Beating Procrastination

Arc Support Group EOY - SingHealth

First Learning Club discussion was around this. It’s something almost all of us struggle with and this group coming together was really like a support group. You know, the kind for alcohol addicts? This was a bunch of people who are masters of procrastination and were seeking help!

This blog is a compilation of key points from our discussion and my personal tips to beat procrastination.

What we did

Watch a TED talk: Inside the minds of a master procrastinator

Reflect on our own procrastination habits and history – This questionnaire was the guiding material there

Meet at Sunday 11 AM in the telegram group, pick 6 topics from the questionnaire and discuss each topic for 5 minutes

Key points from our discussion

Has procrastination ever caused a lot of damage to you? Or ruined your life! Can you share an instance if any?

Whole college life, I had been procrastinating because being in a Govt. college there were no strict deadlines. Hence always ended up doing things a the last minute.

I can’t really say procrastination has ruined my life or pin-point a specific instance when there have been a lot – but it’s definitely been something that has led to a lot of sub-par works in the past.

Every single exam of mine at college. Almost every single application i have ever applied to. Things have worked out 90% times. So i think i end up doing it again.

No single big loss but my health is one area which had always suffered greatly from procrastination. ….which, come to think of it, is the worst thing you could do to yourself

I had made this into a form of excuse…told myself, I do my best work at the last moment

When you think of doing something, what are the “intelligent reasons” you tell yourself to NOT do that right now?

Finds something else to be done that is not as important as the Task to be done. Somehow finds way too much interest in that not so important task all of a sudden and spends time for it.

My main one – “you need to do it perfectly, and right now it won’t come perfectly so wait for a time when things are flowing when the atmosphere is perfect and your headspace is better.” This is really stupid and contradictory because things won’t flow unless you get started.

Enough and more time left. Best comes when I am under pressure..that is when I will focus.

Mine sometimes is “I don’t like doing this. So I won’t do it. I will only do what I like. Like I have the authority to dictate my life”

And putting it on that external factor..blaming that to be the reason you didn’t start. Like I had to visit my grandma..and so didn’t start studying

I tell myself that I need uninterrupted time…and for that, all other tasks should be over first

I tell myself it good to take a break instead of being broken by work.

Have you ever felt you procrastinate because

  • There’s a lot of time to do the work. I’ll do it later
  • It’s not important
  • It’s not interesting
  • Doing the activity does not make me feel good
  • It’s too hard to do
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • There’s not enough incentive to do it
  • I’m not responsible for doing this (Lack of ownership)

Yes to all of em

– There’s a lot of time to do the work. I’ll do it later
Thats a deadline months away, let me enjoy and dance around with my Instant gratification monkey until the last one week

Almost all have been an excuse at some point but for different types of work

“It’s not interesting” is my main reason to procrastinate. Throughout my preparation for upsc cse, I have certain subjects I call boring and just keep on postponing about reading the same. Few days to go for the exam, I end up with a pile of subjects that I am barely interested but utterly necessary

These two have been recurring lately because of my final project
– It’s too hard to do
– I don’t know how to do it

With regards to cleaning, it’s like its not dirty enough yet. Once it gets DIRTY, I’ll clean. I wait for my laundry bag to get full. Then I wash 😛 I allow things to pile up and get dirty.

Can you think of an activity that you pursued without any push or procrastination? Why did you not procrastinate then?

When I see someone is directly benefitted by my activity, I don’t procrastinate…..mostly in socially relevant activities

Had been procrastinating way too long on that, hence doing it regularly at least now after years of procrastinating

Recently led a peer learning online group, I was the one who formed it and the one who anchored daily tasks and discussions. I was very organized throughout, minimal procrastinations there. Now that I’ve thought about it, this pattern of not procrastinating stays true whenever I was the one in charge to make sure things went well. Maybe being responsible to other people does it.

it could be because I see the results immediately

Setting up my own website, godmothers, several other projects – I do all these out of interest alone. For me the key is that it should really interest me. If I keep thinking about an activity for a week, I know it interests me and it has captured my attention.

