’s rubbish. I’ve been trying hard all the time. This time the ‘business book’ advice to work smarter, not harder is better. I need to acknowledge what’s difficult and allow it to be hard, and get support if I need it, though it’s not necessarily straightforward to get that support.

    My ADHD friends have suggested that I might also have ADHD, I’m not sure (neurodivergent conditions very often co-occur). Executive function difficulties are present in a variety of neurodivergent conditions: autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, as well as ADHD where it’s basically the defining characteristic that ties the different subtypes together.

    Last thing – do a search for “wall of awful”. I found this very helpful way of explaining procrastination.

    1. This is a name, I guess*

      ADHD and autism couldn’t co-occur until the latest DSM. So, you could have both. Or, your EF could be affected by ASD. Doctors and scientists are just figuring this out now!

  62. cheeky*

    I have never gotten over my tendency to procrastinate. It makes me wonder if I have ADHD, which my siblings have.

    1. MustardPillow*

      Me too, been called a procrastinator, worried I had ADHD and at this point? I don’t believe it . I grew up one of those “gifted kids” who had all the “potential.” I’m not really a procrastinator or an underachiever in my mind, I simply possess a different set of priorities than a society that’s all about being productive, and reputation and material hungry.

  63. DrSalty*

    Hard deadlines, and finding internal motivation to meet those deadlines. A big example – I had agreement when my then-boyfriend we wouldn’t get engaged until we had both completed our dissertations. Great motivation to buckle down and get that done. Recognizing procrastination as a manifestation of fear/anxiety and dealing with those underlying causes. Frankly, forcing myself to do things has taught me they aren’t so hard and made it easier each time. Getting used to being proactive instead of reactive has made me an ex-procrastinator and excellent at time management when it really matters. In my current job, work is fast paced and broken up into shorter chunks, which makes it much easier overall. Plus the deadlines are extremely hard – there is no wiggle room to put things off.

  64. kiki*

    CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) really helped me. Most of my procrastination was rooted in fear and emotional avoidance. Work I was confused about or didn’t already know how to do scared me and made me feel bad, so I’d try to put off those feeling by avoiding the work. And then because I procrastinated, it was too late to ask obvious questions, so then I’d feel worse and would cram myself into tighter time periods with less information. Going through CBT has taught me to stop and register my feelings and emotions. Then I could write down negative thoughts I was having and try to debunk them. It takes extra time to write all this stuff out, but it really does help me feel better and get started on work much sooner.

    1. GlowCloud*

      Oof, this sounds horribly familiar…

      I think a lot of the time I felt that I had to push my emotions aside, and just get on with the thing through sheer grit & determination. Guess what? Every single assignment absolutely sucked, because I always did them in a negative emotional state that never went away! Each one compounded the next!
      But you’re right – how you feel about a task can give you an important clue about what approach you need to tackle it!

  65. Hereforit*

    I think for me, which I am certain I do not have ADHD or ADD, it was this mindset that if I am organized I will be more efficient. My procrastination was born out of arrogance and fear. That overwhelming sensation I was able to mitigate with organization, charts, planners, to do lists. The arrogance has been somewhat tempered with work that challenges me on a regular basis. I still procrastinate the easy stuff, but overall, I think making an effort to organize and be challenged has really helped.

  66. junior*

    I would consider myself a reformed procrastinator!
    I was a very good procrastinator, and very bad at time management. I didn’t move past it until my mid-20s, and only by realizing why I was procrastinating. There were lots of reasons!
    * Anxiety made me procrastinate
    * Depression made me procrastinate
    * Boredom (!) made me procrastinate most of all – One of my coworkers pointed this out to me, and I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.
    Knowing what caused my procrastination was the first step, and I still procrastinate on little projects that aren’t critical.
    The ultimate cure, however, was having to learn project management, which in turn taught me time management.

  67. Kella*

    I have never had trouble with putting off tasks that have a clear deadline and external consequences if I don’t do them. But if there is no timeline and no one to scold me for not doing a task? I will put it off for months, sometimes years. I’m not sure if this is exactly the same thing as procrastinating, but it is a form of avoidance.

    One of my recent tools has been to start by making a list of tasks that I’ve been avoiding for a while that I recognize would improve my life if I did them. Sometimes just making this list can give me the push I need to get a few of the easier ones done.

    But if that doesn’t work, then I take one at a time and I consider, why am I avoiding this task? I break down mentally what I think the process will be like and notice which parts I’m feeling resistance too. It’s usually things like, “I don’t know how to do X” or “I’m scared I’ll do Y badly.” Sometimes it’s something silly like, “the time of day that I have free to make phonecalls is also the time of day my cat is demanding to play with me so I can’t go into the living room for privacy because she’ll meow her head off during the phone call.” Sometimes I discover that at some point I decided doing X task means I have to do Y, Z, and A task TOO when really I don’t. But probably the most common reason is, “Then I have to make DECISIONS.” Decision fatigue is such an underestimated aspect of executive dysfunction. It takes way more brain power to make a decision about something you haven’t had to do before than to do something your brain can do on autopilot.

    Once I’ve identified where the source of resistance is, I make a plan for how I can best overcome that resistance. I figure out what time of day I’m most likely to get the task done, I ask for help with the things I don’t know how to do, I plan to go into it with extra mental resources and not try to get it done fast, I break the task down into smaller pieces and get rid of the extraneous ones that aren’t actually necessary to the center of the task etc.

    I still have tasks that I struggle to check off my list but this process cuts down on them quite a bit.

    1. GlowCloud*

      A clear deadline with external consequences isn’t enough for me, unless the deadline and the consequences are meaningful in a specific way.
      “You will fail this course” doesn’t mean anything to me, but “I need you to do X in time for me to be able to do Y” is important. I like to feel helpful and for my contribution to be valuable to others.
      I think it also links to decision fatigue, because it’s somehow so much easier to do things *for* others than to choose something for myself and follow through (what am I going to do, kick my own ass if I don’t get this done? We (I?) both know that doesn’t work). Setting my own expectations feels somehow farcical.

      Sticks are dreadful motivators, but I respond well to carrots.

    2. Loredena*

      “ But probably the most common reason is, “Then I have to make DECISIONS.” Decision fatigue is such an underestimated aspect of executive dysfunction.”

      Oh. I think this is the reason I still haven’t ordered new glasses! This is the first time I’ve tried to buy them online and the furthest I’ve made it is going to one of the sites. I was immediately overwhelmed by the frame questions and I’ve never returned to the site

  68. Jack Frost*

    I am not a person with ADHD, but I am a person who when younger was super quick at processing, not challenged that much in school, and so I *could* leave things until the last minute and then bang out whatever was required. HOWEVER I eventually became a middle aged person with slightly less cognitive power than I had in my teens, and way more things to do which were way more complicated and in way less time. Overcoming procrastination for me wasn’t a matter of being diagnosed with anything or medicating anything (though this is very true and valid for others!) but I had to actually learn how to organize & prioritize, something I never bothered to learn in school or early work (because I never had to). I took some management training classes, read some books (David Allen’s style was working really well for me about 10 years ago), and made it a priority. My first lesson in prioritizing was committing to making time to get organized and stay that way.

    I still drift from time to time. We all do; our brains need breaks and one cannot sustain an endless routine of high pressure without pause. But my procrastination now is much more intentional: I am much more able to identify and prioritize the things that must get done (i.e. that report for my boss) yet let other things drop lower on the list (the laundry can stay in the basket; it’s not hurting anyone, all my fabrics are wrinkle-free and the cat likes to sleep in my dresser drawer anyway).

    1. TootsNYC*

      My first lesson in prioritizing was committing to making time to get organized and stay that way.

      This is so important. For people who seem “naturally organized,” they are actually working at it. You just don’t always see it.

      And we often believe that “doing” is what’s important, and “thinking” isn’t.

      But organizing your time is absolutely a valid, useful, productive use of your time.

  69. Procrastinator*

    I’m a lifelong procrastinator and the only way I’ve gotten any better isn’t via any sort of reorg of life or scheduling or anything.

    It was finding the root cause, which for me was a lifelong history of obsessive anxiety. Why start something when you’re just going to mess things up and make it worse, after all.

    While I can’t say the cause of your procrastination, I can say that nibbling at the edges rarely works. There’s a root cause in there somewhere, and addressing it is the only thing that will make changes stick. For me, that was therapy and understanding myself.

  70. Louise B*

    Have you ever tried bullet journaling? Not the Pinterest aesthetic ones, but just a chicken scratch notebook like it was originally designed to be. I’ve found laying everything out but also having a system that lets me move tasks around helps A LOT with procrastination. Like sure I need to read 2 chapters of dense theory for grad school, but being able to write “read chapters 4 and 5” then check off 4 and move 5 till tomorrow, and add laundromat to today (because the weathers nice and tomorrow will rain) and check that off, both allows me the satisfaction of checking things off a list without the perfectionist anxiety making me feel like a failure because I didn’t complete my full list.

    Do you procrastinate because of time blindness? I super do, especially since 2020. If I don’t do something right now, it gets filed into the amorphous blob of “later” which eventually becomes “never.” Bullet journaling has been helping me with that too because I have to move a task to a different day, instead of just failing to cross it off. There’s no more “later” because I can visually, physically, see and manipulate my schedule to suit my needs.

    So if it’s perfectionism or time blindness causing your procrastination, having a messy, malleable, and customizable system to lay out your schedule might help.

    Just don’t get caught up in aesthetic! I’m an artist and bullet journaling used to take me forever, was hard and frustrating, and was abandoned by January 9th after being started every New Years with a “this year I’ll get my shit together!!” kind of resolution. It became another thing that needed to be just right.

    It’s ok for things to not be just right! And it’s ok for your schedule to be kind of idiosyncratic and to take into account your own peccadilloes (like that I would rather read while it’s raining and go to the laundromat when it’s warm, instead of doing all my reading at one appointed focus time)

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I use quarter-sheets of recycle paper to combat my perfectionist urges. It can’t be perfect, because it’s creased and has part of a spreadsheet on the back. So while I can certainly make my bullet journal fun for me to interact with, it’ll never be perfect and that’s a feature.

      1. Louise B*

        I like this! It’s very cat-like. We don’t use the expensive, focus-tested, aesthetic, designed for this purpose thing. We use the box. In college I wrote the outline for one paper on a take-out coffee cup!

  71. Ozzie*

    I don’t know that I’m reformed, more than I’ve learned to accommodate my…. “tendency” to procrastinate. I request check-ins for projects that are followed up on, so I am held accountable incrementally along the way (as well as getting feedback as projects progress, so I can make adjustments earlier on). I specifically budget time in my week/day to work on a specific thing. This isn’t fool-proof, however, some days I simply -can’t- set aside time, so this kind of forces me to work on things earlier, as a symptom of an uneven work schedule day-to-day. But I still have a tendency to leave even these things to last minute or to get distracted in my set-aside time, so again, I don’t know that I can be considered reformed. But it does at least increase quality and decrease stress as it spreads things out over time, as opposed to the -entire- project being left to the last minute. In these cases, it may just be final touches, or last-minute changes.

    In framing my procrastinating tendencies this way, I’ve reframed them as a positive. I’m good at getting things done under pressure and with tight deadlines, as opposed to prone to leaving things last minute. The periodic check-ins allow me to make big changes earlier, increasing quality. It also means I’m not being so hard on myself. I have a long history of beating myself up for procrastinating… but if that was a method that worked to combat the actual procrastinating, then it would have worked, as I was doing it so often… so obviously it wasn’t the way to go.

    These also may be things you’ve tried and they haven’t worked, since I’m suuuure they show up in any number of places. I would also recommend a possible assessment for ADHD, as others have said above. There could be an underlying cause that has nothing to do with “being lazy” or needing to “just stop procrastinating”.

  72. Tulipanes*

    Yes there is hope! I am former procrastinator. What helped me was being realistic about how much I could get done, embracing minimalism and clarifying my priorities. I still sometimes put things off but never to the point of missing deadlines etc.

  73. bookasaurus*

    I have found that being a perfectionist and a completist are what often cause me to procrastinate: if I can’t do a task perfectly and completely right now, then I will put it off until I can or until I absolutely have to. This is what I did with papers and projects in school. Often while I’m procrastinating I’m still thinking about the task and how I’m going to do it. So, I now give myself permission to create messy, imperfect drafts of things like emails or projects that I can sit on and edit later if I want. This allows me to feel like I’m working on the thing instead of procrastinating and I don’t feel that pressure to be perfect. I tell myself that it’s just a draft or I’m just brainstorming ideas or just putting my thoughts down. More often than not, I go back to it a little later and realize it’s fine how it is or can do some edits and send it off.

    For tasks that I find unpleasant, like household chores or personal admin like making appointments or calling the insurance company, I focus on how it good it will feel to have the task completed instead of focusing on how unpleasant it feels in the moment of doing the task. I feel like I’ve done this enough now that it has become a habit both in thought processes and in action, but it took a lot of work to retrain my brain in this way. Also, I did this through lots of small changes and teeny-tiny baby steps and built up to mostly not procrastinating, but the urge to procrastinate can still be strong sometimes.

    It took until I was in my 30s to figure out most of this!

  74. Wintermute*

    ooh ooh, this is me!

    I’ve found that holding myself to a schedule helps. Set alarms, set reminders. For difficult tasks an accountability buddy can help– external pressure works better than willpower. Though obviously that takes being honest and frank with someone– I would choose that friend or loved one carefully and would never use a professional contact or coworker so I don’t seem flaky or irresponsible.

    Also, scheduling breaks, committing to work on something difficult or unpleasant or stressful for 20 minutes is easier than committing to indefinite time periods. It’s easier to set some alarms and commit to 20 minutes three times than commit to an hour. Also setting two or three alarms helps me, because it’s too easy to just dismiss an alarm, but then you get the alarm reminding you you just did that, and then potentially an alarm reminding you that you just ignored two alarms and this is getting silly.

    another helpful thing is to think of willpower as a finite resource. When you know you’re going to need to buckle down and do something plan it for when you’re not going to be stressed and spent if possible (it will not always be possible), and don’t plan on doing too much (and don’t put yourself in a position where not doing “too much” will result in serious consequences, though sometimes looming consequences are the best motivator!). But willpower is also a muscle, by exercising it you will find it easier with time. Getting started is the hardest part, and that’s where an acountabilibuddy and other various hacks work. Once you’ve started building good habits it takes less willpower to maintain them and soon they become reflexive. It does get easier, trust me.

    1. Lacey*

      Yup! I love alarms. Having a set alarm for when I need to do something takes so much anxiety out of my day and it makes actually doing tasks a lot easier.

  75. Arclight*

    When overwhelmed, sort all tasks into 3 buckets and ONLY 3 buckets:
    Bucket 1) Must work on today.
    Bucket 2) Must work on “tomorrow” (“tomorrow” = soon, but not a catastrophe yet).
    Bucket 3) Everything else.

    If I am working on a Bucket 3 task when there’s still a task in Bucket 1, …I know I have to drop it.

  76. Sangamo Girl*

    Depression==>Anxiety==>Inability to Focus.

    Then suddenly you’ve spent the entire week web surfing and not doing the ever growing list of tasks that need to be done. And now many of them need to be done yesterday. Rinse. Repeat.

