How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

You may have finally gotten yourself ready to finish that project. Here’s what to do when your brain wants to distract you  

Credit: Flickr/chaparral

Your brain will assure you that procrastinaing with a nap is smarter than working

Agree with the part of your brain that wants to procrastinate by making a plan to do just that, tomorrow

It’s a constant. I’m finally sitting at my desk, ready to write, and here comes my brain with a list of helpful suggestions.

Put up that rhubarb right now, it suggests. There’s an errand that needs running immediately. Or, my favourite: cleaning. I never want to clean at any other time: suddenly, when faced with a task I’d rather not do, I’m just crazy about it.

My brain is too clever to suggest I simply abandon my task entirely. Instead, it produces a seemingly endless stream of plausible alternatives – work, sure, but far less work than I have to do to keep myself to the task at hand.

Circumvent Distractions

I’ve trained myself not to ignore these prompts, which means they’ll continue to distract me. Instead, I assign them to a future date. “Put up rhubarb, yes,” I’ll agree with the saboteur in my head, otherwise known as myself. “Great idea. I’ll do that tomorrow.”

By agreeing with the part of your brain that’s trying its best to distract you from necessary work, you turn it from a procrastinator into an ally. And who knows? You probably do have to put up that rhubarb tomorrow, before it spoils. (Which is when your ever-helpful brain, while you’re watching over the simmering pot, will distract you with another list of plausible alternatives.)

Procrastination and its handmaiden, distraction, don’t seem the sort of human traits to respond well to refusal. Instead, their sneaky attempts to pull us away from things we should be doing, even if we don’t want to, demand an equally sneaky response – one that circumvents our own desire to agree we’d much better put off what we’re doing for another worthy, if less taxing chore.

According to at least one academic, procrastination is endemic to the human condition. Make it work for instead of against you with this one simple technique.

Planning tomorrow today? Why not go even further and plan next year this year?