9 Ways You Let Procrastination Get the Best of You Every Day

10 min read

Procrastination — Productivity — Procrastination Survival Guide Series — Productivity Tips for Creatives

It’s painful to admit, isn’t it?

A little shameful, even.

But the truth is, your biggest enemy is also your most (annoyingly) loyal companion.

And her name is Procrastination.

She greets you every morning as you wake and kisses you goodnight before you go to bed. She follows you around and hardly lets you do anything.

Anything other than putting things off, that is.

It’s suffocating and tiring, yet her persistence wins you over every time. Just as you make up your mind that “Today is the day I will do [insert big plan here]”, she strikes you hard and squashes your motivation until it’s so tiny you wouldn’t even find it under a microscope.

She is the definition of being victorious.

And it doesn’t help that you know it or hardly even like it. She still rises up and gets the best of you each time, while you’re left with nothing.

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Empty-handed.

Hollow.

And unsatisfied.

Another day has gone by and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

“How does this happen every single time?”, you ask yourself.

What are you doing that she so skillfully steals away your productivity and your desire to do the things that matter to you? How does she invite herself into your life day after day and takes everything away from you so effortlessly?

Well, my Friend, I’m glad you asked.

Because I’ve been there, too. And I know what it’s like.

But until you learn to recognize the signs, no solution or recommendation will help you find your way out.

So in this first post of the brand new Procrastination Survival Guide Series, I’m sharing with you the nine ways procrastination takes over your life and gets the best of you.

Because once you know what you should look out for, it’s easier to understand why it happens and what you should to do to avoid it from happening again.

Are you with me so far?

Great, then let’s get to it!

1. You Start Your Day With the Least Important Thing.

Your to-do list for the day may not be a huge on to start with, but I’m guessing there are some tasks on it that are more important than others.

But these are not the tasks you’ll focus on, right? At least not today.

Tomorrow, maybe.

But today, you should probably clean up your office space, water your succulents, and maybe tidy up a bit. After all, you can’t remember when the last time was that you did that. So why not now?

And just like that, your most productive time of the day has been wasted on not-so-important things. By the time you realize that half of your day has already gone by, your energy levels fall and you start feeling tired, pushing those left-over tasks for tomorrow.

What to do instead

Prioritize your to-do list based on urgency and/or importance and start with what needs to be done asap. If it helps add numbers next to each item to clearly state the order of your tasks or highlight your three most important items.

2. You Have “Oh, Squirrel!” Moments Every Five Minutes.

On a typical day, you can come up with a dozen ideas for an exciting project or a new business you’d like to start.

Inspiration comes so easily, especially when you’re looking up to highly motivated and authentic individuals, who do things with passion against all odds.

Even when you spend some time on Pinterest, you can’t help but get inspired by all the amazing content you stumble upon and all the ideas you get and collect by adding them to your boards.

But with each idea you get, you lose your focus and forget what you were doing before that new, amazing idea hit you.

And picking up the pieces of your ruined concentration is just a mission impossible.

What to do instead

Keep a notebook open (physical or digital) and anytime you get an idea, add it and go back to what you were doing. When you write it down, you’ve taken it out of your system, so try (really hard) not to think about it or you’ll get back to squirrel, ahem square, one.

3. You Immerse Yourself in an Ocean of Distractions.

You finally start searching for some solid ideas for that next blog post, when your smartphone starts blinking next to you. A new notification!

Maybe you got a new mention on Twitter or a new like on that helpful comment you posted the other day on Facebook. Could it be that you got another follower or comment on Instagram?

You can’t resist the temptation and you reach for your phone, double-tapping your screen to see which one it is.

And after a little scrolling and some more tapping, liking and commenting, you check the time and an hour has already passed.

So you tell yourself you need to get back to your brainstorming session or there won’t be a new blog post for your audience to check out next week.

Half an hour later, the same thing happens again. And you’re literally drowning in an ocean of distractions with no life ring around to cling to.

What to do instead

When you can’t afford to get distracted, put your phone on silent mode, place it face down or leave it in another room. If you’re expecting an important call, keep it on ringer mode but at least turn off the vibration and sound for your notifications, so you don’t get constantly distracted.

4. You Keep Telling Yourself It Can Wait Till Tomorrow.

Half of your day has already passed when you look at your planner and realize that you haven’t done nearly as much as you had hoped or planned to do today.

There are still errands to run, loose ends to tie and some work to be done.

And if you have a family to tend to on top of everything else (human or feline it doesn’t really matter), you just accept that you won’t have the time to do some of these things today.

You actually won’t have time for most of them, if we're absolutely honest.

So you’ll push those to-do items on your list till tomorrow, after convincing yourself that they can wait.

Only thing is, tomorrow won’t be any rosier and the next day doesn’t look as promising, either. But you’ll keep putting things off what you can to tomorrow until you can’t anymore.