    Do that enough times and then there is an healthy dose of Shame thrown into the mix. For me therapy and anti-depressents help short circuit that cycle.

  77. lessachu*

    I don’t think I ever had ADHD, so maybe my procrastination was not on the order of the others described here, but I am definitely a procrastinator by nature. What really helped me was:
    1) finding and leaning into things that get me into better habits (I have a hard time starting big, open-ended tasks, but it turns out I love checking off tasks on a check list, so now I break things down into smaller tasks).
    2) finding roles that fit how I liked to work. I hate and am still terrible at routine work, but like several of the other commenters in these threads, I thrive in chaos and rapid change. My current job is great fit for those skills and over time, I was able see when doing some work ahead of time really would make my life easier in the long run and to start doing it (I think of it as being pre-lazy).

  78. PolarVortex*

    Mixed bag getting over it. I definitely still trip up, but I do well if I schedule out time to work on what I need to do immediately, make checklists, etc. Getting treated for attention disorders helped too. The hard part is finding a process that works for you, the habit of getting into that process helps drive away procrastination but it’s not a catch all solution. If you can develop a good guilt complex, let me tell you that definitely makes your procrastination habits more conquerable, but then you have a terrible guilt complex and that’s a problem too.

    One of my coworkers swears by visual timers as it allows them to better conceptualize the amount of time they’re going to put into doing this thing they hate.

  79. Gerry Keay*

    A slight variation on the diagnosis theme — it was anti-anxiety medication that has really helped me get over my procrastination. I tend to procrastinate on tasks that make me anxious/nervous/scared I’ll fail, and recognizing that my anxiety was at the core of the behavior (and treating that) has been tremendously helpful.

  80. it’s funny because it’s true*

    I think you have to find strategies that work for you. For example, I’m not at all motivated by a reward AFTER a thing, but I am for a reward DOING the thing. I can only listen to this new podcast episode if I’m also putting away laundry or I can only watch this particular show while walking on a treadmill. Pomodoros also work for me, I love the Forest app because I can commit to like, 10 minutes of a thing, and if I get distracted and look at my phone before the timer ends, I murder a tree. So I would recommend figuring out what it is that overwhelms you. For me I put things off because they’re boring (hence the listening to something interesting at the same time) and/or will take forever (hence the doing things in small, timed chunks). Mental health diagnoses helped too, but medication doesn’t make tasks enjoyable, YOU have to figure out how to do that for yourself regardless of your brain chemistry.

  81. Christi*

    Agree with all of the ADHD comments. Read the book Driven to Distraction, and it was lifechanging. I’m now on medication and have discovered some coping mechanisms that have made all of the difference.

  82. Victoria, Please*

    My procrastination problem is this: “If I do this Thing, there will be 47 more Things that follow it. Crap, 47 more Things? Yikes. Also, in this Thing, I have to ask people to do Things and then *they* have Things. They already have Things. They hate getting more Things. I hate asking people to do Things. So can I do this Thing maybe next week? Yes, next week sounds good for the Thing. Maybe next month.”

    I have no advice on how to get over this reason for procrastinating. :-D

    1. Lacey*

      I can be like this sometimes. I just promise myself that I don’t have to do all 47 things. I only have to do 3.

      It’s a lie, of course, all 47 things need to happen. But if I think about all 47 I won’t get out of bed.
      So, I think about 3. Then the next 3. And so on.

      Also, I’m really horrible at long term projects because of this, so I got myself a job where I only do short projects.

  83. Hope*

    Getting diagnosed and medicated for ADHD has helped a bit. Focusing on the sheer relief and lack of stress when you have everything done is another good tactic. Actively making time for the thing that needs doing is another (“so from 3-4pm today, I will be working on X). Setting alarms for this will help if you have no internal clock. Having someone else hold you accountable is good too, if possible. To-do lists, planners and Outlook reminders can be helpful. But to be honest, I use every single one of the above and nothing works 100% of the time. It can be really frustrating to put so much effort into being organised, and for the result to look like someone else’s ‘barely functioning’ :/

  84. Littorally*

    I am in the process of reforming. I’ll be honest, OP — it isn’t easy, and it takes both a lot of heavy lifting and also a lot of will to make it happen. I do have diagnosed ADHD and task-switching is a particular problem for me. This makes procrastination easy because I slide off to something easy to do, and then stick with it.

    Something that has helped me a lot is the countdown method. Knowing what needs doing and saying — out loud if you’re in private — “okay, I will do this thing on the count of three” and then vocally counting down helps ease the switch to what you need to be doing.

    Another thing has been repeatedly experiencing — and thinking over, remembering, reinforcing that experience — cases where just sitting down and doing the thing was much less painful than the dread I felt leading up to it. A lot of people are conscious of this effect, but the mind holds onto negative experiences better than positive ones, so being really deliberate about reinforcing the positive experiences by rehashing them in your mind helps that a lot.

  85. Arclight*

    Break tasks down into manageable pieces. (“How do you eat an elephant? 1 bite at a time.”)
    …For one, it makes things less daunting. Can always break the fidelity down on any task.
    …But also, when I break something down into 10 line items on the checklist, then …being behind on 10 items may make me panic sufficiently to get started, haha.

  86. LaFramboise*

    Dear LW, I felt the same about 5 years ago. Then I aged out of most of my procrastination. I just got tired of agonizing over not getting stuff done. It took up too much mental energy. That doesn’t mean I’m 100% on top of everything the moment it comes out, but I do get things done before the deadline, often, and am widely seen as being a responsible adult who can be trusted.

    The stuff I DON’T do right away usually has a component of fear/anxiety that is clouding my ability to respond to anything. It took therapy to work through the issue. Historically, my parents have been, and often still are, serial procrastinators, while my grandmothers (grandfathers were dead even when I was little, but they were also not procrastinators) were task-oriented and didn’t slow down until they were done. Since my grandmothers helped to raise me, I have always been conflicted, and finally just outgrew the procrastination.

    Hopefully you’ll find your reason for ditching the procrastination, if it’s bothering you! Good luck!

  87. FakeEleanor*

    For me, it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I procrastinated quite a bit in my youth -> I think of myself as a procrastinator -> I continue to procrastinate -> everyone *else* sees me as a procrastinator -> being lazy and flaky becomes part of my self-concept. It’s destructive and it’s not at all necessary.

    What I’m working on right now, and what is helping, is trying to see every task as independent of everything that came before it. Every assignment is a new chance to get it right. My most harmful thought in this regard is usually “I already screwed up everything, so why should I get to work now?” And the answer is, “because I haven’t screwed this up, not yet, not really,”

    It also means trying to take a lot of the shame out of it. Part of what fuels my procrastination cycle is a shame spiral – if I don’t do something right away, I start to avoid it because I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t do it right away. So I try to interrupt that cycle. I remind myself that deadlines aren’t there for deadlines’ sake, but instead they’re usually there because someone needs that work finished by a certain point. So, as long as it gets to them by the time they need it, they won’t judge me for not doing it immediately.

    I hope that helps. It’s not so much specific strategies for me, but interrupting the shame spirals and avoidance that comes with years of thinking of myself as a procrastinator.

  88. moonstone*

    I was labeled as a procrastinator my whole life and ended up getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I’m not saying that’s always the case and I don’t want to armchair diagnose, but this also happens too frequently not to mention.

    1. moonstone*

      Argh posted too soon. But here is what worked for me:

      – ADHD treatment and time management strategies targeted for ADHD people (YouTube channel “How to ADHD” has helped me a lot)

      – This may sound counterintuitive, but acknowledging that procrastination is a weakness of yours and finding workarounds instead of trying to force yourself to be someone who doesn’t procrastinate ever. Again, this is coming from the POV of someone with a diagnosed disorder, but in the end of the day, I can’t get rid of my ADHD which by extension means I will never not be a habitual procrastinator. But I can I integrate workarounds in my schedule to accommodate my natural workflow in addition to fighting it.

      – Pomodoro really helps (Google if you don’t know what this is). Specifically, what really helps me is I allow myself to start off slow/with smaller tasks and work my way up as I naturally get more into the flow. For example, if I have a big report to write, my first task will literally to just be: create a new Word document, save it to my Reports folder under a file name. Then I take a 5 minute break. Then I Google random search terms and bookmark the ones I want to read to first for my research. Take another break. This still sounds and feels like procrastinating, but you are actually still advancing more in your project than if you weren’t doing anything at all. And the further I get into a task, the more my attention becomes sustained (in ADHD terms this is called “hyper focus”).

      1. LC*

        I hated the pomodoro technique until I gave myself permission to use different amounts of time than what people normally talk about (20 on/5 off or 40 on/15 off or whatever). So sometimes I’ll do 5 on/10 off. And maybe after a few, I’ll do 10 on/10 off. And maybe at some point, the hyperfocus will kick in and I’ll only have the timer set for 15 but suddenly it’s three hours later and I actually did a lot (hopefully did a lot of the right thing, and didn’t spend all that time on that one thing that’s tangentally related but not really what I needed to be doing – it’s a toss up).

        I love these tips. So much of it is figuring out what works for you and then being okay with it if it’s not what works for “most” people.

        1. moonstone*

          Same here. Pomodoro only started working for me as I did it on my terms. I’m personally someone that HAS to start of a task 2-5 minutes at a time until my hyperfocus kicks in. I can’t just start with 20 minutes.

        2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I’m working with chronic illness, and for me the sweet spot is 5 minutes active/30 minutes resting. This *can* be 30 minutes writing and 5 minutes making tea and putting away a dish or two, but even if it’s 5 minutes of Roomba maintenance and 30 minutes of clickygames, it keeps me from getting too fatigued and from sitting in one position too long.

          I use a hexagonal flip timer that has preset timers in 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 minutes, so setting a new timer is an uncomplicated large movement instead of several fiddly little steps that necessarily involve the phone.

          For writing projects with a word count, I use a grid of low-value and higher-value treats (e.g. M&Ms and Hershey’s Kisses), a d20 (or whatever size die corresponds to how many hundreds of words I’m trying for today), and a meditation timer set to an hour with a gong every 10 minutes. I stretch and check my word count at the gong. Each +100 words gets another M&M in my to-eat pile and advancing the die to the next face. (The dice technique is shamelessly lifted from Seanan McGuire.) A milestone number (as determined when I laid out the grid; NaNoWriMo has milestones at multiples of 500 and a bonus at 1667) gets a Kiss. Mandatory movement break at the hour point.

  89. Suprisingly ADHD*

    For me, like so many others upthread, the only thing that helped me was finally treating my mental health. I didn’t realize that I had been depressed and anxious for pretty much my whole life, until I finally asked my doctor for medication as a desperate last resort. Treatment with anti-anxiety and antidepressants from my PCP helped so much, that I was finally able to get it together enough to find an ADHD specialist (which I had been putting off for years at that point).

    I can’t say that my procrastination is gone, but it’s usually not paralyzing anymore, unless my anxiety is particularly high.

    On a related note, I’m kind of blown away by how many folks here have ADHD-related procrastination. I’ve never seen so many similar comments outside of a dedicated ADHD support group! It’s comforting to see all of you out there in the “real world” of business.

  90. irene adler*

    Be realistic about the time it takes to complete tasks.
    Part of my issues were that I would end up with too much to do at the last minute.
    Hated that last-minute rush. And the failure to meet the time-line.

    One reason for failing: trying to do too much in too little a time span.

    So: plan, plan ahead and schedule everything you can. Sure a checklist is a good way to plan because everything is on the list.

    But! Factor in adequate time it will take to do each item on the list. So if you have 10 items to do, each taking 2 hours to complete, don’t be upset if after the 8 hour day is complete, all 10 are not complete. See, that used to make me just give up.

    “Take the time it takes”- my motto.
    This needs a certain amount of self-knowledge as to how fast I know I can work.

  91. LadyByTheLake*

    The Pomodoro method has worked wonders for my procrastination — set a timer for 25 minutes and resolve that you won’t do anything but the dreaded task for that time period. No surfing the net, no checking email or texts nothing but the thing — it’s only 25 minutes! Usually once I get myself started using that 25 minutes, its easy to just keep going.

  92. TabTabShift*

    I dont think I would say I am a recovered procrastinator but I have a few tools that help me a lot (when I used them). The first is actually writing down all that i need to do on a paper list and moving it forward every week. You would be surprised how many times I just finally send that follow-up email JUST SO I dont have to rewrite it in my new list.

    The second thing is using the Pomodoro timer method for working. Its 25 mins of work and a 5 or 15min break (depending) and just having a timer run on windows makes it so much easier for me to focus on one thing – because there is only 10 more minutes until I can take a break and play my phone game or visit askamanager :) I can’t always do it correctly with meetings, but when i have the 25 minute timer running 9 times out of 10 I am very productive.

  93. Intermittent Introvert*

    I did a deep analysis last year of how I have successfully completed things in a timely manner or established new habits in the past. One powerful motivator for me is meeting with others to do something. One common example is exercise groups. I’m considerably more likely to go walking when I have a scheduled time and people to meet me. So, I applied that to a huge personal project I’ve been putting off for years. I put a call out on Facebook and asked for someone to join me. I got 2 responses. So, for nearly a year I’ve met virtually (speaker phone) with my friends at a specific time each week. We chat about what we are doing, ask advice, or sometimes work quietly. All of us have completed huge projects over time in these dedicated sessions. Is there a way to apply this in your work setting?

  94. cosmicgorilla*

    I heard somewhere, can’t remember if it was a book or podcast, that often we procrastinate because we fear something. We could fear the effort we’re going to have to expend, the thought that we might not do it perfectly, etc.. Then, when we get that sudden rush of inspiration and are super-productive at the 11th hour, it’s because we fear the consequences of not having completed the task more than what we originally feared about actually doing the task.

    I think this is all a subconscious fear as I don’t believe I actually am feeling fear when I procrastinate, but this rang true for me when I first heard it.

    1. Lacey*

      I think there’s something in that. For me I’m often bored with a project when I procrastinate, but at the 11th hour my boredom is not important… and also a race to the finish is not so boring.

      But I do sometimes put things off when I feel anxious about my ability to do it.
      I usually just have to realize that, that is what I’m doing and that if I sit down and really look at it – instead of just glancing through it and getting nervous at all the requirements – I probably can figure it out. And so far, yeah, I can.

  95. EmmaBear*

    For me: I worked a high pressure, high volume, union job in California where it was difficult to get permission to exceed 8 hours a day. My procrastination decreased SIGNIFICANTLY in that job, and now I make myself a rule where I have either 8 hours a day/40 hours a week to get my job done. Having that finite amount of time has been SO helpful!

    For my partner: ADHD diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

  96. Susanna*

    I work in a field with non-negotiable deadlines, which I never miss. BUT I have had problems in the past with not getting things done until I *had* to.

    When I was working for myself, I learned that activity begets activity, and malaise begets malaise. I know it sounds sort of lame, but there’s something to be said about having a list of things to do – and NOT big things, like “finish project.” Things like – email these folks to get this info. And include things like, fold laundry. (Working from home, my personal and professionals tasks now can be alternated during the day).

    What I found was that as soon as I finished one task, I felt in control and empowered to do another one. And it snowballs.

