Think Simple Now — a moment of clarity

What should I do with my life? Click here.

The Panacea for Putting Things Off

Photo by Cindy Loughridge

Can you recall a time when you wanted to do something important, yet you’ve managed to make enough excuses to leave it for a later date? Putting something off once makes it easier to put it off again, and before you know it, several weeks have past and you still haven’t done it?

I just cleaned my entire apartment and it’s almost time for bed, again. Another day has gone by, and I still haven’t written a blog post for this week. Two thoughts conflictingly popped up in my head:

  • Yes! I’ve successfully put it off for another day.
  • Crap! I feel guilty for putting it off yet another day. I really should get that done soon.

I’ve got a lot going on in my life. But, it’s just became clear to me that I have spent the past five days unconsciously avoiding writing, while spending mental energy coming up with excuses. Each time when I’m about to start writing, I would magically feel hungry, tired, sleepy, thirsty, grumpy, dehydrated, or needing to go ‘potty’. Or I would suddenly have the desire to read, watch TV, browse the Internet, finish random low-priority tasks, clear out my email inbox, go jogging, sleep early and clean the house. As you can see, my box of excuses is infinite.

When I recognized this, I sat down and started writing the article you’re reading now.


A Few Observations


  • The more we make excuses, the more we buy into them, the easier it is to make additional excuses to support our mind-created beliefs. These beliefs become our story, and our excuses become our reality.
  • Delaying is addictive. Even if your intention is to put it off “just this one time”. The act of putting it off sets a chain of reactions that will make it easier to delay this task again. In fact, it becomes more likely that the task will be postponed again.
  • What we repeat in our mind actually exaggerates the scale of the task involved. It snowballs larger and larger, until the task becomes so big that you will never get it done.
  • Constantly thinking about doing something but avoiding the actual act of doing it takes energy. You end up spending more energy pondering about it and making excuses for it than just getting it done. You’ll actually save time and attention energy by just doing it.
  • We can only move on with our lives when we can get past our internal conflict between our story of procrastination and our desire to get it done. You really start to be productive when you can change your attitude.
  • When you break the cycle and start, you’ll be surprised at how quick and easy the task actually takes. You’ll be wondering why you didn’t just get it done in the first place.

The Cure

Stop thinking. Just do it.



The System: Cure Expanded


  • Manage It – List out all the things you are putting off. Or rather, make a habit to write down all the tasks you want to complete. Write down how long you think each task will take. Now, double that number, that’s how much time you should budget for the task. The act of writing things down instead of holding it in your memory, frees up mental energy. Make sure, every task is small and achievable within a few hours. If not, break it down into several smaller tasks. Take small steps before running down the finish line.
  • Prioritize It – Give a number beside each item, starting with 1 being the highest priority, the most important.
  • Plan It – Schedule it. Make an appointment with yourself to complete the top 3 items on your list. Don’t schedule more than 3 in a day, it’ll distract you. Schedule other appointments with yourself only when the top 3 have been completed. This idea of focusing on just the most important items first before doing any other tasks help to improve your personal efficiency, while reducing feelings of guilt from non-productive times.
  • Do It – Stick to your plan, get it done. Before an appointment with yourself, make sure to be well fed, take plenty of fluids, go to the bathroom, close your email windows and other distractions. Prepare to be focused.
  • Dig Deep In It – If you find that you are skipping appointments with yourself. Ask yourself why are you deliberately putting this off? What are you avoiding? What are you afraid of? There’s always a reason. If you come up blank, dig deeper within yourself. Be honest. Actively ask yourself this question until you have the answer. Perhaps there’s pain associated with the doing. Perhaps, this isn’t want you really want to do. Perhaps, you are afraid of failure. Whatever the reason is, dig deep within yourself to discover the why. Once you find the reason, what can you do about it?