What to do instead

“If you can do it right now, don’t leave it for later.”
Make this your new motto and whenever you feel like putting something off to the next day without a real, solid reason, repeat this sentence aloud or to yourself. It’s better to do this one thing now than have a pile to go through tomorrow, right?

5. You Repeatedly Press “Snooze” on Projects When You Have Enough Time.

You got a couple of ongoing projects and for the most part you’ve laid out a plan of action for each.

But because the deadline is way ahead and you have a good grasp of what you should be doing, you decide not to get stressed and take your sweet time with things.

Instead, and since there’s plenty of time until you deliver the project to your client, you focus on doing some other thing you’ve been neglecting for the past couple of weeks.

And before you know it, the deadline for that ongoing project gets nearer and you still haven’t reached that level of completeness you should have been at.

So you panic, get stressed and rely on coffee to survive that one week before your deadline.

What to do instead

Instead of patting yourself on the back that you got this, take the time to actually plan your entire project process. Break down each project into super small chunks you can tackle on a daily basis and start your day by doing that small portion of your project first.

6. You Start a Thinking Session Where You Don’t Do, You Just Think. Or Stare Off Into Space.

The best intentions are sometimes not enough to set something in motion.

While you may have started your day energized and with every good intention to make progress and finish your book, start a new blog series or lay the foundation for your newest illustration, somewhere along the way you missed the part where you actually need to take action.

Instead, you give into your mind’s games and you start thinking about everything else related to your project or not, without taking the time to get started.

You may even get so lost in your thoughts that you realize you’ve been staring at this one spot for what feels like an hour.

What to do instead

When you feel like you’re zoning out, ask yourself whether you have so many items on your to-do list that it’s causing you to lose focus or get stressed. If you frequently think about a thousand things at a time, it’s usually a sign that you need to slow down. The best way to distract your brain from thinking is to keep it occupied by actively doing something.

7. You Give Yourself Enough Reasons Why You Shouldn’t [Insert Activity Here] Today. 

As curious as it may be, it’s often so much easier to talk yourself out of something than the opposite.

When you’re facing a task or project you’re not exactly thrilled about, you immediately come up with reasons to procrastinate and put it off for later.

Especially when you still have the luxury of time.

And when the power of your creative thinking suddenly takes over, you already have plenty of good excuses to postpone that task or project.

Because who wants to do stuff they’re not much excited about anyway, right? But we all know they eventually land on your plate, no matter how much thought you’ve put into what to include in your portfolio.

However you look at it, this is procrastination at its finest.

What to do instead

For every reason you give yourself NOT to do something, come up with a reason why you SHOULD do it. Before you decide to put it off for later or do it now, consider for a second which reason is going to affect you the worst. Is it worth going through it despite the negative outcome?


8. You Start Searching on Youtube for That One Video You Haven’t Seen Since 2008.

As if the internet was not a big enough distraction already, you decide to visit YouTube and find that tune that’s been stuck in your head for days.

And before you know it, not only have you found it and listened to it on repeat for the past half hour, but you also start checking out videos of adorable, fluffy Corgis, majestic Maine Coons and perhaps even the best-of Dean Winchester (because Supernatural).

All of a sudden, an hour or so has passed, and you still haven’t made any progress on your project whatsoever. But, hey, at least you discovered some cool videos, right?

What to do instead

While it’s extremely easy to get distracted when you’re doing research online or when you just want to check out that one video on YouTube, ask yourself if you can’t leave it for later. If it’s not helping you make progress with your work, leave the video searching for later instead. You may even have forgotten all about it in a few hours.

9. You List All the Things You Need to Do (and End up Doing None of It).

So, you love lists. I know the feeling.

Making a list helps you steer clear of distractions and have a solid plan of action for the day. Most of the time anyway.

Because, as much as you like feeling productive every evening by writing down your big list for the next day, it all goes to nothing.

When tomorrow comes and you’ve hardly done half of what you were supposed to, you’ve just wasted time writing that list.

But you’re still going to do it again tonight because at least you’re putting in the time to create a plan and that has to count for something. Or so you like to tell yourself. 

What to do instead

Create a rule that states you cannot have more than three to five to-do items per day and follow it each time. Leave a section for those smaller, not-so-important tasks at the bottom of your planner or in a new board in Trello or Asana, and eliminate the overwhelm of having too many tasks.

When Procrastination strikes, she’s determined to steal away your productivity and take the best of you. But when you recognize the patterns she uses to creep into your life and take over, you can actually do something about it. Start taking notice of similar patterns and give the above tips a try to prevent her from showing up uninvited.

Any other ways you tend to procrastinate or ways you’ve managed to avoid procrastination altogether? Let me know it in the comments section below!

Blog post photo: RAWPixel

Check out the rest of the Procrastination Survival Guide Series:
Part 2: 11 Good Reasons You Procrastinate (and How to Fix That)

Procrastination — Productivity — Procrastination Survival Guide Series — Productivity Tips for Creatives