    1. GlowCloud*

      “Malaise begets malaise” is my biggest stumbling block, because when I need a period of Doing Nothing, after a fairly intense bout of Doing Things, it’s really hard to ramp up the energy again, and my organisational strategies tend to go to heck in a very short space of time.

  97. HelloHello*

    I’m still a very bad procrastinator, but it’s gone from something that put my job in real jeopardy early in my career to something that just leaves me paying late fees on library books or having a messy house a bit too often, rather than something that feels on the verge of ruining my life at all times. It’s very much a mix of things, including 1) finally getting somewhat workable treatments for my anxiety, 2) having, at this point, spent decades layering coping method on top of coping method to craft a somewhat workable framework for making myself get things done, and 3) self-selecting for a career that I am good enough at that I can do usually do my work in less than 40 hours a week so there’s wiggle room when I’m just not capable of concentrating for a stretch of time.

    It’s still a struggle often, but it’s a mostly manageable one these days.

  98. Leela*

    If you’re neurodivergent or suspect you could be, it’s worth looking into advice that is specifically written by neurodivergent people. A lot of advice out there is unbelievably useless for us and it’s a world of difference to finally, after decades of struggling, have some advice that’s actually meant for our neurotype. There was a great twitter thread about procrastinating that came out recently but I’m struggling to turn it up unfortunately

  99. Delta Delta*

    I haven’t read all the comments but I’ll share what has worked for me. I like to make a list, and if I feel very procrastinate-y I put a lot of things on it. Easy stuff like, “email person I was already going to email.” Because I’m wired this way, I write it on the back of a piece of scratch paper in one color. I cross out things that I’ve done as I do them in another color. After I do a few things I see a bunch of multi-colored cross-outs, and it feels like I’m getting things done. I also like to make phony deadlines. Like, “I need to do three things in the time it takes me to drink this cup of tea.” And then if I do 3-4 things, I feel a little reward, like I’ve gotten something done. (Usually I reward myself with a trip to the loo and another cup of tea). While these are little things that aren’t necessarily procrastination-beaters, for me these can be a good on-ramp to getting bigger things tackled.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      For things that can’t be done in one day, or have to be done in multiple sessions per day, I like to put a progress bar underneath the list item. That way it’s not Done vs. Not Done, I can color in a little bubble with a color of my choice each time I work on it.

  100. SleepyHollowGirl*

    Yes, I’ve gotten over it. I don’t think of myself as a procrastinator anymore, though I’m not perfect.

  101. Jennifer*

    I don’t think you can fundamentally change who you are. I think that you have to accept yourself for who you are and work within those parameters. I am a procrastinator, but I also don’t like letting people down. So if I know my turning in something late is going to screw over someone else, that’s my motivation for getting it done early. If I have a workout partner, I know I’m going to show up for a workout because someone is waiting on me. I want to continue working on my writing and finally finish a book I’ve been working on for a while so I joined a writing group. I want to read more so I set a goal on goodreads. The former teacher’s pet in me still wants that gold star of achievement.

    But I was always that kid that was late to class and late turning in homework. I just think it’s something I’ll always struggle with a bit, but I’ve found a lot of things that were shoved down our throats as kids don’t matter as much in the real world. I also have a job where I don’t have a ton of set deadlines and it doesn’t really matter if I’m a few minutes late. When I had jobs before where bosses were really strict about start times I didn’t fare well.

  102. LabGuy*

    I did not get over procrastinating completely, but I was able to mitigate its effects: My procrastination turned out to be a manifestation of ADHD, which I didn’t realize I had until I was 40. This led me to get medicated for it, which reduced it to the point that my ability to work effectively in bursts was more sufficient to let me get everything done. Do I still procrastinate? Yes. Do I miss deadlines or annoy people with my slowness? Not so often anymore.

  103. Lore*

    My issue has always been an inability to consider something completed without an external deadline, so starting earlier generally just meant working more hours for the same result, because I’ll go back and re-edit or recheck data or add another paragraph to the email. So the key aspects for me have been 1) building in stopping points that I can guide myself with—like, do an outline, and then stop till tomorrow—or parceling out tasks on a timeline and b) tricking myself into an earlier internal deadline (if I finish this project today instead of Wednesday, I’ll be able to turn my attention to that thing that was going to ruin Friday). (Note that in my current work setup, actually beating shared deadlines isn’t always helpful because then it shifts the schedule for the remaining stages of a project after you’ve already given deadlines to external players who might not be able to shift their availability. )

  104. Manchmal*

    My procrastination was pretty specific to graduate school, and was really rooted in anxiety. I had a lot of anxiety about not knowing how to approach certain projects, and a lot of anxiety around applying for grants and fellowships. They all felt like such high stakes, that procrastination was a way to avoid dealing with the stress. Of course, waiting until the last minute made the stress all that much worse. Also, I used to be someone who believed that “I wrote better under a pressing deadline.”
    The things that helped me get over this was: 1) writing papers and doing projects, and getting more comfortable with the process. 2) applying for a series of grants/fellowships and having some success. 3) Realizing and embracing that no one’s writing is any good the first time around, and excellent writing and ideas really emerge in the process of revision.

    So, now I hate when I’m so busy I have to do things at the last minute. I know they are not as good as they could be. So I’m a lot more motivated to give myself the time to do the work, to have other people give me feedback, and actually submit things a little earlier.

    I still do occasionally have little bouts of aversion procrastination, but I recognize it a lot sooner and can course correct.

  105. Girasol*

    Absolutely this. At work I discovered that I procrastinated when I wasn’t really sure how I’d get the job done and the specter of having to confess my embarrassingly stupid questions or my failure loomed. I learned to write in my journal about tasks I was putting off to figure out just what I was so afraid of (since my fears seemed to lurk just below my awareness). The exercise tended to get me beyond that knee jerk “I’ll do this tomorrow” avoidance and get me thinking about possible solutions.

    The other thing that has helped is that now I’m retired I’m really busy with lots to do instead of being even busier with life plus work, with impossibly many things to do. It’s been the biggest surprise of retirement to find out that I’m very organized and I do the nasty tasks (grr, taxes) quite promptly. I’m not a procrastinator anymore! Maybe I never was. I begin to wonder if I was spending all my energy getting stuff done, and then when I was too worn out to do another thing, I felt guilty and lazy because my to-do list was still impossibly huge and full of stuff that had waited way too long. Maybe I just had too much to do. Do you?

  106. Lacey*

    So, I was a huge procrastinator in college and even well into my professional life.

    It may be different for others, but for me I just struggled to feel motivated if I wasn’t right up against a deadline.
    Waiting till the last minute made me more creative and energized and I loved the high of completing something against that last minute.

    And it worked for me because I was really good at knowing when the actual last minute was. I never ended up missing my deadlines. Plus, if I started projects early it seems like the work just expanded to fill the time and I often turned in worse work because I was bored, so why change?

    I didn’t set out to change, but what happened was that my job changed. Instead of a set amount of work that had to be completed by a set deadline, I had work coming in at any time and it all just needed to be done as quickly as it reasonably could. There was no more procrastination because the deadline was now.

    Plus, even if we were having a light work week, an avalanche of projects could happen at any moment, so it’s better to just get it out of the way.

    Now, I do still procrastinate sometimes, but it’s always with a purpose. For example, some project leaders have a really bad habit of assigning a project and then coming back two or three times the next day to add information to it. Rather than restart the project two or three times, I always set their projects aside for a day so I can be sure I have everything I need.

  107. Hiring Mgr*

    For me it was mainly getting older and the increasing importance of the things I was procastinating. When i was younger I could coast through school and first few years of work pretty easily so there really wasn’t a downside (that I perceived) to putting things off ’til the last minute.

    Once I got more repsonsiblity at work/managed people, had kids, etc.. there were certain things i simply didn’t have the option to push aside. I think being older, i also had a better overall handle on what truly was urgent and needed to be done ASAP so I could temporarily rise to the occasion and do it.

  108. Tara*

    I feel the need to comment on this, although I’m not completely reformed. For me a huge part of my procrastination was an anxiety disorder. The other part was ADHD. The meds for ADHD helped a little, but it wasn’t until my doctor added on an anxiety med (buspirone if you’re curious) that my procrastination went WAY down. Before I would procrastinate for literal days, and yes my job was at risk and I’m lucky I wasn’t fired. Now I’ve got it down to a couple hours, and at this point it’s just unlearning deeply ingrained habits, rather than anxiety preventing me from even starting because I don’t immediately know how to do the task perfectly. The ADHD medication only helps me STAY on task, which requires me to start to begin with. I hope this helps someone!

  109. Cheezmouser*

    I’ve always been and still am a procrastinator. I was also a high achiever in school and a top performer for over a decade in my professional life. The two are not always mutually exclusive. The tricks I use are:

    1. Know exactly how much you can procrastinate and still get it done (and done well) by the deadline. This means knowing yourself and your capabilities really well.

    2. Know which deadlines are flexible and which are not, and prioritizing accordingly. I know exactly which deadlines will come back to bite me and which I can get away with.

    3. Procrastinate productively, by which I mean use the time you’re not working on a project to work on a different project. Don’t waste your procrastination time by doing nothing or surfing YouTube. Sometimes I’ll procrastinate by clearing my inbox or updating a project plan. I’m still procrastinating but I’m doing something useful.

    4. The final (and most important) piece is to do excellent work so you’re late but worth the wait. Over the course of my career I’ve survived 6+ rounds of layoffs and averaged a promotion every 2 years because, despite missing many, many (non-critical, see #2 above) deadlines, I still deliver when it counts and I do it better than almost anyone else in my department.

  110. Work in Progress*

    For me, the source of my procrastination was pretty deep, related to co-dependency/enmeshment issues. I needed to turn my focus off others’ needs (whether that’s coworkers, system, or family needs) and take my own needs/responsibilities more seriously. Before, I lacked the ability to prioritize, set goals, and be self-disciplined. Not because I was lazy, but because I was constantly taking on responsibilities I shouldn’t have, or just even emotionally feeling of the weight of stuff that really had nothing to do with my role. Ex: feeling I needed to be wrapped up in a conversation. Urgency around everything. What helps? Therapy! Mindfulness practices help, that essentially help me put on blinders. Setting time when chat channels are off, email is closed, and I use a productivity software to monitor myself.
    You may not relate to this of course!

  111. moona*

    I’m a recovered serious procrastinator (mostly, but I do still have my moments). Repeating what has been said above, for me the biggest shift in my behaviour came from making inroads in addressing my anxiety (mixture of therapy, and some very useful books), decoupling my self-image from my work, and demonstrating to myself how miserable procrastinating makes me. A few specific things that helped me:
    -every day I have to do three of : things that I don’t want to do, or stop doing things I do want to do (these things can by tiny – putting my coffee cup in the dishwasher rather than leaving it on my desk). this was a suggestion in a book I read for people who grew up with poor impulse control (specifically due to certain aspects of my childhood)
    -if I don’t want to do something at work, just start it (and concentrate properly). If I get 15 minutes in and still don’t want to do it, I can stop
    -when I do something I’ve been avoiding, take a moment to think about how it feels to complete, and how I felt while I was doing it
    -during the pandemic, committing to do something immediately after work hours (go for a run, cook dinner, meet friends for a walk, etc). This gives me a hard deadline at the end of the day, but I think more importantly, it highlights to me that there is much more to life than work, and so helps me keep work in perspective.
    -believing that I can change this about myself (this came from a cognitive behaviorable therapy book – I don’t quite remember the details, but people who believe that we can change are more likely to be able to change their habits, compared to people who think our personalities are set in stone). This one took me a while (years!) to really absorb, but I did get there.

    Good luck! You can do this – and in my experience it was totally worth the effort. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like you’re succeeding, it probably took me at least 5 years and several periods of concerted effort to really make serious inroads on this.

  112. Ally McBeal*

    A couple mental re-framings that have helped me:
    –“20 seconds of courage” – I learned this, oddly enough, from a fitness group I’m part of. If you’re anxious about getting started on a task, pick one small part of the task (even if it’s just looking up the phone number of the doctor you need to make an appointment with) and gin up the courage to spend 20 seconds on it. This is also similar to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s “you can do anything for 10 seconds at a time!” line.

    –Use procrastination in your favor – if you’re procrastinating on making a phone call (let’s keep using the “call a doctor” example), procrastinate on actually calling by drafting what you need to say when you actually call. I literally pull up the Notepad app on my computer or my phone’s Notes app. Rehearsing what you need to communicate takes a lot of the anxiety out of the equation and makes it easier to gin up another 20 seconds of courage to actually make the phone call.

    –This one might not be as helpful, but I went into a field (journalism) that is built entirely around deadlines. I didn’t do this intentionally because I’m a procrastinator, but it was a very good decision. My bosses, I’m sure, are very tired of following up on every “please do X” email with “what’s the deadline?” but I would never get anything done if I didn’t have deadlines looming.

    1. Lizzo*

      I saw an interview with Mel Robbins (part of the To Dine For series, if anyone is interested) in which she talked about her five second rule, which she has written a book about. Count down backwards starting with 5, like you’re about to launch a rocket ship, and then launch yourself. That’s an oversimplification of it, but she said it was a reframing that helped her get through the hardest days. I believe she also has a TED Talk, but I don’t know the content.

  113. hi hi*

    My procrastination stopped when I get treatment for my mental health disorder. Once the medicine and treatment plan really kicked in, it was way easier to stay on task and organized. There’s sometimes an underlying reason for chronic procrastination – just something to consider.

  114. Lizzo*

    One word: therapy. This is where I spent time trying to figure out why I was putting off doing certain things.

    Some of it was complicated: I’m afraid of failing. I don’t know what I’m doing and afraid to admit it. I don’t know where to start. I feel overwhelmed. Doing this requires difficult conversations.

    Other things were less complicated, but just as important: The task isn’t fun. I don’t see the point of it. I don’t feel inspired (to be creative). I’d rather be doing something else. Or, procrastinating = big adrenaline rush right before the deadline = better for my creativity.

    If you can pinpoint the “why” behind the procrastination, you can start to look at solutions that will help address that specific thing.

  115. birb*

    ADHD / Neurodivergent tik tok has TONS of coping methods and tools for these kinds of struggles! It has helped me tremendously. So has letting go of what I think productivity looks like, and what I think a productive work space / home looks like. Letting go of those societal standards has made a huge positive impact. My space is designed for my needs and with my ADHD / executive dysfunction in mind.

    I’ve also learned a lot about the chemicals / brain processes involved in motivation, and what things to do to get those chemicals going, and I have tried to reframe tasks as things I am doing for future me. When I’ve put something off, I mentally chastise “past me” for the decisions that led me there. When I have a stress free day because I planned ahead and did unpleasant things instead of putting them off, I thank my “past self” for doing that for me. I’ve given myself a lot of grace and have let go of the guilt and bad feelings and am trying to find the right balance without over-committing. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to say “I can’t do this right now, there is no dopamine in my brain” and step away.

  116. amcb13*

    As a teacher, I’ve seen a pretty wide range of procrastinator subtypes, so first I just want to name that what works for one will not work for all (and therefore–don’t be discouraged that the advice you’ve encountered thus far hasn’t worked for you.)

