post written by: Marc Chernoff

28 Ways to Slay the Delay


Fight the Procrastination

What do you call a painter who doesn’t paint?  Is a writer a writer if she doesn’t write?  If you don’t follow through with the things you want to do, are you really being you?

Think of all the tasks you want to get done, but haven’t yet started.  How much time has lapsed between the moment you decided to do them and now?  There is endless potential within you, but if you procrastinate, all this potential is lost.

Here are 28 proven anti-procrastination tips employed by some of the wisest bloggers I know.  Each tip links back to a source article containing additional insight.

  1. Narrow the number of ventures you’re involved in. – “Productivity is not my challenge, narrowing the number of ventures to be productive in is.  Lately, I’ve been casting my net a bit too widely, with nearly a dozen projects and ventures.  Even when you have the knowledge and ability to access hyper-productive states, you get to a point where being simultaneously hyper-productive on too many fronts at once causes all activities to slow down, stand still and potentially even slide backward.” – via Jonathan Fields
  2. Get ready, fire, and then aim. – “The idea isn’t to jump in headfirst without a shred of preparation. Rather, you:  Make some sort of draft plan, execute it, adjust and improve and then re-execute.  Before, I would sit in front of my laptop and wonder how exactly I was going to extract a stream of brilliance from my brain.  As you can perhaps imagine, this led to absolutely nothing.  I had no momentum, I was scared of writing crap, and I just kept sitting there plotting possible sentences in my mind with my fingers motionless on the keyboard.  On the other hand, when I write regularly, I gradually learn what works and what doesn’t.  I go back and edit, and I constantly try new things.  But none of this can happen unless you spit it out.  Whatever you’re creating, launching, or giving birth to, just make it and get it out there.” – via Essential Prose
  3. Always be doing one thing. – “The trick to flowing with the stuck instead of fighting with the stuck is to make the process conscious.  Every time you move from one room to the next, you can take something with you that needs to go somewhere else.  Straighten one towel.  Throw something (one thing) out.  Doing that one thing keeps you in the process and makes it conscious.  Plus, all those “one little things” add up and you actually get to see changes fairly quickly.  When you catch yourself in procrastination, you want to always be doing one thing to make the unconscious conscious.” – via The Fluent Self
  4. Make it crappy, but make it now! – “Pick a topic or idea - it doesn’t matter which one - and start doing something with it.  If you’re a writer, commit to picking a topic and write 300 words about it.  If you’re a designer, commit to free-handing the frame of the idea in your head.  If you’re a painter, start the broad strokes on the canvas.  If you’re a coder, define a problem or function and code the solution.  Whatever you do, create something in the real world today, right now, for an hour. Make it crappy, but make it. You don’t have to keep it, love it, or share it, and you can undo anything that you’ve done.  But you can’t undo or get back the time you’ve spent creating fictions for yourself.” – via Productive Flourishing
  5. At first, just don’t add anything new to the pile. – “On their own, each is a pretty big project and perhaps Cat hasn’t been able to face finishing other projects in the past because the sheer size of projects overwhelms her.  She could accept help organizing the office and maybe get the whole thing done in a day, but would anything change?  Not likely because for Cat the challenge is dealing with projects that don’t begin and end right away.  So, Cat’s going to take the office organizing slowly and the first (and only!) thing she’s going to do is not add to the pile. Each day at the end of the day she’ll look at her desk and ask herself if she has added to the disorder. And if she has, she will take the time to do something with what she’s added.” – via Someday Syndrome
  6. Realize the long-term consequences of not doing it. – “Your time is now.  Your spouse might briefly hate you if you go for it, but over the next 5 years she’ll come to resent you even more after you’ve become jaded, passionless, and have lost your way.  There is no price too great for freedom.  There is no price too great to pay for coming alive.  And if you don’t do it now, you probably never will.  You know the thing you’ve been putting off the longest?  That thing you’ve been procrastinated for the last 10 years?  That’s the thing you need to start doing today.  That’s the thing you need to start before going to bed tonight.  I can’t tell you it will be safe.  But doing things you have to do because you’re afraid of the alternative, that’s the quickest way to lose respect, not just the respect of your spouse and children and everyone who believes in you or once belied in you – but also your self-respect.” – via Finance Your Freedom
  7. Decide to make a decision. – “In short, it’s the decision to make a decision that is the primal force.  This has been preached to us by go-getters from the very dawn of human history, I’m sure.  Although I can only speak for myself, I think it’s overcoming the uncertainty of the task – that is, an unbounded and open question – that prevents me from feeling that it’s doable right now.” – via David Seah
