Getting over procrastination?

I have a fairly specific situation in mind for this. A while back, I started up at a certification program at a community college in Web Design (not necessarily going to work in it directly; it’s something to add to the resume). I took all the classes and only have the final project (an actual website, of course) to go. My last opportunity to take the final course before my work so far “expires” is next year’s summer quarter. I know this is still more than sufficient time to get things done (heck, I could even finish it earlier than the last minute; what a concept!), yet I’m still procrastinating on this.

Here are the factors involved:

  1. It’s been literally two years since I started, so a lot of my skills have gotten rusty, at least where the software is concerned. Fortunately, I still have all my books and such, and can “retrain”/reread/etc.

  2. My “client,” my brother in law, is so awesomely busy that he’s been too tired to get back to me on my needs (from him for this project) and inquiries. I’d move to plan B, but I’m already ON plan B (having already scrapped work on a previous website “topic” of his). There’s still progress I can make with what info I have right now, though; if nothing else, I could put in the nitty gritty structural stuff and just have variables to plug in with graphical/aesthetic touches later. So this is not a convincing excuse for not doing something by any means.

  3. I’m working full-time right now, so I’m already tired during the evenings and wanting to relax during the weekends. But of course, even before I got this job, I wasn’t doing anything.

  4. (I think this is the big one.) It’s such a big project (to me) that I feel overwhelmed before I even start. I’ve actually felt this way ever since I started the classes years ago to begin with; I just have no idea how I’m going to do a good job on this. I never have.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas to get me moving?

I had seen an article about this, actually. I’ll find it later.

I’ll get back to you.

God, I do this all the time, and it makes me nuts. If I took the energy to just DO the thing instead of investing the energy in avoiding it, I’d make a line all the way to the moon and halfway back. Or something; I may be mixing up my analogies here. The point is, it all comes down to your reaction to stress, whether you are more likely to fight, flee, or freeze. I’m a freezer in the face of danger all the way, and when I have a big thing to take care of, I usually feel paralyzed and helpless to take even a tiny step towards it.

Here’s what I don’t do and totally should: break down the project into discrete steps, and focus all your attention on just one step at a time. Don’t even think about the steps to follow; your only concern is the step right in front of you. It’s not overwhelming, you clearly understand what you need to do and can see yourself finishing it: you can do this!

Make an appointment with yourself for several hours in which your only goal is to think about the major elements of your project. Write them down. Congratulations, you’ve just done the first step! You rock! Give yourself a little reward for your accomplishment. Put it aside for at least a day.

Next, take the first element and break it down into parts. Give yourself a time goal in which to finish each part. Half an hour a day, two hours on a weekend? It doesn’t matter; the important part is that it’s a small bite and a realistic time and a consistent thing in your schedule. When you finish each part, reward yourself. You deserve it!

Think of it as eating a pie. Can you eat a whole pie all at once? Too big! But if you break it down into small to tiny slivers, you’ll pack that pie away, no problem.

I hope that helps! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat a slice of pie while trying to avoid thoughts of the 14 articles I have to proofread and really wanted to have finished before the weekend started.

I had this my entire last year of college. It was weird, I really couldn’t bring myself to even start a project/assignment. I remember emailing a buddy of mine about what I was going through, he emailed me back useful links for my subject, which got me working and thinking, and finally I got fired up and enjoyed the process.

For me, I think I was burnt out. I had been going to school for years and years while balancing a fulltime job in the same field.

Unfortunately, you need to step over that giant curb sitting in front of you, then hopefully the enjoyment will take over and you’ll be off and running. The problem is that curb can really seem huge, even if it’s actually pretty small.

Good luck!

I suffer from Lazy Bitch Syndrome, which makes it very difficult to do *anything *I don’t want to. I thought about holding a telethon for LBS, but, you know, fuck it.

The only thing that gets me up and working is my version of “Just Do It.” It’s from the title of a 1950s cookbook: Be Bold With Bananas. Anytime there is something I am afraid to do or too damn lazy to do, I tell myself, “Eve–Be Bold With Bananas!” and I get up and *do *it.

I’m a horrible procrastinator. No, that’s not right. I’m very good at procrastinating!