    I’ve also found, personally, that I need to change up my approach every so often, because any given tactic tends to lose effectiveness for me over time. (I can cycle through them though.) Various to-do list formats (apps, bullet journals, random pieces of paper) usually factor in, as does my planner (almost always on paper, at least during the school year when my day is divided into periods, although I tend to use my phone’s calender and reminders in the summer). I also find that different ways of talking myself into getting started (can’t do X till I do Y, just do it for 5/10/20 minutes and you can stop if you want, do ONE step of ONE thing and at least you’ll be one step ahead of where you were) all make their way through the rotation.

    For me, I think what has actually helped me to improve over time has been finding new ways of understanding what procrastination means for me. I heard someone describe procrastination as valuing your current self over your future self, which for me is often an effective way of framing it (I’m going to do this now as a gift to my future self)–but again, I’ve had plenty of students whose current selves would LOVE to be doing the work but they are experiencing other barriers, so YMMV. I also think about the times when my procrastination blew up in my face and try to recall the visceral feelings–how did it feel in my body when I was caught without the thing I was supposed to have? How did I feel physically the day after I had to pull that all-nighter? Getting it out of my head and into my body often gives me the zap I need to get on with things.

    Also–I’ve worked really hard on setting boundaries (“I want to leave work prepped for the following day without taking anything home,” or “I’m going to do grading for three hours on Sunday while my partner watches a game but that’s it” and then working backwards from those boundaries. If I’m really struggling to work, I have a little negotiation with myself about whether I’m feeling distracted/tired/whatever enough to give up a boundary. Sometimes I am! But naming those boundaries makes it easier for me to do what I need to do to meet them.

    Sort of embedded in the above is also just me getting better at gauging whether I’m genuinely better off waiting for later. Sometimes my brain just isn’t up for a certain task. When I feel that, I now spend less time than I used to trying to push through, and instead try to figure out a) when can I legitimately reschedule this task for and b) if my schedule is really tight, what can I accomplish with my brain in whatever state it’s currently in so that I’ll have space for the rescheduled task at another time.

    Clearly, it’s not an easy or linear process. But I’m in way better shape with my procrastination now than I was ten years ago, and ten years ago was better than twenty years ago.

    1. LC*

      Depends wildly on where you are and what kind of access you have health care, but a kind of general process is
      1) talk to your primary care person or therapist if you have one
      2) don’t be discouraged if they don’t believe you or don’t take you seriously (this is actually step infinity, it has to be part of every other step)
      3) get a referral to someone like a psychiatrist, usually someone who can diagnose and prescribe medication, and in an ideal world, someone who specifically works with or specializes in adults with ADHD
      4) wait however long it takes to actually get the appointment
      5) go to anything from 1 to 5 (ish) appointments with that person
      6) they give you a diagnosis
      7 – infinity ) figure out how to get treatment

      Of course, there’s also steps -2, -1, and 0: be somewhere that this kind of care exists, be somewhere that you personally can access this kind of care, have enough money and time to do so.

  117. Green Beans*

    I used to be a procrastinator, in school and college and to a certain extent in my early career. It slowly got better over time, and now I joke about needing to procrastinate to write but it’s honestly more needing to process information and ruminate (and my productive writing hours are in the afternoon, not the morning, so I’m just not likely to start my day off writing.)

    A big thing for me was realizing exactly how much I hated rushing something at the last minute. It makes me stressed and unhappy and puts me in a bad mood, even though yes it is absolutely super motivating. And once I truly identified that – that it was actually a deeply unpleasant experience for me – I started doing small things to prevent it and eventually they added up to a completely different work flow. And each small thing meant that deadlines were slightly less stressful, so there were real rewards along the way.

    They’re still adding up! Last year I got so much better about being about to look at my workload & calendar and predict the stressful/busy times and what they would look like, which lead to me more efficiently getting other things off my plate beforehand and identifying helpful prep work. Now my crunch times are less, er, crunchy.

    Some people really thrive on and enjoy the last minute adrenaline rush of “will this get done???” and if that’s the case, I’d say look for a career where that’s a rewarding feature, not a bug.

  118. Lizianna*

    I’m a chronic procrastinator.

    I’ve been able to remain functional at work by creating a lot of structure and minimizing distractions, but I think the other reason I’ve been able to be successful is that I found a job where some minor procrastination wouldn’t torpedo me. I tend to put work off, then complete it in a burst of energy. That would not work in a lot of jobs, but I found one where it did. So I think it’s a combination of finding tools that work for you, but also finding a job that allows you to work at a pace that makes sense for your workstyle.

  119. Owlgal*

    I’m a fairly productive person and outwardly I appear to have it together, but I have certain things that I just have a sort of mental block about that I invariably procrastinate on. A HUGE help to me was in identifying that these tasks give me anxiety. They somehow causes me stress, even though I cannot really articulate why. I’m 47 and I had really never thought about these things until recently. So, let me tell you about the epiphany I had recently. I cosigned a student loan for my son a few years ago. He’s in the repayment period but recently has had some financial difficulties and has fallen a month or so behind on his payment. The student loan company has been calling us both. I always reject the calls, because I have no intention of paying and it causes me anxiety. Meanwhile, my son, simply answers the calls and forthrightly tells them that he won’t have the money for another few weeks. No stress. No anxiety. Just the truth. He told me about his response and I was gobsmacked. What!? You could just answer the call and not be anxious and tell them you weren’t paying?! — and you didn’t have to feel bad about it or be anxious?! It was then that I DECIDED that some of the stress responses that I had internalized and that had made me procrastinate on completing tasks were actually chosen responses. I could choose to view these activities as just being normal, everyday things that weren’t stressful. I had never considered that before — so now, I just choose not to be anxious about things. I cancel and reschedule my own doctors appointments. I return phone calls and tell people “no”. I ask for information that I lack, instead of feeling anxious (or maybe shame) about not knowing and try to muddle through (or, simply let the task sit). I’m forty-seven years old. 47. I am a bonified middle-aged adult with a Master’s degree and a professional job history that is fairly impressive. I just let all those negative stressed feelings go. Just told myself that normal people get to do these things without a hint of anxiety, shame, or stress. It’s kind of awesome. And I’m so much more productive and so much more content being me.(And, yes, I realize that this armor of seeming perfection and inability to ask for help was instilled in me from a young age by a father who demanded to know why I got an A- instead of an A+ on my report card; it just surprises me that it still affects me so much in such surprising ways.)

  120. cleo*

    I still struggle with it, but it’s less of a burden. I haven’t seen anyone else mention PTSD, but for me healing from childhood trauma and learning to manage my PTSD and anxiety better have made a huge difference.

    I’ve been in therapy on and off for 30 years and it wasn’t until maybe 4 years ago, working with a trauma informed therapist, that I started to realize that my procrastination isn’t a problem of will power, it’s a coping mechanism I developed in response to childhood trauma.

    In my case, procrastinating on assignments and chores gave me a sense of control over myself and my time that I didn’t have anywhere else. And escaping into my own fantasy world helped me to get through my teenage years. The challenge that I’m working on in therapy is updating wounded child Cleo – writing a challenging email to a client or solving a problem at work may feel overwhelming and scary, but it’s not actually the same type of overwhelming and scary event that I experienced as a kid.

    As others have mentioned, I cycle through a lot of different approaches – Pomodoro, very obvious deadlines, jobs with the right mix of flexibility and structure for my nervous system to feel comfortable, breaking down a task into very small steps, mindfulness – to name a few. I also know that if I am doing something that feels hard, that I think will trigger a procrastination response, that it’s important to resource myself and do the things that will help me feel secure and grounded (morning stretches, walk outside, eating well, time with loved ones, etc)

  121. WantonSeedStitch*

    I find that a lot of the time when I procrastinate, it’s because I know there are other steps I need to take before I can really do the thing I want to cross off my list, even when the thing itself isn’t that big. For example: setting up my virtual baby shower (as simple as creating a Zoom meeting) meant I had to finish my registry. Finishing my registry meant I had to research various items of baby-stuff to figure out what exactly I wanted. That meant I had to make a list of the items I needed to research–bassinet, bottles, stroller, car seat, etc. That kind of thing. I find that if I figure out the small steps I need to take to finish the big thing, and then tackle those things one at a time, it helps me. Having those things listed out in front of me is vital to this, because if I don’t list them individually, they still glom into one big doom cloud hanging over my head. So “ARGH, I need to set up that damned shower Zoom” becomes:
    1. List items needed for baby sleep, baby travel, and baby feeding.
    2. Research big ticket or high importance items in each category and choose options for the registry
    3. Add items to registry that don’t need extensive research.
    4. When registry is finished, set up Zoom meeting for shower.
    5. E-mail guest list with invitation and instructions for joining the Zoom.

    Once each item is checked off the list, the next item is a much smaller jump than going from nothing to done.

  122. Trawna*

    Food Allergies & Sensitivities. They were totally sapping my energy and motivation, because my brain and body just weren’t functioning well. Think putting diesel into car with a gas engine. The tank is full, but the car isn’t going far. Once the bad foods and the optimal foods were identified my energy and motivation improved rapidly and has been sustained.

    Good luck, LW!

  123. RB*

    I think it’s totally doable but you have to get to the point where you’re tired of always turning projects in at the last minute or always being a few minutes late getting places. I finally realized it was more relaxing and enjoyable to just leave earlier and have an extra minute or two, so that I could think about other things and not be focused on how late I’m going to be. Or, for work projects, by starting them earlier, it gave me time to take breaks and do other things while I was working on them, since I wasn’t so worried about it being late. Working from home, that really helps — I can go out for coffee or a walk because I know I’m going to meet my deadline. And I’m a pretty bad procrastinator.

    1. GlowCloud*

      I set my alarm clock and watch 5 minutes fast (10 minutes fast for my car dashboard clock) as the easiest way for me to not be late to things.

  124. KC/DC*

    For me, it got to a point where not doing something right away (or at the time I’d set aside for it) was more stressful than just doing it. It would hang over my head and make me anxious, so for me doing the Dreaded Task finally became preferable to that antsy feeling.

  125. Mid*

    Like many, many other commentors, I got better (not amazing yet, but better) when I started getting treated for ADHD and adjusted my anti-depressants.

    I needed a lot of self reflection about why I was procrastinating, sometimes it was anxiety about doing something poorly (so if I did it in a rush last minute, it was okay if it was poorly done), sometimes it was not having enough executive functioning left to start another task. Sometimes it was just something that I knew was going to be unpleasant to do and so I avoided it.

    To counter these different issues, I needed different strategies. Unpleasant tasks mean I bribe myself with a reward after doing it (buying a new game, getting takeout, etc.) Worries about doing it poorly meant working on my thinking about what was good/bad, and working on doing things sooner so I could get feedback before deadlines. Lack of executive functioning ability meant working with my therapist and finding out how to work around that hurdle (I usually start with an easy task, and then ramp up the difficulty throughout the day, and then decrease importance as the day goes on.)

  126. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    I think a lot of this is so context dependent – like in jobs that are very active and task based, or where you are constantly being supervised or doing hands on work with a team, it’s much harder to procrastinate. When I was in retail, I worried that if I transitioned into an office job with much less direct supervision that I wouldn’t be able to keep myself on task and would put off much of my work (as had been my pattern in school).

    However, I’ve managed to find a few strategies that work for me, in my specific job, to avoid falling into the procrastination hole. For context, I’m in an admin/operations position and work largely on my own, with team members who are mostly remote.
    Here’s what I do:

    -Write down EVERYTHING I need to do, no matter how small, into an Evernote to do list (gotta choose the format that has little boxes you can check)
    -At the beginning of every day, go through my inbox and make sure every single task I need to do (even sometimes as small as replying to an email) is entered into my list. I add to this throughout the day as more things come in
    -Check off everything in Evernote as I do it and enjoy the sense of accomplishment from checking little boxes
    -If I’m REALLY wavering off task, I’ll “micromanage” myself – I will literally make myself a schedule that is broken down into 15 minute increments (with breaks and buffers built in) that dictates when I work on things. Obviously this wouldn’t work for every job, and on days that I’m really busy, I don’t have time to do it, but it works really well for the days when I do have some down time where I need to figure out how to use it effectively.

    I also add personal reminders to the end of my daily to do list (just copied and pasted from the day before) so that every single day I am looking at a reminder to meal plan or pay my bill or whatever, and then once I stop procrastinating I get to delete it.

  127. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

    I do NOT have ADHD. In fact, I’m pretty much the opposite: I’m extremely organized, never miss deadlines, I remember everything everyone says to me, I’m super neurotic and controlling about my work environment. However! I am a SUPER procrastinator. This works out for me because I work exceedingly well under pressure.

    But, I kind of hate it. Most times I wish I could just get stuff done and out of the way. But I also hate forcing myself to do something when I’m just not “feeling it.” So I came to a compromise with myself: For every assignment or goal that comes my way, I’ll decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not I’m going to procrastinate on it.

    I don’t have a magic spell for making this happen. You just have to decide to do it. That’s hard. Give yourself the leeway to fail at it a few times. But once you start doing it it’ll get easier and easier. The Pomodoro method worked well for me in the beginning. I don’t use it anymore because I don’t feel like I need it, but having that little bit of structure helped set the pace and tone for what I was trying to accomplish.

  128. LC*

    I seriously want to give everyone in this comment section a hug right now.

    There are way too many things that are brilliant and resonant and helpful and validating, and I want to respond to them all but a) no one likes when people spam all over the place and b) I realllly ought to be working right now, but this is so much more interesting and fulfilling.

    OP, if I could condense it down to one suggestion, it’s this. Be open to all of the tips and tricks, but be okay with some/many of them not working for you. There’s something to learn from all of them, even the ones that won’t help you at all, learning what doesn’t work can be just as helpful as learning what does! It’s all about what works for you and your brain, so yeah. Hear what other people are saying, try out what makes sense, and give yourself some grace if the thing that seems to work for everyone else doesn’t work for you.

  129. Dawn*

    I struggle with procrastination. To help, I have started using daily to-do lists, especially when I worry I might get sucked into less-than-productive exercises in procrastination. It tends to keep me focused so that it’s harder to say things like, “Another 15 minutes of reading articles on the Internet won’t mean I won’t get this done,” if I can see from my list that I have four more things to accomplish and it’s already 2 o’clock. It also helps me make big tasks more manageable to break them down into a to-do list, since the process of organizing or starting on a big project can feel overwhelming and encourage procrastination. (I also honestly like the little reward of checking things off lists!) To-do lists have certainly helped me do better with staying focused.

  130. Skootaloo*

    My “procrastination” that I’ve been hounded for by authority figures for my entire life turned out to be a wonderful combination of ADHD executive dysfunction and CPTSD freeze trauma response. When I get overwhelmed, I just can’t do things, which is something that I’ve had to just accept and stop beating myself up for. I still haven’t figured out the right treatment to make accomplishing tasks easier but I HAVE stopped punishing myself as harshly for struggling which has been a major improvement to my quality of life.

