10 Highly-Successful People On How They Stopped Procrastinating


In an effort to become more productive, efficient, and happier overall (the latter resulting from me feeling good about the work I ideate and execute), I’ve been researching useful workflow tips to implement in my daily routine. During that research, I inevitably stumbled on articles and research about procrastination, which I’ve realized is the root cause of a lot of my own personal time-management issues. In a nutshell, I feel stressed when I have to make big decisions and choices, and I tend to put them off until the last possible minute, so I’m forced to decide on something. (The effects of which I’m acutely aware of as someone getting married in three weeks who still has a good deal of shit to take care of!) In my research for productivity hacks and ways to overcome my tendency to procrastinate, I came across this study called Psychology of Procrastination: Why People Put Off Important Tasks Until the Last Minute. Author Joseph Ferrari, PhD puts the issue into perspective by giving us some numbers, saying:

One of my favorite sayings is, “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” We all put tasks off, but my research has found that 20 percent of U.S. men and women are chronic procrastinators. They delay at home, work, school and in relationships.

Dang it — 20%. I am not alone after all I suppose. Ferrari goes on to say, “Let’s place the 20 percent in perspective — that’s higher than the number of people diagnosed with clinical depression or phobias, two tendencies many people know about.” As I’ve analyzed my own behavior, read articles, and thought more deeply about the way I can be better about not procrastinating, I’ve identified three ways to improve my skillz: 1) Analyzing where I’m wasting time 2) Setting realistic timeframes for how long it takes me to do something and 3) Setting mid-day check-ins for myself.

It’s taken me a really long time to identify the areas where I waste time, but now that I’ve made some improvements I realize how silly some of my old behaviors were. I’ve also become more aware of the need to provide others with realistic time expectations. If it takes me an hour to complete a task, I’ve learned that it’s far better to be honest with everyone about how long it will take me. In the past, I know I’ve set unrealistic timeframes for myself because I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to get to the task right away, but sometimes, it’s just not feasible. This usually means I’ll rush through it, and deliver something that is sub par and not my best. It’s a lose-lose situation all around for everyone involved. Setting expectations is key to keeping that from happening. Finally, I know that it can be all too easy to let the day slip by without feeling like I did anything concrete or valuable during it. What I’ve started doing, in addition to writing a lot of things down on paper, is having a mid-day check in with myself. That check in serves as a time where I can remind myself of what needs to get done, and it functions as a kind of status meeting between myself and my work. If you, too, feel as if you sometimes fall behind with your own to-do list, be sure to recalculate as needed. There’s nothing worse than overpromising yourself something and underdelivering — you’ll feel like you’re in a constant shame spiral because you’re always fucking up. It’s important to stay positive and reward yourself on the little milestones!

Since I am not perfect, and I still require a lot of work to keep myself on my toes, I wanted to include tips, tricks, and short bits of advice from successful people. The ten tips below have helped me put my own workflow into perspective, and they might do the same for you. Check them out!

1. “Name your task and put a deadline on it, then tell someone or a group of people and promise to have it finished and ask for their support. This creates an atmosphere of accountability and is a psychological incentive for you to complete what you have been putting off.” — Kirsty O’Callaghan, Unity-Qld

2. “If you ask me to do something, I’ll do it immediately. It makes the world more efficient, and it makes me more efficient as an executive.” — Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Alphabet Inc.

3. “Split big projects into small parts and make them more enjoyable. Perhaps playing lively music will help motivate you to clean. Or promise yourself a nice bubble bath or some other treat after each small part of the task is complete. It’s important to treat yourself well and encourage yourself along the way; this will make you more likely to complete the rest.” — Tom Popomaronis, Founder & CEO at OpiaTalk, eCommerce Entrepreneur.

4.“Eliminate your procrastination pit-stops. If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate. Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.” — Celestine Chua, Founder of Personal Excellence

5. “I’m really into to-do lists. I just make different to-dos lists in an app — lists for short-terms things, pending things, and long-term things. Every day, I start off by looking at the long-term items.” — Boyan Slat, Founder & CEO, The Ocean Cleanup.

6 .“Don’t be a perfectionist. If you’re waiting for the perfect time, the perfect supplies, or you won’t stop until you’ve ‘perfected’ your project, you’re putting off completing your task. Ditch those thoughts because there’s no such thing as perfect.” — Mirjam Stoffels, Founder of seven2success and author of Daily Little Secrets to Success

7. “Don’t isolate. No matter how tired you are, no matter how little time you have, just get two or three people in a room and ask them very, very quickly, ‘Help me make a better decision here…help me figure out what to do next.’ And, even if everybody else doesn;t have the answer, together, we get to a better place.” — Harry West, CEO, Frog

8. “Do yourself a favor. Instead of picturing a specific task as grueling homework that must be completed, reframe the situation. Think of getting your paperwork done—or whatever you are procrastinating—as being a way to do yourself a favor that you’ll appreciate down the road.” — Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.

9. “Implement a reboot at 1 p.m. every day. Assess how much you’ve accomplished, remind yourself of what’s critical, and alter your plan so you can tackle the most important thing. If you wait until 5 p.m. to evaluate your day, you’re out of time and in crisis mode, putting out fires.” — Mirjam Stoffels, Founder of seven2success and author of Daily Little Secrets to Success.

10. “Work on what you’re good at. I only work on things that I feel I am uniquely positioned to do as opposed to doing lots of things that some has asked me to do.” — James Manyika, Director, McKinsey & Company.

References & useful articles!

Image via Unsplash

  • Summer

    This is so timely as I was just analyzing my own procrastination habits earlier today. I am CONSTANTLY surprised at how much I can accomplish when I just sit down and do the fucking work, but getting started is often the worst part for me. I’m pretty good at prioritizing, but I also tend to let myself get mentally overwhelmed by thinking about everything I need to do as a whole, rather than focusing on one item at a time and appreciating the progress as it comes. I’ll get a couple of things done, but when there’s still a long list in front of me, I don’t feel like I’ve made “enough” progress. It’s a vicious cycle!

  • Raquel Moss

    I tend to procrastinate out of fear — fear that I’m not going to be able to do the task at hand (write some complex code, create a training document that the client is going to find useful, speak at a conference). I use the old trick of setting a timer for 10 minutes and just getting started. After 10 minutes I’m allowed to stop if I want to, but usually that 10 minutes is enough to get me over the initial fear.

    It’s useful knowing that fear is what makes me procrastinate, because then I know exactly which emotions I’m dealing with and how to navigate them.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This