  8. Free-up some extra time. – “I won this ticket today, and when I told the people I knew about it, I got so many emails from people saying, ‘Seth Godin?  Oh my God, I LOVE him!  He always answers my emails, even the stupid ones.’  So I asked him: ‘You’ve got the blog and you’ve got Tribes and you’ve got book readers and you’ve got people just writing to ask for help.  How do you find the time?’  His answer?  He doesn’t watch TV and he doesn’t go to meetings.  Frees up about six hours.  He says he answers about 200 emails a day, which over the course of the year equals a little over 70,000 emails.” – via IttyBiz
  9. Remove yourself into a place of loneliness. – “When it’s properly harnessed, loneliness can be good fodder for creativity.  The creating of something meaningful (in my case, words) rarely comes naturally, but when you channel your energy into making it happen, loneliness fades into the background.  The times when we successfully harness loneliness into creativity are almost always highly rewarding.  Last fall I stayed up all night in Colombo, Sri Lanka, writing the manuscript for the Working for Yourself guide.  At breakfast the following morning, I sat outside the Galle Face Hotel and edited the final draft while looking out at the ocean.  Having overcome the lure of procrastination and the fatigue of travel, I had a good feeling when I finished.  It doesn’t always work out that way, but it happens often enough that I know it’s worth trying for.” – via The Art of Nonconformity
  10. Tell a large number of people you’ll do it. – “Trap yourself.  If you’ve made a commitment to a lot of people then the shame of saying you didn’t try will outweigh the effort of doing it.” – via Copyblogger 
  11. Prioritize and then focus accordingly. – “Feeling overwhelmed is a horrible feeling and one we tend to try our utmost to avoid.  The fact that a lot of people turn to their good friend Mr. Procrastination to deal with such feelings doesn’t help either, for obvious reasons.  Probably the easiest way to deal with feeling overwhelmed for the majority of people is to chunk down.  You have to ease the feelings that are brought on by having too much to do.” – via The Discomfort Zone
  12. Maintain a weekly list of the things you didn’t do. – “I made a list of activities on which I have been procrastinating.  I plan to take one off every week depending upon how much time this would take.  Adding meta-tags, setting correct categories and tagging top the list.  In order to ensure that this procrastination does not happen again, I plan to list out everything that I procrastinate on and add a star to everything that is a repeat in a weekly review.  This way, those activities which are most procrastinated, will stand out and become high priority.” – via Blogging Without A Blog 
  13. Breathe.  Center yourself.  Then attack. – You will not accomplish much when you’re in a flustered state of mind.  “Do you find yourself rushing a lot in your life? Juggling kids and domestic chores with clients and endless To-Do lists?  Working on goals, assessing your ‘performance’, judging your life against some perfect blueprint for happiness rather than actually stopping to enjoy the happiness you have?” – via SHE-POWER
  14. Use tools to simplify tasks and save time. – “I have used the MYOB computerized accounting system for a book selling business, even though I have to put in all the data. This is because it integrates inventory and accounting. This saves an enormous amount of time. Other than that I just use a small pocket diary - because more sophisticated PDA’s and such are just extra hassle (hassle both to keep up to date and use). I don’t need to keep track of lots of appointments so I don’t need anything more than a small diary. When I have something I have to remember (a bill to pay in a few weeks for instance) I put it in a prominent place on the pin board above my computer. It’s simple and it works.” – via wellbeingandhealth.net
  15. Be conscious of what you want and why. – Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t know what we want to do, or why we want to do it.  “According to the Law of Attraction, a powerful intent made up of clear, pure and focused thoughts will start to attract the very essence of your desires.  Hence, the clearer, more specific and untainted you are in your thoughts, the more likely you can be in bringing them into physical reality.  However, what happens if you do not have a clear idea of what you really want yet?” – via Attraction Mind Map
  16. Get on track by asking yourself the right questions. – “What is the question that if you knew the answer, would set you free?  A powerful question hangs in there with you when you feed it by continuing to ask it.  By asking the right question and acting on the answers, we earn the clarity to see the right track.  Success in business and life is primarily an inside game, because our inner feelings and thoughts determine our decisions and actions.” – via Delightful Work
  17. If you really hate it, change it. – We will procrastinate ceaselessly if we absolutely hate what we do each day.  “The good news is, if you really want to, you can get out while you still have some semblance of humanity.  Of course, this would depend on your financial situation.  If you have 3 kids in private school, a hefty mortgage and no savings, changing careers may not be the best idea.  But if you have a little more freedom, you should know that changing careers IS a real possibility.  I have done it.  I am now a writer, and although I make a fraction of what I used to make as an attorney, my quality of life is so much better now, that it’s absolutely worth it.” – via MomGrind
  18. Use past successes to fuel your motivation. – “Look at other successes you’ve had in life where you just got things done and received the results for doing so.  Then, use this as your motivation.  Last week I was putting off building a website in a niche that I knew was doing well online, but I just “couldn’t be bothered” to build a brand new website.  Needless to say, I eventually got around to doing it, and in its first 11 days I’ve made $561, and the day isn’t even finished yet.  Now, knowing I can do this in one niche, do you think I’m really going to procrastinate about building websites in other niches in the future?  Definitely not.” – via Plugin ID