  131. KP*

    I’m turning into less of a procrastinator, very recently. You see, I was diagnosed last month with ADHD. I’m 39

    If you want to be less of a procrastinator but you find you physically cannot …I can tell you that getting assessed by a professional has helped me tremendously. It’s amazing the things you can get done when you 1) don’t get stuck on the start 2) don’t get distracted half-way through the task

  132. Oxford Comma*

    Lifelong procrastinator here. It’s a lifelong struggle. Over the years I’ve come to realize that part of this is being a perfectionist and part of it is a lifelong case of impostor syndrome. I wait till the last minute because if I do it on time and I fail, then it’s on me.

    Some solutions have been trying to chunk out tasks or using the Pomodoro Method. But it’s something I struggle with daily.

  133. Teatime*

    I just happened to take a workshop on procrastination last month (which I used to procrastinate doing work tasks because why do anything half way?) and the presenter said there were 5 reasons for procrastinating: Self doubt, perfectionism, interpersonal rebellion, waiting for motivation, and values conflict. The three that clicked with me were perfectionism, interpersonal rebellion and values conflict– which made me realize that I tend to view tasks along a spectrum: If something is deeply important to me I procrastinate on it because I need it to be perfect, and if something has no value to me (because it’s being assigned by someone I don’t respect, or I don’t see the value in it– aka all of high school) I put it off because I see it as a waste of my time.

    So, realizing this, my newest strategy is to try and mentally nudge tasks into the middle of that spectrum. For instance, I was able to bang out a 5 page COVID safety protocol off the top of my head in under three hours (something that would normally be important enough for me to lock up over) by telling myself it just needed to be good enough to be a framework, and that other folks would take a pass as well and edit it as necessary. (Even if the final document is pretty much unchanged from that ‘imperfect’ first draft.)

    The other thing I’ve realized during the pandemic is the role of comfort in my ability to accomplish things. At work, I am frequently uncomfortable, freezing, and distracted as people pop into my office. I now try to save all thinking/bigger tasks to my work from home days (alas, only two a week) because at home I can eliminate most discomfort and am not distracted by aches, pains, chills, or friendly coworkers and can just sit down and write! Alas, this is something that is hardest to convince my employers of.

  134. Parakeet*

    I see that many others have already brought up ADHD and/or autism (both of which apply to me) and OCD. I know that neuropsychological evaluations can be hard to access (I’m so thankful that my health insurance covered about 90% of the cost of mine and that having decent PTO meant that I could take a sick day in order to do a full-day evaluation), and also that I was able to find a reputable place that did adult evaluations. But it can be so very worth it to get, essentially, a user manual for your brain.

    Another thing is that the type of work can make a difference. I discovered, even pre-diagnosis, that I’m much less likely to procrastinate if I’m working on something that can be neatly divided into smaller concrete tasks (which I can even write into my schedule as different items for different times). With tasks that don’t divide up so neatly, I’m much less likely to procrastinate on research-type tasks (as opposed to ones where I’m writing or coding or cold-calling). The specifics may vary for you, but knowing this kind of thing about yourself can be helpful for both choosing jobs, and planning your workflows at any given job.

  135. Jopunzi*

    I used to be a terrible procrastinator up to my early 30s. To the point where I was unable to put a book down to perform any chore, it did kind of cost me a carreer. (Happier where I am now, but still).

    What helped me was when I found out that my procrastination drive had a slight delay; it wouldn’t kick in the second I thought „I have to do X“, but a minute or two later. So if I did X RIGHT AWAY when I thought about it, I could do it before I started to kick myself for not doing it, and starting the procrastination/ avoidance spiral.

    I am now basically cured and am in fact extremely efficient for most things. Still procrastinating on phone calls but that’s my social anxiety… sometimes I can do them right away, at other times, not.

  136. Autumn leaves*

    Adderall. As an adult I have been diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. I know I’ve had it my whole life but because it’s the inattentive kind, nothing was done. Adderall has made my life so much better. I can do the stupid stuff I procrastinated on and it calms me down

  137. Siege*

    I also have ADHD, and don’t want to be medicated for it at this time. Techniques I use, which are not foolproof but do help:
    1. Acknowledge that I don’t want to do the thing. Sometimes, just naming it helps.
    2. Do half the thing – ie, it’s better to brush your teeth for 30 seconds than to not brush them because you can’t do 2 minutes of brushing. Additionally, sometimes the success of brushing your teeth for 30 seconds gives you enough dopamine to get to the next 30 seconds. I do a lot of editing for my job, and sometimes editing half a page gives me the oomph to get all the way through – and if not, there’s less to do tomorrow.
    3. Work through “What is the worst thing that can happen?” about doing or not doing something.
    4. Pair work. Several other members of my team are neurodiverse, and we’re building a culture of just being on a Zoom together silently to get through something one of us doesn’t want to do.
    5. To-do lists. I now use a physical planner with a yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily layout. I cobbled it together from Etsy, so it doesn’t flow as well as I like, and I mostly use the daily layout, but building in structured time to maintain the list is helpful, and so is seeing the list of items checked off. It also helps because I need to be an intense note-taker to remember to do anything, so I have other sections for just notes and for project check lists. I maintain the same daily list on my phone as well, so double dopamine for crossing things off twice! I spend time (<10 minutes) at the start of the day and the end of the day maintaining the planner. The levels of detail are decreasing, as well – the yearly, for example, is just indicating when I'm going to be deep into some specific time-of-year projects; the monthly is regular projects and unusual projects (ie, I don't include the standing weekly meeting with the tax code team but do include newsletter send dates and our monthly staff meeting, which triggers several things on my to-do list). I don't use an hourly layout for the daily, but rather a task-based layout, because I don't stick to hourly schedules at all.
    6. Spend money. Sometimes, the solution to a problem in life is to buy the solution. I rarely have the capacity to prep veggies before they rot, but I can buy a veggie tray that's precut and prewashed and put that into a container. I COULD make a daily layout, bullet-journal style, but I can also buy the layout I want from Etsy and print it.
    7. Tell my boss. She is a very receptive brick wall who will listen and sympathise but not engage in long-term solutions very often, but if I tell her when I realize something's slipping that it is slipping, that helps. Doing things to be not ashamed of being behind is very powerful, and it's nearly impossible to be ashamed of a problem you've told someone you're having.
    8. Break down tasks. Break them down lavishly! Make them tiny! Get that dopamine! Right now, under "Work" on my to-do, I have "Newsletter", and under that "County article" and under that "Photo" and now I can take photo off because I haven't put the county article into the newsletter file, but I DID talk to the guy who would have the photo! If I just put "newsletter" I would never get it done, it's too big.
    9. Acknowledge that a lot of behaviours like procrastination and being late are about control over your environment and see if you can work out and change whatever it is you feel out of control of.

    Things I do not do:
    1. If I do X I get Y; rewards don't work, because I just go take the reward and not do the thing.
    2. THIS THING will revolutionize my life! No it won't, you just have new-object joy.
    3. Berate myself for failing. That is not going to help at all.

  138. Anon today*

    Procrastinator (and chronically late) by birth and don’t have any ADHD type issues (nor do I suspect that is my issue). For me, it’s all about creating routines and life hacks to set yourself up for success. At work, I keep detailed to-do lists (also helps with any forgetfulness) and map out all my projects working backwards from a deadline and keep the timeline generous, then I add that to a calendar, blocking out pockets of time to do different things. I do this to get anywhere on time as well, mapping out everything I need to do in a day to get somewhere on time, and have drastically improved. I use a lot of executive function recommendations to address why I don’t get started on tasks or why I procrastinate – so hard tasks are scheduled when I’m the most productive and I create bite-sized tasks to get myself started. Deadlines are a must. Last year I had a non-priority project with a squishy deadline that never even got started. All year! In my personal day to day life, I use rewards. Ex. I am required to wash my dirty dishes every morning before I can make myself a coffee. I also am more realistic with myself and only have one or two household tasks a day, but if I get started and am on a roll, I go with it. And sometimes I have no energy (def a procrastination driver) and can prioritize putting something off. Like how important is it that I sweep just for myself now versus wait till the weekend? Unfortunately, I also keep a to-do list that I’ll procrastinate on for years or forever… like a box full of junk that I’ve carried to three apartments over 10 years and could probably dump in a landfill and live a happier life. No solution there, the barrier is just so much higher to do something off this list, it’s more of a mental block here. Best of luck!

    1. Anon today*

      Also wanted to add that sometimes I’ve done a task from the “do it never” list and it takes forever or is super challenging and requires a ton of steps and has several roadblocks. When this happens, I’m less likely to try another to-do from that list for awhile and use it to justify why I don’t like doing those things.

  139. serial procrastinator*

    I used to procrastinate all the time! By the time I finished college, I realized that in order to procrastinate less I could:
    – Anticipate how long something might take and plan accordingly, including time to get distracted.
    – Break down my tasks into smaller pieces, and assign myself specific times to work on those tasks

    I also realized that when I found something interesting or valuable to work on, it was a lot easier to focus on rather than getting distracted. I also find it enormously valuable when I’m able to set up smaller intermediate deadlines so that I can better focus on the smaller chunks of work, and be held accountable by others if possible (even if it’s just saying out loud that I’ll have xyz done by abc!)

  140. Former Retail Manager*

    While I wouldn’t call myself reformed, I’d say I’m in recovery, but I’ve never been underachieving. In fact, I’m the opposite and my procrastination has never had a negative impact on anyone but me.

    I can tell you that improvement is possible, but you have to actually want it badly enough to make changes. Some people thrive on that “procrastinator energy” and are just fine being that way their whole life. I assume this isn’t you.

    For me, the procrastination stems from anxiety…I put off that which makes me anxious for one reason or another. Usually there is a negative component to that anxiety such a dealing with a difficult individual or situation, writing a bad review of someone’s work, or just not wanting to tackle a task with many tentacles that I know will be difficult/challenging. My solution came down to two things, 1) reframing my thinking to realize that putting if off until later isn’t going to accomplish anything…..whatever “relief” I achieved by not facing the task/problem now will be “eaten up” by the procrastination stress that is induced by waiting, and 2) making a very detailed to-do list every day, no matter what. Seeing the words on the paper, and the task broken down into many different “mini tasks” and being able to check them off as I complete them, is very motivational for me.

    Also, I can tell you that, for me, there was an age component to this. I am 40. The older I have gotten, the less energy I have, and the less ability to work crazy hours or pull all-nighters to accomplish several days worth of work at the last minute. It now takes me a week sometimes to recover from working a really crazy schedule and while I’m recovering, I’m not very pleasant, and my family doesn’t enjoy being around me either, so that was also a factor for me. Basically, it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

  141. lunchtime caller*

    Reporting in from the reformed procrastinator who does not have ADHD corner, who once wrote a 20 page final paper from scratch in a wild all-nighter: lots of little things added up, and also like all new habits or skills, it gets easier with time. I will never be a “does the work right away” person, but I regularly get seen as a go-to person who is very reliable.

    For me, the first part was having a reason to care and be accountable. School? Grades printed on a piece of paper? I do not care and will accept the “sure good enough I guess” passing grade. But having people relying on me? Absolutely more motivation.

    The second is accepting that I will put things off to the last minute and actually making real calculations on when that is, so when that time comes, my brain goes OMG it’s the LAST MINUTE!! And gets moving. So that means learning exactly how long things take me, and planning my deadlines so that I have that time clear ahead of it, and then otherwise just doing other stuff until then without the whole guilty production of “trying to start and failing”! And luckily in the adult world you can set more of your own deadlines (usually), or if you’re going to be a couple hours behind on something and you can forecast that with a bit of warning, people are usually willing to give you the wiggle room if you deliver good work. (And delivering good work is ESPECIALLY key)

    And then the last part is knowing the stakes on things and being able to prioritize, so that it’s fine if you forgot to run that errand again or are a little bit late to a meeting with a friend because you left doing your makeup until the last second, but the work stuff gets done. And part of that is also keeping myself in peak “working” condition as much as I can–I’ve learned I can pull off great last minute saves if I’ve been eating and sleeping a healthy amount, but not if I’m a shriveled husk, so taking care of myself is a big priority. I believe in you!!

  142. Squirrels Run My Brain*

    So I realize I’m far from the only one saying this, but the only thing that “cured” my serious procrastination problem (like, serious disciplinary intervention at more than one job serious) was ADHD medication. I tried every productivity hack and time management system and every other thing out there and didn’t even consider ADHD until my late 30s – I was one of those “she’s really bright, she’s just disorganized/doesn’t work hard” kids and I kind of just assumed I procrastinated to the point of jeopardizing my academic and then career success because I was a bad/lazy person. Turns out, my brain is just a little bit broken and needs prescription assistance to function the way it’s “supposed” to in an office-based capitalist society.

    Within ten days of starting meds I’d cleared four months of work backlog I’d been dreading and unable to drag myself through and had successfully integrated a side hustle into my life (absolutely unthinkable before). I take a low dose med every work day now and actually get through all of the things I need to do without issue. I cannot believe I spent like 30+ years shaming myself for the “moral failing” of procrastination when what I actually needed was medicine.

  143. LBC*

    I used to be an awful procrastinator, and I think what turned it around was literally running out of ‘later’. Like there is no later now because I have small children. Do not recommend having children to be more productive, I do not believe this works for everyone lol

  144. drpuma*

    I am a mostly-reformed procrastinator and late person. No ADHD – if anything, my executive function is unusually awesome (at this point it’s practically the foundation of my career). Here’s what helped me:
    – Self-education about habits, motivation, and productivity. Key books were Gretchen Ruben’s Four Tendencies and Never Be Late Again. Once I had enough self-knowledge on what was behind my procrastinating I was also armed with more tricks to fight it.
    – LOTS of trial and error and willingness to mix things up. The pomodoro method was great for me when I Marie Kondo’d my apartment but I don’t need to use it at work for example. I’ll go through periods of time where one tactic works, then need to switch my approach.
    – Acknowledge to yourself when procrastination doesn’t actually matter and just don’t worry about it. Maybe controversial! By my own choice, I’ve never spent long at a job where my boss was super attentive to my exact arrival time (these have been the minority). Especially at home, sometimes I procrastinate on things that really only affect me. And sometimes I get burned or frustrated by losing the time or what I missed out on, but sometimes I don’t. You can never go wrong if you start with being honest with yourself. I don’t think procrastination gets better with age so much as us folks who aren’t procrastinating bc of other neurological issues get better at understanding when it really matters and knowing how to offset the downsides.

    1. betsyohs*

      I was coming to say that Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies helped me a bunch, too. Once you figure out your tendency, she has lots of interesting information about what strategies might work for you to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

  145. catsforbrains*

    I’ve skimmed the comments and I hope I’m adding something different and valuable, but worry I may be adding more of the same. I’m a former procrastinator and depressive. For me, procrastination was related to not being able to remember deadlines and not feeling like I had the information/agency to complete difficult tasks. Depression makes everything feel equally colossally important and intertwined, and figuring out how to untangle it was a big step in my professional life.

    I never actually stopped putting things off, to be honest. I just got clearer about what’s blocking me from getting things done and got better about prioritizing things that were actually important. (Although sometimes I write procrastinate by writing a long comment, like this. As a treat.) I would still describe my core work loop as cycling through tasks until I reach one I feel like I have the focus to do quickly.

