The #1 Surefire Way to Stop Procrastination (Even If You’re Not Disciplined)

I was four chapters into a book that a smart merchant banker swears by, before I found the mother of all time management tips. What’s the trick I learned to overcoming procrastination and refusing to get lost in diversion?

stop procrastination and better time management

How can you stop procrastinating when you dont value time properly?

Here is the single exercise for becoming clear and focused, capturing 100% more time in your workday, and becoming faster in all you do.

Start with your laundry list of to-dos, and get it from your mind onto paper.

Now, you won’t forget all the tasks, big and small. But you will put most of them aside.

After recording that too-long list of what you’d like to do, go back and rank your 6 priorities for the day, from 1 to 6.

You can do this on paper, or with a digital doc. Either way, write down your #1 goal for the day, followed by 2 through 6. Do not include more than 6 goals, and be absolutely clear about which is most important, which is next in importance, and so on.

Then, set up a system for monitoring your focus towards the goal, and getting back on task.

For me personally, I set up a stopwatch online using Apimac Timer. But you can use an alarm on your smartphone or even the ol’ kitchen timer.

Every 15 (or 30 minutes, your choice), when you hear the bell, take that paper or document, re-read it, and if you are not on task, get out of your sidetrack and back to the steps to that important goal. In another 15 minutes, repeat.

That way, when you finish this exercise, you will be absolutely certain at the end of your working day that you will either have finished goal #1, or still be working on it. If you have finished it, then you have moved on to the next priority (goal #2). If not, you will be that much closer to achieving what can dramatically impact your business or job search.

Dramatic impact means growing by more than 100%. In my experience, most folks who dawdle and divert, do so with their own explicit (or implicit) consent.

We are giving you back control. In this way, a day in which you have finished only one goal will be a huge success.

Like a drill sergeant barks to their troops or the Nike ads croon, just do it. Do not muck around. Heed the bell. At that very moment audit yourself like the IRS follows a red flag, and re-calibrate if necessary.

I am recommending exactly what I did one day last spring, when I needed to make progress on my blog as well as chauffeur three teens. (Click here to see how I fared, imperfections and all.) By the end of the day, I completed the most unappealing #1 goal, and the most powerful #2 goal. It felt great.

If you are like me, there are interruptions in your day. Some things cannot be moved. Especially on family days.

Still, having a work ethic and an approach that reflects a commitment to MY goals are a means to go, and go further.

The coda to better time management

This week I started a new gig as a journalist for an online news site. This has reinforced how a method and a rhythm in work, is key. As I operate under a daily deadline—publishing 30 articles in 30 days—I recognize that lackadaisical habits not only bring down my energy, but also bring down the work product of an entire news team.

As we each pick off topics in real time, it is incumbent to research, write and publish quickly, i.e. within 2 hours of reserving a topic, in order to fairly ensure that no one takes a hot topic and then dillydallies in catching the wave of interest.

I would not be able to do this if I were relying solely on the discipline of willpower. In fact, I feel the pressure of the group and the eyes of my boss. But I also utilize a timer and the stop-recalibrate method, as simple as it sounds, to become more effective.

You will likewise stop procrastinating and become wickedly effective with your time, if you heed this advice.

Mojo Moves

  • Try this out beginning NOW. Start by writing your laundry list of to-dos and decide how you’ll be notified: Set up a timer online? Or an offline bell? As a dedicated Mac person, I utilize Apimac Timer, which is free and simple.
  • Look at that list, rank the top 6, and then methodically crank out what will bring you to the first goal, second goal and so forth. Make the effort for ONE DAY. Observe yourself, continually re-align, and stay focused.
  • When you get to happy hour (the end of your work day), come back to Mojo40 and watch this hilarious video to see how you can apply focus and speed to something that is normally a slow process–cooking a meal.YouTube Preview Image

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Emilie Ogez.

What are your tips to stop procrastination and achieve work life balance? Please share in the comments section.

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  • laurie goldsmith sperandio

    Being a very busy person,working days and 3/4 nights a week, i have managed to have a very well working work/life balance. I put things i have to do in my calendar and treat them like i do clients.
    I make a list every evening that i take with me when i leave the house in the morning and make sure to use every free moment to achieve what is on the list (even if it is pick up dry cleaning or do laundry during lunch break etc)

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Its amazing how folks like you can sandwich all things big and small, when they aim to squeeze out the utility of a small free interval of time! Thanks for sharing and offering your advice, Laurie!

  • Dan Walsh

    I would recommend a book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. It covers your recommendations in more depth and breath to get control of your entire life.

  • Vivienne Bolton

    Great article! One way which works for me is to visualise the goal, what it will look like when finished, the effect it will have on others and the business, together with my feelings of achievement and joy on completion. I really feel the energy rushing through me as if it has already happened. If I get distracted or feel despondent at the lack of pace and development of my goal then I notice how that may have occurred before switching back to the feeling I have on completion. By avoiding getting caught up in the rush, I am able to see opportunities that help me achieve the goal in a way I hadnt considered. If I cannot find any good feelings toward the completion of a goal, then I have to ask why am I doing it? If I look closely enough I usually find the benefits. That seems to be the key for me. If the benefits are small then it ends up being a task rather than a goal and needs to be prioritised accordingly. Belief in the end result rather than the route (in my visualisation) seems to have more power for me than getting caught up in too much detail. The details seem to sort themselves out time and time again when I hold the end in mind.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Vivienne, I had never thought of this, but it makes so much sense. Visualization has indeed been shown scientifically to change our brains in some way, and anything which enables change for the better, works for me!

  • Catherine Morgan

    Great stuff, Diane. This could actually work! And I know so many of us need help with this, including your truly.

  • Anastasiya Day

    I must say that I have managed to have a very well working work/life balance too. I put things that I have to do in my calendar and mob phone and treat them like I do clients. So that I know what to do. Great article! Thank you Diane and have a wonderful day :)

  • Debi

    Amazing how something that sounds so easy can truly be so effective. I’ve never been a procrastinator and I’ve been making lists for as long as I can remember. Great advice

  • denny hagel

    Now this is a topic I really need help with…but only the things I am not loving to do…what I call the “mechanics” of life! Great tips! Thanks!

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