  19. Review your long-term goals once a day. – “Be consistent.  Think about it as much as you can throughout the day.  Think about it daily.  Write it on a card and carry it in your pocket, and refer to it in your free time.” – via Urban Monk
  20. Focus all your energy on what you do know. – “Stop worrying about what you don’t know.  Focus instead on what you already know.  Because you never know what you can achieve with what you already know until you take actions.” – via The Big Dreamer
  21. Use a 30-10 interval to cycle-in activities you enjoy. – “1. Find something that you cannot make it through the day without.  For me that’s email, reading my blogs on Google Reader, or posting to this blog.  2. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and work for 30 minutes straight.  Don’t stop until the timer goes off!  I use Cool Timer.  3. When you’re done, you get to do the activity in No. 1 above.  It’s your reward.  Do it for 10 minutes only, and then go back to your timer.” – via Zen Habits
  22. Set your clocks and deadlines ahead. – “Whatever the actual deadline for a project or assignment is, mentally bring it forward by a day or even a week.  Be firm with yourself about finishing the project by this earlier date.  Not only does this reduce your stress level, it usually results in better quality because you were not in a hurried and flustered state of mind when you did the work.  This earlier deadline has to be as real in your mind as the actual one.”  It can be if you make a habit of finishing things early. – via Joyful Days
  23. Use visual reminders. – “I’ve found it helpful to have visual reminders to do something that’s important to me.  One way to do this is writing on a piece of paper what you need to do, and in smaller text why you want to do it.  Tape this paper somewhere you will see it: bathroom mirror, in front of your bed, on your keyboard.  This doesn’t work if you have many reminders for different tasks, but for a couple of tasks, it can work magically.” – via Think Simple Now
  24. Harness the power of teamwork to get it done. – “I heard a story about some horses that were in a competition to see which could pull the most weight.  One horse pulled 3,000 lbs and another one pulled 4,000 lbs.  Someone suggested the horses team together to see how much they could pull.  Most guesses were in the 7,000 lb to 10,000 lb range but when those two horses worked together, they pulled an amazing 20,000 lbs.  That’s the power of teamwork.  Good teamwork can get a large project completed in an amazingly short amount of time compared to single individuals.” – via The Wisdom Journal
  25. Establish specific times to handle recurring tasks. – “There are a lot of things we do that need to be repeated on a frequent basis.  Checking and responding to email is a great example.  Email should take up only a small portion of your day, maybe 30 minutes at most.  But we get so absorbed in this ‘need to know’ mindset that we develop a mammoth time wasting habit.  The same goes for filing, checking voice mail, updating our calendars, checking our calendars, checking stats on stocks or web traffic.  We waste a lot of time simply switching from the mindset of one task to another, so it’s useful to set times for when we’ll do certain tasks.  Now we can stop worrying about what our email status or shipping status is and focus on what is really important to us.” – via Illuminated Mind
  26. Trash what you don’t need and organize your space. – Clutter distracts you from the things that truly matter.  “The old saying goes, ‘Dig your well before you’re thirsty.’  Before you get overwhelmed with clutter and paperwork, take the time to create those folders I just listed.  It will make life so much easier if you file your documents and you’re easily able to find them later.  Make sure you label your folders with an accurate name so that when you attempt to retrieve the information, your labels make sense to you and to others who may need to access your files.” – via Frugal Dad
  27. Create tangible measures and deliverables for your ideas. – “There’s no point in generating brilliant ideas or innovations if they’re going to end up in a generic “Ideas” folder that never sees the light of day.  Make yourself accountable to your inspirations by choosing a few key deliverables or follow-up points.  These can range from finding a market for your idea to researching a question that came up during the thought process.  Whether you add these deliverables to your online calendar or put them on index cards with a due date, give your ideas a fighting chance by breaking them into specific actions.” – via On Simplicity
  28. Concentrate on one thing at a time. – “Let’s say you’re driving down the road, headed toward a specific destination.  On the way you decide to take a detour to say hi to a friend.  After leaving your friends house you realize how close you are to your favorite ice cream shop.  So you stop in and get a sweet treat.  A few minutes later, as you start to head back to the main road, you realize that a bathroom break is an absolute must.  Now you’ve got to find the nearest gas station with a bathroom.  Unfortunately it’s in the opposite direction of your original destination and you just realized the time; YOU’RE LATE!  Often times when we veer off course, we risk failing to reach our destination.  The attempt to multitask can easily end up this way.  Without the super sharp focus of our target and clarity that only comes from a singular thought process, we’re libel to fall prey to this disastrous cycle of distraction.” – via Motivate Thyself