    Here’s some stuff that’s helped me:
    – Write down everything you have to do. (I use Todoist, or scraps of paper littered on and around my desk) That way nothing falls away and you’ve got more stuff to cycle through.
    – If there’s some small step you can take towards getting it done, do it. You don’t have to do the whole thing at once. For example, if I have to make a bunch of phone calls I’m dreading, I look up the phone numbers for each call and write them down next to the task, so just getting it over with will be a little easier later one.
    – For everything you’re cycling through, think about what happens if you don’t get it done. This can break the thing where everything feels equally important – not filling out health insurance paperwork will definitely have bigger consequences than not hanging up a painting.
    – I know I have a habit of going all or nothing when it comes to work, and feeling like if I can’t finish everything then there’s no point starting anything. It feels smug to say, but if you can make peace with having stuff on your list at the end of the day it gets easier to take action.

  146. PT*

    I’ve found that you often spend more time and energy dreading the thing you’re avoiding doing, than it takes to do it. So I usually just suck it up and do it.

    If it’s something that’s optional- like say, dealing with the six boxes in the guest room from our move 2 years ago that are full of random stuff that you don’t know where to put it and that’s why it’s in those boxes- where there’s no pressing reason to do it, because the boxes can just stay there, it doesn’t actually matter, you have to wait until you get into a good solid “I need to do SOMETHING I feel restless!” mood and then tackle it then.

  147. raida7*

    The things that work best for me are being organised and held accountable.
    So having a team stand-up every other day to run through what’s on for the day helps, having those tasks have deadlines associated with them helps, having To Do lists that are achievable helps.

    But I can still sit at my computer with literally one task to do today and not do it

  148. Happy*

    I spent decades suffering the effects of my procrastination before I finally realized I had the power to stop doing it. I focus on the benefits of getting things done early and the drawbacks of procrastinating and now I’m much happier.

  149. Scott D*

    Yes, you absolutely can. Break your work into small chunks. Rather than say “I’m going to sit here for 8 hours and work on this report” say “I’m going to spend 10 minutes finding a cool graphic for the front page,” then take a minute break, then say “I’m going to spend 30 minutes drawing a nice chart,” then take a five minute break, etc.

  150. A is for apple*

    I’ve had *serious* procrastination problems in the past, and I could write a book about it and echo a lot of the above comments. But things seems to come together when I do one thing: EXERCISE. When I exercise (raise my heart rate for at least 30 minutes 4 times a week or more) I get my act together professionally and personally. When I don’t…. things go sideways.

    So I make that a priority in my life.

  151. Cedrus Libani*

    As a semi-reformed procrastinator, I will say this: figure out a system that works for you, and then keep working the system. There is no cure. There is only yourself.

    This feels like an admission of defeat. I get it. But you have to get over it, because to a first approximation, you are what you are and that’s not going to change. Maybe you need to block social media on your phone. Maybe you can’t keep candy in the house. Maybe you can’t have “just one drink”. If that’s you, and you KNOW that’s you…yes, in a perfect world, you’d snap your fingers and outgrow the problem, but in the meantime…then the wisest route is to accept what you are, and figure out what you need to do in order to stay out of trouble.

    For example, I know this for a straight-up fact: I can plan an intelligent course of action that maximizes my long term utility, or I can actually make myself perform said actions, but I don’t have enough executive function to do both at once. So I switch to Boss Mode, figure out what Minion Mode Cedrus needs to do at some point in the indefinite future, and then go have some tea or whatever. Then I come back as Minion Cedrus, whereupon I find that The Boss has written down a plan. Not my job to question the plan, I’m just here to obey orders, so I sit down and get to work.

    Allegedly, there are people who can wake up without a plan and cheerfully go about their day, while at every step making the very best decisions that will make their long term future as bright as it can possibly be. I know, from an embarrassingly large body of evidence collected over many decades, that I am NOT THIS PERSON. I need a system.

  152. PB Bunny Watson*

    I would argue that not all procrastination is created equal. Are you meeting deadlines? Is your work suffering? Some people need weeks while others do better under a time crunch of days. If your work isn’t suffering, then I would look at how you feel. Is it that you are stressed out by how you produce work? Or is it more a feeling that you “should” work a certain way? I’ll be honest, my procrastination was less of the problem—it was the anxiety I felt because I was being “bad.” Now that I have a better understanding of how I work best, it’s easier for me to determine what benefits from the adrenaline of crunch time vs. what really does need me to take a prolonged amount of time to address.

  153. Snowy*

    For me, it’s realizing that my procrastination has a lot to do with anxiety, executive dysfunction, depression, and possible undiagnosed ADHD (I have several family members with it, and while I seem to be reasonably functional and probably don’t need meds, it still would explain a lot).

    The executive dysfunction part is that I sometimes just cannot do things I actually want to do. It’s not just “laziness” like people assume, I literally feel blocked in some way. What often helps with both this and the anxiety is breaking things down into smaller parts. For example, I might look at heaping piles of laundry and shut down because it feels like a lot of work, but if I say “well, today I just need to go over to the office to put money on my card, and I don’t have to do the rest of it right now” that often helps. Because once the first step is done, the next step becomes easier. If I have money on my laundry card, then I just have to take a load downstairs. (I also pre-sort my laundry- I can grab just the work clothes basket if I don’t want/need to do all of the laundry. It does mean I have three laundry baskets, but it makes doing the laundry much easier.) Maybe I just do the most important load, or maybe after I started that, I actually can just do everything, because now I’m already doing laundry.

    If it’s something like working on a hobby/project, I often get to a point where I get stuck on a tricky part and lose motivation. For that, having other projects to jump to means it may look like I’m scattered (and my craft area is a mess), but it’s really helpful to me to switch to something else to keep going, and then eventually I’ll have had time to think through the tricky part and continue on the original project. Stopping is the motivation killer. I have had to learn to control this at work, though. Working on too many things at once at work does make it look like you’re constantly dropping the ball even if you aren’t. There I try to limit it to jumping back and forth between only two things.

    Learning to recognize my anxiety triggers also helped greatly. As a kid, my mom would tell me to order pizza, I’d panic, and then get yelled at for procrastinating on calling the pizza place. I figured out I had phone anxiety (cold-calling strangers is the absolute worst) but I didn’t know how to deal with it. In college, I had a group of friends who were very shy, and I somehow became the go-to person for ordering pizza, because if I didn’t order, we just didn’t get pizza. Without the extra pressure of my mom being there and being in a rush, I learned that what I needed was to get the full order clearly confirmed with everyone in advance so that when I got on the phone, I knew exactly what I needed to say and wasn’t scrambling to flip between trying to figure out what to order and talking to the person on the phone. (I’m also extremely relieved that online ordering/payments/tech help are now a thing and I don’t have to talk on the phone as much, but it still applies.) If I outline what I need before the phone conversation, it takes a lot of the anxiety out of it. And taking the anxiety out of it means I procrastinate less.

  154. Mangofan*

    It hasn’t been perfect but the top things that have helped for me:
    – Reducing my general anxiety levels with therapy and regular meditation
    – Being well-resourced (sleeping enough, eating well and not eating so much that it makes me sluggish, exercising)
    – Using the Pomodoro Technique

  155. Nela*

    I’ve read so many self-help books and tried every possible productivity advice out there. There’s no secret trick that changes someone from a super-procrastinator into a non-procrastinator. The tendency never went away for me. What did change for me was learning how long certain tasks actually take. I still procrastinate, but I always deliver stuff on time.

    In my early days of freelancing I used to pull all-nighters regularly, or break through deadlines. It was embarrassing and stressful.
    Now I’m working at a very comfortable pace, yet I’ll never start working on a task before I have to.

    It helps for me to work on two tasks at a time, so if I’m reluctant to work on one, I procrastinate by working on another one!

    I’d like to get screened for ADHD, but unfortunately in my country it’s extremely difficult for adults to get specialist care. Until then, I’ll just be winging it.

  156. Holly*

    I’ve only read some of the comments, so sorry if this has already been said – but I’m a person without ADHD (though with other mental illnesses – anxiety and depression) who sometimes has had problems with procrastinating, and sometimes not. The times when I have were a, when I was younger and had a poor sense of time management, and b, when something else is wrong and procrastination is a result of whatever that is. For example, the last 3 months I procrastinated doing my thesis proposal. I just really really didn’t want to. As soon as I realized I could switch programs and I wouldn’t have to, not only did that problem get solved but I realized the procrastination was a pretty significant sign that I needed to make a major change in my life. Obviously that’s not going to work for a lot of things but it’s something to think about maybe.
    Otherwise, when I have changed from a person who procrastinates a lot to a person who doesn’t really procrastinate, it was, in retrospect, because I learned how good it felt to never be behind on things and to just have it together. I’m not entirely sure how I got to the point where I was doing that consistently (it was in my first year of grad school), but I do think that thinking about future me and how glad I would be in the future that I had done it, was part of it. I actually find this idea/thought pretty motivating. If I’m faced with a task I don’t want to start, but that I should really do, I go, okay, do it for future Holly, future Holly will be so happy that you did it – and then I literally imagine future Holly as like her own person distinct from me in the moment, being thankful. Then, when I get to be future Holly who benefits from whatever action past Holly took, I literally thank myself out loud: “aw THANKS past Holly!!” and take a moment to feel grateful and love for my past self looking out for me. It is weird but whatever! I find talking to myself like someone else helpful for me in other areas too (consoling myself, dealing with depression etc). I don’t really know why this works, probably because I have some issues with loving myself and taking care of myself (self care can be stupid menial but necessary tasks too!) but as soon as I reframe it this way, future Holly both feels more like someone else – who I find easier to want to care for – and simultaneously reminds me that doing whatever the task is, is an act of self-love, and I really want to be good at that.
    I don’t always succeed and I like the posts I saw about how sometimes we procrastinate on certain categories of things and not others, etc. Putting things off, if they’re ok to put off, is fine! Who cares! It’s just when it starts harming you that it’s an issue, imo.

  157. HannahS*

    Yes. I’m not perfect, but so so so much better than I was as a teen/young adult. For me, it’s been about recognizing that my procrastination is an extension of my perfectionism, and that perfectionism is a type of anxiety. That allowed me to acknowledge that when I procrastinate, it’s because I’m anxious about what I’m supposed to be working on.

  158. Snowy*

    For really big things, like interviews, sometimes I find that pumping myself up ahead of time gives me more confidence to do the thing. It might be something like listening to a song that makes you feel like a superhero, just identify that thing that makes you feel invincible, at least long enough to start. Because starting is the biggest hurdle, once you’re in motion you’ll likely stay in motion.

  159. This is a name, I guess*

    YES! But, be prepared for the fact that you might have a learning disability or something similar. I was a lifelong procrastinator, and I eventually got diagnosed (at 34) with ADHD. I started taking a stimulant. Everything got magically better without much “work” on my end, once I started treating my ADHD. I went from keeping my head above water to thriving. I feel like my work output matches my perception of my intelligence for the first time in my life.

    Also, please note that when they updated the DSM in the US, they changed the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Before the newest DSM-V, you had to have poor school performance to get an ADHD diagnosis, which meant many high performing kids with ADHD didn’t receive diagnoses. I also believe that in previous DSMs, you couldn’t have autism and ADHD – the autism superseded everything. Also, if you’re female, women, girls, and people who presented as women and girls previously in live were underdiagnosed with ADHD for a variety of reasons.

  160. Sunny*

    I find it’s about trying to ensure you’re rewarded for being on time and that you face consequences if you’re not. It takes a lot of work and it won’t be fixed in a week or a month.

    For me, that means really structuring in free time that I miss out on if I leave assignments/projects until the last minute and consciously forcing myself not to get a reward before doing the task for it. For time management (aka being on time which I am horrible at), I try to force myself by default to leave 15 minutes before I should. Any time I find myself rushing to do just one more thing before I leave, I say “sorry but there isn’t time to do that as I have to go”. I’ve gotten better at being on time but am still not great as the pandemic means I haven’t practiced as much.

    The worst way to get around procrastination is if your work is still on time or of a high level even if you leave it until the last minute. If that’s the case, then you don’t really have an external reason to do better so the reason has to come from you.

  161. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    When I was about 20 and had the (relatively) boundless energy of youth, I independently came up with the concept of Structured Procrastination.

    Step 1: write down the thing you don’t want to do.
    Step 2: write down all the other things you have to do.
    Step 3: what would you do in order to not have to deal with Thing #1 right now?

    Sometimes this looks like “okay, I do not want to do my taxes. Do I want to change the kitty litter more than I want to do the taxes? Yes!” and that’s what I do instead. Do I want to do the laundry more than taxes? Also yes. Do I want to deal with the gross sink and the dishes in it more than taxes? ….Actually, I think I’ll log in to the tax prep tool.

    Now that I’m dealing with some chronic illness stuff, I have fewer mana points that I can spend on brain stuff and active stuff. I’ve worked out some labor exchange with my partner and our housemate. We each try to do the part of the mutually disliked task that we dislike the least. I am fine with loading the dishwasher, but some of the stuff is stored places it’s painful for me to reach, so I don’t like putting away. My partner was not blessed with spatial logic, so they are less confident in their ability to load the dishwasher efficiently. (But, perfect is the enemy of washed.) Our housemate has fewer physical mana points than I do, but can often unload parts of the dishwasher and is often willing to de-crud the sink if it’s gotten gross.

    I am a big believer in ta-da lists as well as to-do lists. Sometimes things don’t make it into the to-do list and that’s okay, but having written down somewhere that you did these things today is great for me. It helps me get a handle on things and see where some of my time went. Sometimes it helps me identify workload that I didn’t realize I was carrying; sometimes it makes me go “oh wow, I am playing this clickygame like I’m getting paid for it.” It usually makes me realize that even though my day didn’t go like I planned it to, there were reasons why it did not. (Mandatory naps and Dealing With Sudden Health Thing and Ow I Can’t Physical and Why Are Brains go on the list too.)

    When I had a day job, I would keep a work journal in text files saved in a single folder with the format YYYY-MM-DD-notes. There were notes on what I did that day, what I meant to do the next day, longer term plans, frustrations, information on contacts in other departments. I could easily find files from the correct era, I could go back and reconstruct my day if there was a problem with my hours, and most importantly it was searchable. My notes and my pages on the workplace wiki were a gift to my future self, because past-me did a lot of tedious research so the next time I had to do the thing I would be set up for success.

    Finally, physical needs and creature comforts. Some people have to get fully dressed to feel able to focus properly; I don’t. I do need to feel clean, to be the right temperature, have clean glasses, enough water, and so forth. Sometimes I procrastinate because my body is telling me something that I haven’t quite figured out yet, like not wanting to do laundry because I’m already chilly and I know the basement is cold. Sometimes it’s boredom, I know the task is tedious and my ADHD brain shuts off when it’s bored. I sometimes can overcome this with podcasts, music, sweaters, colored lights, and perfume. There’s a specific scent of candle I like to have burning when I write, and having a candle burning means I can’t go off and do something else in another room.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Oh, and compassion for my past self who didn’t do the thing that would have currently helped out Current Self. “Oh, Past Self, that was a very bad brain day, I’m sorry that day was so bad.” Shaming myself for not having done something was counterproductive for me.