More Tips to Beat Putting-Things-Off


  • Language – Watch your language when you speak or think about the task. Our language can have a powerful influence in the way we view our surrounding situations. “I should get that done” implies that it’s not something I really want to do but am obligated to do. As a result, our subconscious mind is telling our conscious mind that we shouldn’t be spending time on this task, it’s not what we want. Is that really how you feel about the task? If not, see how you can rephrase the sentence to better reflect what the task means to you. A more positive wording could perhaps be “This is important to me, because it contributes towards the wellbeing of others. I would love to get it done and I have scheduled times with myself to get it completed next week.”
  • Commit – Make a decision to commit to getting it done. A true commitment to doing something will bring with it the energy required to getting it done. Nothing is as impossible or difficult is it seems. Once we’ve committed ourselves to some result and it is a result that we truly want, we’ll feel the desire and push towards action arising intrinsically out of us, naturally.
  • Understand the Why – We often get so caught up in our routine of being busy, running from one task to the next that we forget to ask ourselves why we are really doing something. Ask yourself why this is important to you? Understanding the true importance of something and why it matters to you will give perspective to the matter and bring you the encouragement you need to follow through.
  • Pain vs. Pleasure – It is well known that we will go to further extent to avoid pain than we will at gaining pleasure. Understanding the pains and pleasures from doing or not doing something can act as an effective motivator. What will you lose if you don’t complete it? What will you gain if you do complete it? Sometimes, the act of visualizing the pain from not doing something can act as a motivator to help you get it done.
  • Instant Gratification vs. Long Term Gain – Thanks to modern conveniences and media, we as a society, especially in the western world, have become accustomed to instant gratification. With a flick of a remote, we can browse through hundreds of TV channels. With a phone call, we can have world cuisines delivered to our doors. With a few clicks of a mouse, the books we wanted will show up at our doorsteps. Microwave pizzas, bottled egg whites, and pre-packaged anything can be easily accessible with a quick trip to the local store. These serve as short-term distracters away from what we can gain in the long term. Spend some time to focus on your long term goal that this task contributes towards. Is the short-term gratification worth it in risking your long-term gain? Is it worth compromising for your potential?
  • 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.



Parting Words

Life is as hard or as easy as we make it. The more we think about something (anything, not just tasks), the more amplified it becomes from our perception, because we have given it energy by focusing on it. Let’s not torture ourselves by adding more stress in our already hectic lives. It’s okay to be busy and not have time to finish things. Schedule it, forget about it and stick to the schedule. Treat it like an appointment with yourself. We respect others enough to show up at appointments punctually. Why don’t we do the same with ourselves?

What are some secrets you use to overcome Putting Things Off?

What works for you? See you in the comment section. :)

Before you go: please share this story on Facebook, RT on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to receive email updates. Thank you for your support!
Connect with TSN Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Instagram RSS
About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

Love this article? Sign up for weekly updates!

Think Simple Now delivers weekly self-reflective, inspiring stories from real people. Join our empowering community by entering your email address below.

89 thoughts on The Panacea for Putting Things Off

  1. thethe

    Great post Tina! Hope you will not turn to the dark (money) side like some other “zen” bloggers.

  2. Heather

    Funny, I am reading this article in an attempt to delay a project… a project that I was somewhat interested in at the outset, but by delaying have completely sapped all possible enjoyment. Or, it could possible be that while I was delaying, I kept thinking of all the other projects I *wanted* to work on. It’s a loop, though, because by delaying (thinking of all the things I *could* be doing) I am making the process longer and more frustrating, and just (in effect) putting those things off too.

    Soooo, I’m off to work on my oft-delayed project. :) Thanks for the great article!

  3. Thanks for the great article Tina. It really hit home, especially “Understanding the Why”.

    As for tips for getting things done, to add to your excellent list, having SMART goals sums it up nicely too. S-specific M-measurable A-attainable R-realistic T-timely.

    Thanks again for kicking me into gear!

  4. Rachel

    Another tip that has been helpful to me: Take a few moments to visualize yourself doing the thing you need to do. That will program your brain to be ready to do the task, making it easier to start. Close your eyes and try to picture yourself doing whatever it is you have planned and be sure to make it as visual as possible in your mind. It works in a similar way to rehearsing a speech or a play: it makes the performance a lot easier. It usually takes less than a minute to do this in your mind.

  5. Brian

    Hmm, maybe its a sign.

    I finished high school about 2 weeks ago, and have had over a month to register for the community college I will be attending. Its not to out of the way, (about 9 miles from home), its not hard, its not painful or anything. But Ive been putting it off…

    Im off work tomorrow, and I think this article has inspired me to ‘just do it’.

    Thank you!

  6. mike

    Confession: I usually procrastinate by reading productivity blogs.

  7. Kurt Davidson

    I think the real challenge for most creative individuals is not getting started, but getting finished. I’ve found that having a deadline, especially one that is imposed outside of my control, is the only true way to get something completely done. Even if I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the work I’ve finished by the official deadline, I allow myself to pick up and tweak the project when I have available time to do so.

  8. The anonymoustache

    Great post! I really liked this and definitely gained something from it (which doesn’t happen often to me online). Thanks :)

  9. Mike O

    I really like the article. There’s an ideology called “Getting Things Done” founded by a book by David Allen. You make a lot of the same great points as him (and more!), but you also seem to touch a lot more on the spiritual and mental side than Allen’s approach. I highly suggest you read it if you have the time, it’s a fantastic book, and a major focus that has become a lifechanger for me is the idea of “does it take two minutes or less?” and if it does, I do it right then.