It’s very easy to blame someone else on your lack of progress. You see this, as you say you can build the structure. Don’t wait on your brother. Start building the structure. When your brother finally gets back to you with what he wants, it will be much easier to finish. If your brother never gets back to you, be your own client. Make your own site.

I work full time, I have a 220-mile r/t commute on the three days I work in the office, I’ve been taking classes a couple of nights a week, and we’re renovating a room. There are always distractions. As I said in another thread – one in which I lament not flying for a decade – I quoted an old girlfriend: ‘It’s all what’s most important to you.’ In my case I finally decided to ‘just do it’. I can find two or three hours on a Saturday and/or Sunday to go to the airport, simply by not hanging out on the computer looking at airplanes and posting on the board. You have time available if only you take it. Step 1: Make the decision to finish. shantih gives good advice.

Decide. Get mad at yourself and decide to take the step. Then take the first step. Then take the second step. Then the third. Then it will become habit.

I have crippling procrastination problems where I screw up all my college work. I really need to focus even just to get a start and often after I start I can shut down and procrastinate like mad.

A few things that can help me that you might look at:

here is a link to a procrastination formula
"The likelihood of you finishing a task is made up of a ratio:



E = Expectation of success
V = Value of completing the task
T = Past tendency to delay tasks
C = Consequences of failure to complete"

I would write out a description of what each variable would be for me. Not so much a value just a description. You could break it down to. One task is to relearn what you used to know to get you back up to scratch. Then analyse the likelihood of you completing that task by a certain month. Then take the task of completing the project then and analyse the likelihood of you doing that.

another thing I did was send motivational texts to my phone. I got one of those programs off the internet that would log in to my internet text service for my phone and I copied motivational quotes and had the program send them to my phone at random intervals on days I would be studying

I also tend to procrastinate, especially on big projects with no set deadlines. A couple of tricks that work for me:

  1. Make a list of the steps you need to complete for the project. For a website, it might include storyboarding, overall look, designing the navigation, home page, page 2, page 3, etc. Then, make a schedule for yourself with this list. Actually sit down with a calendar and pick deadlines for each section. I still will occasionally miss my own deadlines, but for the most part it gives me enough structure to make progress. Plus, I can always see where I stand in completing the project.

  2. Set up a meeting to discuss your project with someone important to you and the project. In this case, it would be a professor who is acting as an advisor for you. You will want to make a good impression, i.e.- show up with something done, not cancel the appointment. This is a way of giving yourself a harder deadline than the first idea. I usually invoke this when I just can’t get started, as it forces me to face the music and put something together. The conversation itself then gets me really rolling.

Good luck! And don’t give up. You’ve worked too hard to let one project keep you from your degree. (from a 4th year, part-time Master’s student ;))

I can offer three pieces of advice:

  1. Think about how you would go about doing the project were you to start doing it. It’s easier to prepare for something than it is to actually decide to do something. After you think about your strategy you’ll find that starting the project is somewhat easier.

  2. In order to do the project you need motivation. A common misconception is that motivation comes from external sources. It doesn’t. It can only come from within. You have to motivate yourself and not wait around for motivation. If you are not motivated to do your project now you won’t be motivated to do it later.

Motivation comes from awareness and action. If you want to increase your motivation you must increase your awareness of the project and you must use your discipline to take action toward the project. To make the action part easier, you can follow my advice in step one.

To increase your awareness of the project you can put a sign next to your computer to remind you that you have a project due. You can ask a friend to remind you that you have a project. You can create a giant poster that reminds you of your project. Whatever works for you.

When I lived with my parents all I had to do was tell them I had a project due and then every time I wasn’t doing the project I could expect to hear “don’t you have a project you should be doing?”

  1. Give yourself permission not to do a perfect job. You can do this by doing a quick and dirty job first, and then using the extra time to make it perfect.

When we self sabotage with procrastination, we can intuitively tell, it’s Us that’s standing in our own way. What’s needed is for, conscious you, to tell subconscious you, to get out of your way, cause you got shit to do! Of course years of intensive, reflective therapy would work, perhaps with meds, but who has time for that? Since you don’t question your own capability, or waver on your intent, I think you can help yourself with a little trick I once learned. It’s a small, simple, seemingly silly thing, that proved very effective for me.