  162. Alex*

    I am a reformed procrastinator – I’m not ‘perfect’ but actually taking away that as the aim has really helped. It’s taken years, and doing therapy (I’m now a therapist myself – so I’ve done a lot!) helped with some of the related issues, but I wish I’d known how to tackle it earlier. The big steps for me were – learning to be compassionate with myself in response to any perceived failing, big or small; getting much greater awareness of my emotions, because procrastination is a very emotion-centric issue and being able to recognise and name what was going on for me each time I put something off was very valuable; and working out what had happened in my past that lead me to this point (lots of stuff around how I was perceived at school as gifted and so didn’t have to learn the ‘skill’ of being bad at something for a bit before improving at it, amongst other things). Lowering my expectations from trying to be the best or perfect at things was alsovery important.

    Respecting my own limitations around how long I can concentrate, what tasks are easier or harder for me, and what needs to be in place to help me do my best also really help. I suspect I’m a little neuro atypical (not quite ADD, but I find a lot of ADD advice really helpful) and knowing what I need to ask for from others and what it’s unreasonable to expect of myself really helped too.

    I also highly recommend this book – You don’t need to be a writer (I’m not) to enormously benefit from it. I am hoping to one day expand my therapy practice to working with procrastinors because it’s been such a big part of my life, and getting past it has been so meaningful.

  163. Vikki*

    I mean I haven’t really ‘beaten’ procrastination because I don’t think it’s really something you can ever beat. It’s a symptom you have to manage, y’know? You have to find ways to manage it that work for you specifically a lot of the time but realise that some days will be harder than others. I will say my current therapist says that we don’t procrastinate tasks, we avoid the feelings or the memories those tasks envoke. It’s worth keeping in mind or bringing up with a therapist.

  164. Eliza*

    I’m one of those people whose procrastination came from caring more about having a perfect result than actually finishing. For me, the way I kicked it was to change the kind of work I did and the incentives I worked under. I’m a freelancer who gets paid at the completion of every project I work on, and it turns out that’s actually fairly effective at giving me the push to finish on time.

    I’m also in a creative field where my job is to fix and improve other people’s work, so the focus is less on “making it perfect” and more on “making the best possible version of what someone else has made, while staying true to their vision”. That added constraint helps rein in my impulses to keep rethinking and rethinking until something is perfect, since it’s not just my idea of “perfect” that matters; I still spend some time second-guessing myself, but I can actually move on now.

  165. Alex*

    For me the question is why am I not doing the thing? I’d put off making lunches for work and ultimately grab takeout instead. I just want to chuck something in my lunch bag and go, so I started doing meal prep on weekends and have stuck to it ever since. I hate washing dishes so I gave myself permission to use paper plates.

  166. Sophia Brooks*

    I relate to a lot of the comments about procrastination, perfectionism, and undiagnosed ADHD. However, especially working in theater, but also other jobs, I have found some productitive procrastination to just be marinating time. Especially in a job with a tight deadline, it keeps me from doing unecceassry work. I let my brain marinate on the right thing to do, and eventually- the show is going to go on. But sometimes it is “we are thinking about doing X”- and I am just not quite sure that is the right thing to do, but I can’t articulate it. So I “procrastinate”. Sometimes that lets me come up with better idea “Y” and then we just got to get it done.

    1. Late. But I Still Made It!*

      Yes! I do this a lot. The marinating is actually really important for me. Appreciating and planning for that is really helpful, because it lets me be kinder to myself while still doing what comes naturally.

  167. Katherine Vigneras*

    This is not a comment on anyone’s experience but my own; my procrastination is a symptom of ADHD (inattentive type.) I am able to more consistently stay on task with tools like lists, the Pomodoro method, and medication, but some days are more successful than others. Outside of that, when I do have a fire lit (in my case, it’s hyperfocus), I try and take advantage bc who knows when the next one will come. Best of luck!

  168. Wolfie*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I want to.

    If I’m not allowed to post this, please delete. Whether or not you have ADHD or think you do, there’s a Facebook group called Living Beyond ADHD. The woman who runs it is Dr. B. She teaches executive function skills. Anyway, she’s got some good resources and podcasts.

  169. rototiller*

    So I was a hot mess before 30, then somehow morphed into a deadline-making machine at work (even before the ADHD meds). The two biggest things for me were:

    1. I learned to procrastinate better. By which I mean, I got in the habit of enjoying my time not working. Reading trashy novels instead of doomscrolling social media, that kind of thing. Turns out a lot of the stuff I used to do while procrastinating was really good at keeping me anxious and miserable!

    2. I ran the numbers and found out that my degree of procrastination was strongly correlated to how recently I had talked to my mother.

    #2 had a sort of revelatory effect on me. I guess it’s a similar thing to LW from the update, who explains this all more clearly than I could. But #1 is the ongoing practice that really made the change stick. Assume that you’re going to procrastinate, and have fun with it!

    This goes along with the reframing that other posters have mentioned. The way I think of it is, my brain likes to do a lot of work in the background while I’m doing other things. I need to give it space for that work. Then when I’m up for a burst of activity, I can hit the ground running.

  170. Snaffanie*

    I have neurodiversity challenges that mean procrastination will always be a part of my life, but I have found ways to adapt and even become productive! I don’t know if there is anything to the chronotypes recommendations, but I have found that aligning with them helps me very much. I am a bear. (Link to a chronotype test:

    For example, my most productive hours are 10A-2P. So I schedule all my deep thinking tasks for that time. From 830A-9A I read my emails because my brain needs time to warm up. From 9A-10A, I start prepping for the day – taking notes on what I might work on, getting my resources together. I’m good with afternoon meetings, so I try to schedule those from like 2P-4P. And then at 4P my brain is tapped, and at best I can send a few light emails and write up some notes for the day. I also found that if I exercised in the morning, I was useless for a bit, but if I break it up into smaller sessions from 9A-3P, it actually recharges me. And I need like an hour when I wake up to eat breakfast and watch TV to get my brain going. So I bake that into my day.

    All of these things have helped me become more productive. Truthfully, I am really good for deep thinking the 4 hours a day, but it’s better, more thoughtful more productive, and deeper thinking than before I started this schedule. Since I have ADHD, I am almost unable to build routines, so I schedule in my breaks, my walks, my transitions, etc. to keep me on track.

  171. LilyP*

    I’ve never been to ruin-your-own-life levels of bad procrastination, but here are some various things that have helped me feel more on top of my work & personal tasks:

    – Something I’ve been doing lately for my personal life is I designated one weeknight as “get sh*t done night” — I finish work a little early, order dinner instead of cooking, and make time to deal with all the life admin junk I’ve otherwise put off: schedule that dentist appointment, emails, hang that painting, order my mom a birthday present, call the property manager about the bins, clean my desk, etc, etc. For me, “just do a little bit every day” was really difficult because getting started is the hardest part, and with 20 minutes a day you have to climb the activation energy hill every single day. This way, I climb the activation energy hill once a week and can ride my momentum for a few hours once I’ve gotten started, and then I get to relax guilt-free the other six nights a week.
    – One way I break through when I’m feeling overwhelmed is taking a few minutes to write down everything I’m worrying about or feel like I should be doing on a piece of paper, then read over it and star the most important or time-sensitive tasks, and do those first (or only)
    – Difficulty estimating time + difficulty knowing where to start = I need to break something down and make a detailed plan before starting. Making the plan is the first step in doing the thing.

  172. Ismonie*

    My procrastination issues didn’t really arise until I was a little ways into my career. What caused them was a combination of bad habits (scrolling the internet, gchatting, etc., while waiting for work) that were caused by workflow issues, my own OCDish tendencies, and the sheer volume and boredom of the work. Later it turned into a perfectionism thing, where I would put off projects that were hard, but never so much so that I missed deadlines. I just worked up to them sometimes.

    It was a combination of the pomodoro technique, the procrastination monkey post, and the Learning How to Learn course that got me over it. It took a lot of practice to change my behavior, but now, I pretty much never procrastinate for more than an hour or so.

  173. Tea*

    I used to be a big time procrastinator (writing 13 page papers the night before the due date? ayup) who now is… really organized and on top of most aspects of my life, which is good because I am self employed and if I don’t anticipate everything I need 3-4 months ahead then I’m screwing over future-Tea.

    I would say the original source of my procrastination came from being a gifted student when I was young and not learning good studying/working/productivity habits emphasizing slow and steady growth. As a result, I got into the habit of last minute cramming, writing, and finishing projects because hey, it worked for the first 12 years of my student life and why stop now? As I got older, doing everything at the last minute and expecting great results started SURPRISE, not working out too well, which added a whole layer of stress and shame and anxiety to the mix because I didn’t know how to do things any other way and I’d put a lot of stock into identifying myself as a smart person who could just ~pick things up~ without any effort or failure.

    And after that, when I entered the real world, a lot of my procrastination boiled down to that: fear of failure. Fear that I’ll put effort into a thing and it won’t work and will suck and have been a huge waste of my time (and everyone else’s.) Fear that my “smart” facade would crack and I’d be shown as a big fraud. Not doing anything felt like the safest way to not show my ass to the world.

    A couple of things that helped me turn it around:
    – Building good habits around basic life tasks. I mean VERY basic stuff, like “keys always go here” and “wash your face before bedtime” and “make your bed in the morning,” but before I established these habits, all of the basic life stuff was a decision I consciously had to make every day, and became a hundred little yes/no answers that sapped at my willpower. Turns out, standing around trying to decide if I want to make my bed takes more time and energy than turning it on autopilot and my body is already arranging the pillows and straightening the sheets before my brain has to think about it.

    In addition, I started “chaining” my habits to build on one another. Keys always go here… and wallet goes next to the keys. I never have to wander around the house looking for either object, my brain now default just shoves them into their proper place. It’s freed up a lot of mental energy for me overall that can go into focusing on actually doing the things I need to get done.

    – Getting really into planners and writing lists. I suspect that this is common advice that people are sick of hearing, haha, but it worked for me. I tend to be very forgetful (which really adds another layer of stress and anxiety about ‘getting things done’) so having a habit (ha) of immediately scribbling any stray task that needed to be done into my planner and expecting to be able to crack open my planner and see what I’d probably forgotten is very reassuring.

    – Getting into a hobby with a lot of room for error that was also very “one and done” in nature. For example, baking – you’ll know from the first bite if the bake was good, okay, or terrible, and you’ve already baked it so there’s no going back and stressing about how it turned out. Starting out mediocre and slowly chipping at it, experiencing big failures and huge successes in such a (relatively low stakes) hobby way… kind of helped blunt my fear of ‘starting’ things and how badly they could turn out. Yup, I burnt my banana bread to a crisp once and set off the smoke alarm. Yup, I baked a salmon quiche so good everyone wanted seconds. It helped reroute my brain from putting off doing things for fear of failure to a healthier “Welp it might be a big fuckup or it might have turned out brilliant, don’t worry about it!” feeling, because I’ve experienced many instances of both at this point.

  174. AlsoMom*

    Lifelong procrastinator, some attention impairments but not full adhd (formal diagnosis).

    I structure my life around external demands because I won’t get anything done through internal motivation. I don’t do unstructured learning, I have to have a formal class with live attendance. I have lots of clients who all need things urgently so I always feel the pressure of “oh shoot do it now”. I could never succeed in a role that’s truly self-paced. It works ok enough for me!

  175. Late. But I Still Made It!*

    The key is to understand what causes your procrastination. Being “lazy” or “disorganized” are not really reasons. Anxiety could be. ADHD could be. Figuring that part out will be the key to figuring out how to procrastinate less. I don’t think procrastinators can fully “reform.” Because procrastination isn’t a quality or character flaw; it’s a symptom of something else.

    Like many commenters, I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. It has been nothing short of life-changing. Skills coaching, therapy, and medication have radically changed my understanding of myself, how I live my life, and also what I can accomplish. I still procrastinate, but much less, because I have tools to avoid being put into a procrastination-likely situation and strategies for getting out of the procrastination zone if it does happen.

    If ADHD seems like a possibility for you, look into “ADHD time blindness” and “ADHD reward system.” Those are the things at play for most ADHDers who procrastinate, plus anxiety sometimes. And do some self-diagnosis check lists for adult ADHD.

    And, if it is not ADHD, my advice to find the root cause still stands. No one procrastinates because they want to be a person who does everything last minute, experiences intense stress and pressure, and sometimes comes up short and delivers things late or incomplete.

  176. Late. But I Still Made It!*

    I have some non-traditional strategies.

    – Co-working – Turns out I hate working alone. So, I try to co-work as much as possible. I use the pomodoro method with my co-working partner and we check in between segments on what we did and we’re working next. We don’t even need to be doing the same type of thing–just doing it together makes a world of difference for me. This is an especially good strategy for things I really procrastinate on, or are really hard to do and that I avoid the most. (In ADHD lingo this is called “body doubling.”)

    – Self-reward – I need immediate positive feedback/rewards. So I give my self little star stickers in my planner. Is it a little childish? Yes. But it puts a smile on my face and I love looking back on my week and seeing all the stars. I color code it to match how I color code my tasks, so I can really see how much of each type of thing I accomplished.

    – Say “no” – Learning my limits and setting boundaries is a crucial strategy. Because sometimes I procrastinate because I have too many things going on, so I just… don’t do any of them. Saying no has really helped this. I try to say no to things that are really boring/hard to do, that I have to do alone, or that don’t have an immediate/short term reward. This isn’t always possible, especially in the work place, but in the context of my volunteer work it has been really helpful.

  177. Jasmine Tea*

    I really like the checkboxes feature on my notes app. I love checking off each item and seeing the done list grow. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to look back and say to myself, “Look how much I got done!” That good feeling helps me get started the next time something needs to be done.

  178. RagingADHD*

    I don’t know if you “get over it” but you can certainly learn to manage it. Even in situations where procrastination is a symptom of a lifelong disorder (ahem, ahem), you can find strategies to work with and around those tendencies so that they don’t interfere with what you need to get done.

    Now, those workarounds are not magic. They are a lot of effort, they’re tiring, they aren’t foolproof, but they get the job done.

    The first and most important step is to stop trying to change your SELF so that you “aren’t a procrastinator” and instead change what you’re DOING so the procrastination doesn’t cause problems. It sounds like semantics, but the mindset shift is very liberating. You need to free up those mental and emotional resources so you can use them more enjoyably and productively.

  179. MBK*

    I hope enough people scroll this far to read this because I’ve found it to be an excellent resource.

    There’s a research psychologist named Dr. Joe Ferrari who specializes in procrastination. One of his primary theses is, “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” Another is that true procrastinators can’t be “cured” or “reformed,” but they can develop a set of tools to help them overcome the specific behaviors. You basically have to learn to trick yourself into getting things done that you would normally put off.

    He was the guest on a very engaging episode of the outstanding “Ologies” podcast, hosted by Alie Ward. I’m not sure if I can post a link here, but a Google search for “ologies Joe Ferrari” or even “ologies procrastination” should get you there. The episode title is “ Volitional Psychology (PROCRASTINATION).” He also has a book, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. (Ha ha! Irony! Terrible humor is how I cope!)

    (Content warning: Ologies can get pretty sweary. If that’s a problem for you, she has a section of the site with bleeped episodes, as well as a bunch of edited-for-content-and-length episodes suitable for classroom use she calls “Smologies.”)