  10. hi,

    well, first of all you have great introspection power (like a super-power only more human).

    But I think the problem is not that simple. saying “just get it done” won’t solve the problem. we need to think of better ways to confront this “delaying urge”.

    let’s be honest for a sec. real honest. are you going to read your post the next time your avoiding writing ? probably not. so, in a way you pointed out the problem real clear but i don’t think you found new ways to confront it.

    Anyway. to be honest. real honest – you made me list up all my to-do-list-but-delayed-for-unknown-reason-things and for that I’m grateful.

    C U.

    but you’ve done a great job at

  11. I have also found that once you get started on the thing that you have been putting off… it doesn’t seem as bad as what we built up in our minds.

    Thanks for the reminder, it is always good to hear it again! I’m off to just do it. ;)

  12. Hi Tina, you’re so right. I’m staring right now. I’m just start doing things before starting to even think about procrastinating.

  13. RJC

    Interesting write up. I knew I should have read through even though I usually open multiple browser tabs and just procrastinate on leaving it. A bit ironic to leave this article to be read at a later time.

    I will try to manage myself in your manner and thats probably why I decided to keep track via doing a blog. It is more like a personal development tracker and personal bookmark on the worldwide web. So far, it has come in handy by writing down my experiences and sharing them.

    Nonetheless, all this definitely takes commitment. Thanks again.

  14. SEO

    You are so right. My life was turning into a nightmare just because I would always leave everything till the last minute. As a result I am having to retake a year at uni. I think I have learned from my mistakes.

  15. I like how this article was a distraction from the real task that you wanted to get done, and at the same time it is also the task that you were trying to get done.

  16. nice article, however there’s an important thing to remember here:

    If you notice that you are doing this regularly then you might consider if you have any sort of Attention Deficit Disorder, not necessary though

    Just then at least you will have more resources to help you figure this out, I am %100 against taking drugs for ADD (dangerous side effects)

    Let the people around you (family, close friends etc) no you problem and to remind you and keep you in check, it’s ok to ask for help from people you trust but try to let them understand it and confuse it with laziness etc

  17. Thanks for a great post! I motivated me to write an overdue post for my blog! :-)

    I’ve worked with “Getting Things Done”, and many, many other approaches, and yet I still put things off. So I’m trying another tack.

    Rather than just trying to “Get Things Done”, I’m trying to figure out the range of behaviors that I use to not get things done. By concentrating on the things I do that keep me from getting things done, I’m hoping to cut off the procrastination nearer to the source.

    And, like most people who have bad habits, I don’t just have one bad habit, I have a bunch of them that re-enforce each other. What I’m trying to do is list my favorite work-avoiding habits, and then, one by one, find a strategy for canceling out the work-avoiding habit.

    There’s a list the avoiders that I know I use on my blog (there’s probably also a few I don’t realize I use). What strategies do you use to avoid getting things done?

  18. TMC

    I really enjoyed your article, and use many of the techniques you noted. As many of the commenters have added, the timing is right in that I’ve been really procrastinating on a number of big projects. So thanks!

    BUT, I have to say that I was put off by Luxx’s comment about ADD. I had that as a kid and a teenager, and I know several people in my family with ADD and ADHD. Some have tried the au natural path – no drugs – and others (I included for a good part of my life) have used prescribed medications … not “drugs”. And from direct observation by myself and others in our family without ADD or ADHD, those of us that were on a regular pattern of appropriate medications have had far more productive and “normal” lives than those in our family that fought against using any medications at all.

    I have a friend who for years and years swore off of any and all medications, over or under the counter – he wouldn’t even take an aspirin for pain when he was in an accident. Now, with a certain medical prognosis, he has no choice but to take prescriptions … and he has no issue with it.

    Luxx says that he/she swears off of drugs for ADD, but there are far more supportive studies in favor of appropriate use of medicals that the few studies he/she is likely thinking of that still have open questions. As for me, its helped me be productive and supportive of my family, since I’ve already been through the pain of trying to live without my medication at a time when my body needed it the most!


  19. Wise, wise words. There is a lot of truth in your post. Putting things off is something I do all too often.

    If you wouldn’t mind, I just updated my blog with a post about reiki, you guys should check it out:

Page 2 of 41234
Your thoughts?

Leave a Comment

We’d love to hear them! Please share.

Think Simple Now, a moment of clarity © 2007-2022 Privacy Disclaimer
Back to top