Bonus Idea:  Use the “I Will Do One Thing Today” To-Do List – “In my boss’s eyes, the one thing on my to-do list was more important than the fifty other things my colleagues had accomplished during the same timeframe.  Some people spend 90% of their time organizing their time.  Some tackle to-do lists peppered with insignificance that stretch a mile long.  And still, there are others who refuse to do anything at all.  As for me, I am committed to doing one thing a day, and that has made all the difference.” – via Marc and Angel Hack Life  ;-)

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35 Comments

  • Hey this is a cool post. You must have done a lot of reading to put all this together! Thanks for including Joyful Days. I am honoured to be among these other great bloggers.

  • Thank you for the link love and mention. Great kick-ass list you have compiled here on getting started and not procrastinating!

  • Wow, I’m honoured that you included Someday Syndrome in this amazing list of advice from the blogosphere - thank you so much!

  • Marc, first of all the idea of linking to 28 other blogs is just brilliant. I am sure when I go to the ones I have never visited, I’m going to find new sources of valuable information and advice. Thanks for that.

    These tips are great. There is an incredible amount of power advice within them. Further there are so many that some subset of them will surely fit anyone’s style. Giving us so many to choose from makes that possible and that tactic makes this one insanely useful post. Well done!

    My favorite is your bonus. If you just do one really good thing a day you are going to be way ahead of the vast majority of the population.

    I’m going to print this off and hang it up by my office so everyone who comes by and waits on me can stand there and read it.

  • This is fantastic. If I might be so bold - also check out http://CurlysLaw.com - the rule of One Thing

  • Hi Marc,

    Thanks for making such a great effort to bring together this big list of anti-procrastination tips from various personal development bloggers!

    And thank you so much for including my article in the list. It’s such an honor! :)

    Cheers~

    Mark

  • Thanks for including my post, Marc. This is a really great ‘highlight real’ of solid advice. Eric

  • This is a truly powerful compilation. Thank you. I’ll be forwarding it to my procrastinating clients so they can kick themselves in the butt.

  • Wow, this is EXACTLY what I needed! I’ve had a lot on my plate lately that I’ve been pushing back on and made it a goal to get some key things this weekend. I didn’t even know where to start so I was somewhat dreading it. This will surely help me out, thanks for sharing!