      1. Claire*

        I’m a reformed procrastinator and I wonder if any of my experiences resonate with anyone else out there. I found out at age 33 that I’m autistic and have narcolepsy. Medication for my narcolepsy and self-compassionate lifestyle changes for my autism (why, no, I don’t have to go to that exhausting social event!) have given me a lot more bandwidth to work with. With poorly understood diseases or neurodivergence, people often blame ourselves for not being able to “keep up” – when we’re starting at home plate and everyone else is starting on third base.
        LW, I encourage you to do what I couldn’t and really interrogate your procrastination. Not through the lens of “I’m such a failure” or “how do I fix this,” as I used to do, but just “why is this happening? What purpose does this serve in my life?” Be your own scientific observer. I wish you the very best and you’d be amazed at how many of us reformed procrastinators there are. :) Good luck!

  180. Glorial*

    Oh I have a lot to say, and I’m late to the party. But, if you make it this far:

    No, it’s not possible in my experience to ‘cure’ procrastination. You just become a better manager.

    I found it very helpful to see my procrastination through the lens of ADHD. I’m not diagnosed but I tick quite a few of the boxes. For me this took out the moral dimension to procrastination and helped me accept this is just how my brain works. I use a lot of adhd strategies. I’ve been frustrated over the years by people suggesting you ‘just’ need to do x or y. Actually, I’m plenty organised, but I have a depth perception problem with time (to steal a phrase). I like the YouTube channel ‘how to adhd’ .

    Another realisation is that professionally the context makes a difference. I was freelance/ small business for years and that meant I had to work quite hard at making structures as well as focusing on my own work. Now I am in a role where I have a fair amount of autonomy, but also quite structured and recurring tasks. Applying adhd principles within this context has enormously improved my work life.

    I also know my procrastination triggers, which are mostly long form writing tasks. My role does involve these regularly, so by trial and error I have developed some strategies to support me.

    – I accept that I will be a last minute Larry, but schedule in time early on to do a scoping read and prep in order to identify and flag any issues/ tasks which I may need to use.
    – I block time in my calendar to work on these important but procrastable tasks. I also don’t worry if they end up shifting around a bit. I work backwards from the deadline in order to give myself a clear idea of how much time I actually have (I have weeks to do it, will be the inaccurate assessment otherwise).
    – I schedule in breaks and I take them. I find putting everything on hold counterproductive
    – that said, I do clear the decks for a couple of days and let family know if I have a deadline coming up
    – if you don’t have deadlines, give yourself some hard ones. Soft deadlines are too wriggly
    – I use the pomodoro timer to get over my procrastination hump and write/ do the thing
    – I don’t wait for ‘motivation’. There is never motivation ;) . Just start and remember that your brain is probably lying about how far away the finish line is
    – I am realistic in my expectations. I’m not going to do 8 hours of focused time because I am battling with the procrastination beast/ executive function challenges whilst also doing the thing. This makes the whole experience kinder.

    I have also recently enjoyed reading 4000 weeks and contemplating on procrastination as a way to feel ‘limitless’ and avoid dealing with the reality of finitude eg we only have so much time and we have to choose – we’re always going to lose out.

    It’s taken me 30 odd years to get to this place with procrastination and it’s had a big impact on my life when it didn’t need to – but that’s also likely adhd. If you take away anything I would say let go of the idea that this is something to cure, and start thinking about how you manage yourself best.

  181. English Teacher*

    I was underachieving and a procrastinator throughout high school, and did a complete 180 when I got to college. I found several strategies help, like keeping it to-do list, breaking down a big job into lots of small pieces, timing myself while doing each one of those pieces and then letting myself have a little break in between, and reminding myself why my current task is important… but really, I think what helped the most was the complete change of environment and goals. In short, high school didn’t seem to matter. College did. So the trick of reminding yourself why your work is important became a lot easier for me. Not sure if that would be helpful to others, but for me I think it was a change of venue and a change of priorities.

  182. Rainbow Brite*

    Like a lot of others in the comments, I still do procrastinate in my personal life, but I rarely procrastinate at all at work (in fact, I’m writing this as I get ahead on work that isn’t due for ages). Some things I’ve noticed:

    – The busier I am, the more I get done. A whole weekend to myself? I’m bingeing Netflix while ignoring the sad pile of clothes on my floor. Two social events, a half-day of errands, and a last-minute favour for a friend? I can also fit in a whole wardrobe reorganisation, why not?

    – The earlier I get started, the better. If I have time to actually sit around and think about whether I *really* need to do that today and how much I can get away with leaving for next week … yeah, it’s not getting done. My most productive work days are when I’m halfway through my first task before I’ve even finished my morning coffee. If I decide to stall even a little bit by catching up on news / social media for half an hour before work, I’m basically screwed.

    – I *love* the feeling of being ahead in my work, and that motivates me a lot. I freelance full-time, which means I don’t have anyone to help me manage my workload or oversee my deadlines, so theoretically it’d be super easy to leave everything until the last minute. But I also love being able to take extra days off when I want them (or sick days when I need them), and the feeling of waking up in the morning knowing I’m not going to be blowing through any deadlines if I just do nothing that day is priceless. I remind myself of that feeling a lot when I’m tempted to procrastinate.

    – On the flip side, if I do have a day when I wake up and just nothing is happening? I let it. I clean my flat, play video games, screw around on the internet. I’ve gotten better at listening to my brain and my body so I can tell the difference between “I just need to pull my finger out and get something done” and “I really need to give myself permission to do nothing today.”

  183. Sparkle Smurf*

    Discovering why I tend to procrastinate was the key to making better choices. I am inclined to put off doing things I don’t feel confident about for whatever reason. (Things that I find intimidating or unpleasant.) The more I avoid doing something, the more stressful this looming/unfinished task becomes…which breeds even more procrastination.

    In a leadership training program recently, I had no choice but to jump in with both feet and try things I wasn’t confident about. I discovered that when I just make the leap without overthinking it, things get done and all of those little doubts I had leading up to it were mostly in my own head. Turns out, my harshest critic is me. All the organization tools/methods in the world fall short when you are actively avoiding something.

    To sum it up, I had to figure out why I procrastinate and address that head-on. The more I ‘make the leap’ so to speak, the easier it is and the less inclined I am toward procrastinating. It is no longer my default response and I am getting better at nipping that thought process in the bud before it creates a problem.

  184. Just Like A Carrot*

    I’ve struggled with procrastination hard since I was 13. I eventually made it through high school and university, somehow, but now I’m in my 30s and finding the same mental block against finishing unpleasant tasks or those that require any real brain power has followed me to my office job. I’ve begun to consider trying to use techniques those with ADHD use despite the fact that I don’t believe I met any significant criteria before the age of 12, so I’d never get a diagnosis. I have no answers, this is really just my millionth anonymous cry for help on the internet, haha.

    Like, did anyone else have a massive anxious breakdown EVERY single time they had to write an essay all through university? Every sentence felt like pulling teeth. They all got left to the last minute and I was miserable every time. It never went away and all I could do was celebrate when I finally finished school and acknowledged I’ll never have to write another essay again unless I decide to go back for a very career-specific program someday.

    1. Late, but I made it*

      Just throwing out there that you no longer have to meet all the before 12 years old criteria to get diagnosed with adhd. If checklists of adult ADHD symptoms seem to apply to you, I recommend seeking a professional evaluation. In my case, as a primarily inattentive-type ADHD who was a very smart child (not bragging, just facts), my ADHD things were hidden because I was able to compensate enough to still do average or above average in school. For kids, if you’re not bouncing off the walls and you’re not visibly struggling or failing in school, so many things get overlooked and brushed away as personality quirks. The real problem was when I left the structured environment of school and had to be an adult on my own, managing all the boring adult stuff of daily life and work.

  185. Miss V*

    Me me me! I am a reformed procrastinator!

    I pulled my first all nighter when I was 11 and kept that pattern all the way through high school, college, and law school. I knew about my deadlines well in advance and would feel sick with anxiety. I would make half-hearted attempts to start earlier but in my heart I always knew it would come down to the last minute. For me it was all about my anxiety and fear of criticism. If I waited until the last minute and my term paper turned out terrible (and it always always did), I could blow off those feelings by saying “well, I didn’t really try, so it wasn’t really my fault”. I imagined that if I had actually worked diligently on something and received negative feedback, that would be too crushing. If I tried to start something earlier, I had endless negative self-talk: “this is boring” “I don’t know how to do this” “this is a stupid idea” “this sentence is terrible”. The only way to overcome those negative feelings was to have very strong external time pressure.

    I remember the exact period of time this shifted for me. I was in my last semester of law school, thinking ahead about studying for the bar exam…a long period of unstructured time culminating in the most important test of my life. I desperately wanted to become an attorney and honestly was just so tired of my own self-sabotaging bull****. I moved out of my apartment and found a place to live by myself, away from my classmates and the constant churn of comparing myself to others. I wrote out a daily schedule that included real breaks. I gathered a group of non-law school friends and wrote them an email every day reporting out what I did that day. And most importantly, I had a stop time every single day. If I was unproductive that day, I wasn’t allowed to stay up late and try to “make up time”. I had to accept that the day had been unproductive, forgive myself, and try again the next day.

    I still don’t love work tasks that involve a lot of writing, but I would say that I am 90% cured. Good luck!

  186. Kate B.*

    As a chronic procrastinator and lifelong practitioner of the Panic Monster method of productivity (wait until the verge of insanity and then write an entire two-day training course from scratch in three 18-hour work days), the single most powerful tool I’ve found to help circumvent my natural tendencies is the site It’s a website which pairs you with a single other person for a video chat of specific length; you both state what you’re going to do for the session, quietly work together on your separate tasks for 25 or 50 minutes, and then check in at the end to see how it went. It’s just that simple, and it is positively miraculous. Since starting to use it, my inbox is empty, my to do list has a single chronic overdue item (laundry *sigh*), I work standard working hours and then actually log off, and I feel calmer and more in control of my workload and priorities than I… ever have before, actually. It feels dumb that this was all it took, but there it is: social accountability as a productivity hack. The Panic Monster has been domesticated and is now doing the work when and how I want it to. You can try three sessions a week for free, but it’s just $5 a month for unlimited, and for me it paid for itself on the very first day. It’s not going to be this miraculous for everyone, but it was a real missing piece for me. Highly recommend. 5/5 stars.

  187. Procrastinating Lurker*

    A turning point for me was reading a BBC article linking procrastination to emotional management (see link below). I realized that I mostly procrastinated the tasks I cared most about…because I was scared of failing or not doing them well.

    This realization has helped me change my habits. It took some time, and it’s a work in progress but I make myself work on projects I’m worried about first.

  188. Elle*

    (YMMV on all that follows. I work remotely for a company that doesn’t care when I get work done and actively wants to prevent burnout, and I have a lot of freedom.)

    For me, what helped was understanding that I’m not actually “procrastinating” or “spacey” or anything. There’s always a reason and for me investigating it is the key: am I putting off a task because I don’t actually understand how to do it, because I don’t have what I need to do it, because last time I did it something went poorly and I never figured out why? A lot of times I’ll diagram the task out on paper, outlining dependencies and etc, and the real road block becomes clear.

    The same goes for when I straight up can’t motivate myself to do what I need to do. Am I actually tired? Hungry? Have I gotten up from my desk in the past couple of hours? Have I gone outside today? Usually something like this is the issue. If I don’t have any meetings for the rest of a day, I’ll go for a hike or something and then come back and get serious shit done in the evening.

    Highly recommend the book Laziness Does not Exist. For me the root of all of this is that I’m not neurotypical and conventional wisdom re: work isn’t going to work for me. I now remind myself that it doesn’t make sense to try to be productive for eight hours five days a week.

  189. No Dumb Blonde*

    I was always a straight-A but procrastinating student and, now in my 50s, I recognize that I’m basically a lazy person at heart. But at the same time, I’m also highly driven to be very good at whatever I do — once I get around to doing it! Luckily for me, my first job out of college was working for a daily newspaper with constant deadline pressure, which helped me learn to live with and respect deadlines.

    My advice would be simply that you should strive (if you don’t already) to do things well — even if you are the type of person to procrastinate before you actually do them. In my case, I’ve come to embrace my own procrastination by thinking of it as something like “rumination.” I tend to think (and think and think!) about something long before I actually sit down to do it. So perhaps you can recast your own thinking about how you approach important tasks — as long as in the end, you’re getting the work done on time. I’ve had experiences in the past where I miscalculated and procrastinated too long and was not satisfied with my own output. Those lessons of personal failure/embarrassment then led to better outcomes the next time. In other words, it’s a a skill you can build like any other by learning to work within your own procrastinating tendencies, rather than trying to “fix” them. I’ve gotten really good at estimating how long something will take, simply based on accumulated experience over the years. I really enjoy being considered a star employee and one that my managers and peers can always count on. That is highly satisfying to me. My current boss might not have any idea that I tend to take the “rumination” approach to my work because the end product is always excellent and is done on time. He doesn’t know how the sausage is made, so to speak.

  190. Cat on a Keyboard*

    I’m reading a lot of comments from people who say they excel with deadlines, and I would say that’s true of me, too. My last minute work is just as good or better than someone else’s belabored steady work. So I set a lot of deadline expectations for myself to keep myself moving.

    The problem is… deadlines stress me out. Like, just the existence of a deadline, regardless of how realistic or far off it is, causes me this intense anxiety, which sometimes feeds the procrastination cycle (I can’t work until I relax some / I can’t relax until I make progress, etc).

    So even though frequent deadlines help me get my rear in gear, they also mean my baseline life stress level is at a 90/100 ALL. THE. TIME. whether I am succeeding at meeting the deadline or not, and this makes me really burnt out and unhappy in general.

    Advice? Yes, I finally got a therapist… though mostly to talk about other things…

    1. Van Wilder*

      I thrive under deadlines. Which works well during busy season at my high-stress job. Unfortunately, I totally languish under lack of deadlines and “waste” the slow season by not maximizing productivity. It would be great if I could do both.

  191. EscapeTheWorkplace*

    I have finally come to make peace with being a procrastinator. I used to feel like it was a terrible reflection on me and that I was both lazy and disorganised. I have come to realise instead that:
    a) no one can work full tilt (or even half-tilt) for the duration of a single working day, let alone week, for more than a very brief period
    b) the expectation that we can is used to make us feel bad for having normal human brains
    c) procrastination is what we call the behaviour of not being ‘productive’ when there are ‘productive’ things available to do
    d) so long as I get my stuff done and the people around me don’t have a worse life as a result of my behaviour, I don’t owe anyone full productivity at home or at work

    Now I tell people that I’ll get it to them slightly earlier than I need to whenever I have time, and I happily bimble about until just before the deadline. This way 95% of the time people get stuff when I promised it, if something goes wrong and I can’t make the early deadline people still get stuff when they actually need it 99.5% of the time and the other 0.5% is just life intervening. I’m seen as very productive and responsive. I probably work 3 hours a day, plus another 2 hours in meetings, so I ‘procrastinate’ about 3 hours a working day- I just consider that a cost borne by me, my employer, and society for mandating a stupid 40 hour working week for human beings who haven’t evolved to work like this.

Comments are closed.