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9 Ways Successful People Fight Procrastination

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

September 6, 2016

Everyone procrastinates. No matter how successful you are, we all push work aside for some Facebook photo browsing or to catch up with a coworker. However, the truly determined people do one thing different—they push past their procrastination.

In honor of National Fight Procrastination Day and to jumpstart this workweek after a three-day weekend of Netflix & chill, we've put together the top ways that successful people fight procrastination. Read this now (or in 10 minutes).

1. Confront your inner procrastinator.
"I procrastinate with confrontational things and uncomfortable conversations. I’ll give myself a deadline. And then I’ll change that deadline when that deadline shows up [laughs]. ‘Okay, by 3, I’m going to make that call.’ Four o’clock comes around—‘Okay okay, by 5 today. Oh, everybody’s left New York! Can’t make that call!’ So now I sit and ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that’s going to happen here, and why do I fear the confrontation?’”—Oprah Winfrey

2. Hone in on the important tasks.
“Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.For each item, ask yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day? Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?” Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions. Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow. TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work. If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.”—Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek


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3. Enlist the help of others.
“For me specifically, my number one method for avoiding procrastination is to recruit an accountability partner, I might put off writing something that doesn’t have a due date, but if I promise it to someone else by a certain date, I’ll get it done.”—Courtney Carver, Founder of Be More With Less

4. Do the worst first.
“Let’s face it, we’ve ALL wanted to avoid that ONE thing and we get to Friday and it’s still on our list because we are dreading the outcome. These are the things that you want to tackle first. If you have to make a call to say that the thing you promised is actually NOT going to happen, make that call first thing. Do not be terrible and call after hours and leave a message. It’s not cool. Suck it up, scratch it off your list and fly through everything else you need to do for the day.”—Myleik Teele, Founder & CEO of curlBOX

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5. Quit comparing yourself to others; it’s a waste of time.
“Success for a millennial woman, myself included, is multi-dimensional. Millennial women are working hard at all aspects of their lives, whether that be a business executive, a teacher, a mother, or another career entirely. This new generation of #WomenWhoWork is smart, ambitious, and passionate about their careers—but not defined by them. I believe that success is different for every woman. For me, I feel happiest and most successful when I’m meeting (or, preferably, exceeding!) my personal and professional goals.”—Ivanka Trump, New York Times best-selling author and Executive Vice Present of The Trump Organization

6. Use the “under 10 minutes” rule.
“If a task arrives in your queue and it can be completed in less than 10 minutes, take care of it right away. Small assignments are the most vulnerable to being buried in the workflow. Of course, the ‘Under 10 Minutes Rule’ is only effective if you leave some wiggle room in your schedule. If you have back-to-back meetings or multiple assignments that require heavy lifting every day, you just won’t have time for anything else. Therefore, you should assume that you’ll spend at least an hour per workday dealing with these small tasks and budget accordingly. In my mailbox, as soon as a task has been attended to, the corresponding messages are removed and placed in an appropriate folder. Thanks to the ‘Under 10 Minutes’ Rule, my inbox is nearly always empty. I don’t lose things due to clutter, I don’t get overwhelmed by all of the things I have to do, and my level of responsiveness is second to none.” —Alexandra Levit, career expert and writer at The Fast Track

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7. Stay away from Facebook.
“If procrastination were a competitive sport, I would get lots of medals. (Laughter). I try to keep enough structure in my life so I don’t miss deadlines. My idea of goofing off is going on Facebook to look at friends’ pictures. (Laughter). It helps that I still have a job as an attorney. I have a schedule and am forced to be mindful of time. Sometimes, I just have to compel myself to write the next book.”—Alafair Burke, author of The Ex

8. Stay interested in your work, or quit and find what interests you.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."—Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

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9. Create rewards for yourself.
“Don't let yourself watch the next episode of that TV series you're binge-watching until you complete half an hour of work on the project you've been putting off—but then reward yourself with a guilt-free viewing. You can also reward yourself with a walk, a cupcake or whatever else motivates you.”—Alison Green, journalist & co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results

TELL US: What is your go-to trick to beating procrastination? Share on Facebook @glassdoor