  • All of these are great. I especially love the tip of “make it crappy, but make it now.” Imperfect action is always better than inaction caused by perfectionism. Thank you for including me here!

  • I’m actually going to save this one for Sunday night to get me psyched up about getting projects finished on Monday. I’ve got loose ends just waiting to be tied up, and there are some great ideas here….

  • To the bloggers I linked to…

    No need to thank me.

    Thank you for sharing such insightful content. ;-)

    I’ll try to get another round-up artcle together in the coming weeks. I’ll be sure to include more M&A.com blog commenters and other awesome blogs we read.

  • Most people wear so many hats these days that it is extremely easy to fall behind in one or more areas of life. When things pile up the task seems daunting, so we put it off. What may have started as a lack of organization quickly becomes something else. We may not think of it as procrastination but that’s really what it boils down to. I am looking at the mess on my desk and I think this list can help.

  • What a great set of tips, and from such inspiring writers and bloggers. Thanks.

  • Fantastic list there! Okay, so like what the last point mentioned, I’m so gonna focus on one stuff at a time. Let’s start from number #1. :)

  • i think make it crappy but make it now is my favorite.

  • Cool list! (And lots of new blogs to check out. :) ) I can personally vouch for the power of not adding to the pile, deciding to decide and being conscious of what you want.

    If it’s not too gauche, I’d like to suggest my new free eBook on unleashing creative productivity: “How to Harness a Hobgoblin.” It’s available on my blog. (Apologies if this is too gauche!)

  • What a smart post! It’s kind of like the teamwork/horse example - the compilation of all these different posts full of information have significantly more impact than just one. (even though I’ve read several of these and think they’re fabulous stand-alones!)

    Thanks for all the work pulling this together - it’s not only impressive, but really useful!

  • I love this approach — something for every situation! I was very excited to be included among some of my favorite bloggers. This reminds us that we all struggle with these issues at some point, but there’s always a way to push through it.

  • I knew you were gonna’ have a “to do” list in this list…I just knew it…

  • Great post and the effort that went into it is so appreciated. I can especially relate to point #12. Sunday is my day to reassess and especially look at the things I haven’t done yet.

  • My #29 is “Stop BS’ing yourself” ;-)

  • This is a great post. I love the idea of “make it crappy, but make it now.” As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. It’s much better to do something, to give it your best shot, rather than doing nothing for fear that you won’t be able to complete the task perfectly. I love this post so much I’m going to print it and refer to it whenever I need to motivate!

  • Wow, what a fabulous list. I feel honored to be included. Thank you very much.

    I’ll be back later when I can sort through all of these links as it looks like you’ve included many of my favorite blogs and writers.

    Great job! Thank you for putting it all together.

  • very informative post

  • Terrific post! I enjoyed your insights and thoughts. Thanks for sharing,,,

    Jonathan

  • Thanks for the link Marc, great post as always!

  • […] 28 Ways to Slay the Delay courtesy of Marc and Angel Hack Life. […]

  • WOW am I glad I found this post……procrastination is my middle name!! Can’t wait to try some of the suggestions and check out the great blogs………..thanks so much.

  • […] 28 Ways to Slay the Delay […]

  • […] 28 Ways to Slay the Delay […]

  • I usually write your interesting topics on my notebook. This one really hit me…I work as a researcher and we have a little problem with our writer who has to write the book that I am also working. When I read your line “Is a writer a writer if she doesn’t write?” I got an idea to try to write it. I was trembling with excitement as I know I’m good in feature writing. I showed what I did to my team leader and other colleagues. They like what I did… but it is just that I’m not a professional writer… and I think that they were thinking that it might might bring down the book… so disappointing.

  • @Myryl:
    I think it’s great that you gave it a shot. Most people never try.

    Remember, practice makes perfect. So keep writing.

  • I tried farther Marc…I sent an email to my team leader. I told her that I am willing to write it. And she said YES!
    But she wants it to be written in a different way. And I was thinking that if I write it in that way, I cannot fully write it creatively. I don’t like technical writing.
    In short, I did not get that opportunity….
    But I am not bitter about it……I just learned that being daring can sometimes open doors. And we must make a decision to enter or not.

  • Wow, you said it all! Thanks for putting this together.

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