What you need is permission to not procrastinate, so that, subconscious you, stays out of it, and lets you get your shit done. Pick any physical thing you do every morning, (like pouring your cereal/tea, or washing your hair), and every time you do it, say, out loud, firmly, like you mean it; “I give myself permission to be focused and productive today!”. That’s it.

I know, it sounds really easy. I should you warn you it’s not. Your monkey brain will distract you from doing things, any way it can. Once you get the habit of it, you will see yourself being more focused and productive. From the very smallest changes can come the most impressive outcomes.

When this trick was given to me, it was presented as a challenge and it drove me to distraction, trying to do. I am very hard headed. Once you get the hang of it, you can, of course, change up the wording to meet whatever you think you’ll need more of that day. Patience, self compassion, calm, anything you want. After a long time I was habitually giving myself permission every morning to 'Be Awesome!":smiley:

Why don’t we talk about this tomorrow?

I find it helps if you visualize the task in smaller chunks. I tell myself that I’ll do the rest later, but I’ll do this simple starting part, since it’s so easy. And then I think I’ll do just a little more. And, soon, I find out I have it done.

This only works for me with things that don’t involve extended physical exertion or don’t take longer than a week, however. Oh, and cleaning, as, unlike other tasks, it always looks to me like I haven’t accomplished anything. Stupid all or nothing thinking!

Thanks for the ideas so far, everyone. I think the most useful ones so far have been ways to deal with my point #4 in the OP. I believe my biggest obstacle is my feeling that I just don’t have the ability to do this website well; the helplessness and overwhelmed feeling are definitely making the procrastination a hundred times worse. I think, on some level, I wouldn’t MIND wasting all that time and money by letting my credits expire, because it’d mean that I wouldn’t have to put in effort, only to fail. But then, of course, there are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t let that happen.

More ideas/thoughts welcome!


I used to think procrastination was the best policy, but now I can’t be bothered to give it so much consideration.

Stuff happens. By the time I hear of it they call it history.

My one piece of advice that usually works for me is what I call “cracking the problem.” I promise myself I will just start but there is no obligation to go any further than I want. I will just get all the papers together, for example, or just get out the syllabus and see what it says or even just sharpening some pencils and getting a note pad. No pressure.

What usually happens is that I see that the first steps aren’t so bad, I’ll do a little work and then, even if I stop, I have some idea what is involved for the future. It is much easier to take another swing at the problem later when it is broken open like this and I’ve had some time to think about it.

I agree with the idea of breaking up the project into individual tasks. When I feel overwhelmed by a seemingly major project, listing out all the tasks on a piece of paper makes what seemed like a huge, amorphous undertaking suddenly very do-able and easy. The tasks you could come with could be simple as a phone call to your brother or visiting a website for ideas. As long as they’re leading to the outcome you want, it’s okay if they are super granular in nature.

When I’m stuck in a procastination rut and there’s business that has to be done, what I also do is train myself to react in a manner completely antithetical to what my inner slacker is telling me to do at that moment. For instance, if there’s an important form I need to fill out, and I catch myself saying that I’ll get it to it tomorrow, that’s exactly when I make myself fill the damn thing out. Instead of giving into my inner slacker, I punish it by going completely going against its wishes. And then I’m rewarded with the pleasant feeling of having a dreadful chore behind me and winning the fight against procastination.

Usually I find there’s plenty of time to get things done; what’s lacking is will. You just have to fight through your internal resistances.

I know what you’re talking about re that giant curb. For me it’s kind of a “nobody puts baby in a corner” feeling. I am anti-authoritarian to a fault, and I can’t stand to give in - it’s as if I’m too proud not to procrastinate.

A possibly relevant approach: We all can conceive of free will, so think of exercising your “free won’t.” Consider blowing stuff off as an involuntary urge - a feeling you get automatically in certain situations, but one you don’t have to obey.

I don’t know if it can overcome the associated feelings some of of us have, like pride or the panic response, but it’s worth a try.