I tried self-learning during this quarantine period. Also made a personal website thanks again @aryamurali
I learnt JavaScript basics and to use GitHub now.
I don’t know maybe because I feel rewarded to learn

Also I don’t procrastinate when I am accountable for the activity.

For me I think it’s when me not working means everything else will fail. If I am leading it or responsible for all of it, then I’m on my toes. And like Ruby said, when I am creating an impact through my work.

Also why I do it now, is these activities are being regularly done by the Role models of mine. When you aspire to be them, you also tend to adopt their good lifestyle

Thoughts on the TED talk: Inside the minds of a master procrastinator: Have you ever talked your monkey into doing what you were supposed to? (Other than the panic monster, have you ever rationally talked yourself into doing something?)

Finish the ppt tonight so that you don’t have to wake up early tomorrow morning and sit on it!

Yes. My trick is usually imagining the best case scenario if I worked well on what I was supposed to and then the worst, and then imagining how good it would be to have the first over the latter. Works best when the positive outcome is something I really really want in my heart.

Many a times. Small time Rewards after part of task is done works at times.

I have had to…. Because my husband is a bigger procrastinator than me …so to get things moving in our house, I often have to talk to the monkey ( the internal one, not the husband)

I have actually felt that sometimes when I’m with bigger procrastinators, I tend to take action 😛 Suddenly you become the most Productive person in the house and that is very rewarding B)

The panic monster is also ever present in my head even if it’s not too close to a deadline, and some days the panic monster wins.

Even if I am hungry, if I finish this..I’ll be super hungry by the end of it..the food will TASTE SOOOO MUCH BETTER!

I picturise the failure that I’m going to face right in the beginning and tell my monkey that, “see you don’t want to end up there”. An example that comes to my mind is, I was procrastinating reading Modern Indian History for almost a month. And Iater started picturising myself not able to answer a simple question from the topic in the exam and ending up one mark below the cut off. Result was I read it religiously.

My favourite one is:
“Dude, you believe in Murphy’s law don’t you?”

I also revisit “why” I started doing something or committed. That helps refresh my memory!

What has worked for you to beat procrastination?

What has worked for you to beat procrastination?

Concept of shitty first draft is really useful. It worked for me quite a lot

Well, my remedy to this is, convince myself that the journey is more important than the destination.
You’re not in a hurry to reach a place. The road is beautiful.

This is a nice one. I’ve been trying to enjoy exercising – I did gym, yoga, zumba and finally I realised I have to enjoy it and settled on badminton with colleagues. It’s not intensive, but I love it! And I look forward to going to the court!

I feel good about myself after I get started with at least a shitty first draft and after I have made some progress..pat myself..and push to do a little more..and continue the cycle

1. Checklist – but sensible ones ( 3 impt ones in a day types)
2. Visualization of end goal
3. Learning to say No for unimportant goals…. I sometimes procrastinate because I am overwhelmed
4. Getting a support group … I have friends who started online workout just to make sure I workout

2 minute rule and Not zero works best for me. Right today morning was too lazy to exercise, but then thought see I will do just 20 situps and that got me doing a proper 45 minute workout.

I do 1 important thing a day – What’s the most important thing I can do today which if don will take care of most other things?

Have been working on making shorter to do lists. Long to-do lists are more distractions than a step towards being productive

I built my reading habit with not zero.
Every morning I wake up, and even before I brush, I used to read medium publications. At least 1 blog a day. Did not realise when it became a habit!

Another thing that has helped me is to break down things into smaller goals.
Like, today I have to read the summary of a month’s current affairs. I break it down into smaller goals, hour by hour, topic by topic. That gives me more of a visual overview and helps me to be on track.

I also try to keep 2 projects to do at a time. So when I’m bored with one, I do the other. So managing interest/attention as against time.

We did not procrastinate when we had:





My personal tips and mental models to beat procrastination

Work expands to the time you have – Parkinson’s Law

This explains why we do things the last minute. The more time we have, the more we stretch out our work. I know people who deliberately wait until the last minute to do it because it helps save time and also makes them creative.

Opportunity cost: What are we all procrastinating on?

Like Tim Urban says in the TED talk, we’re all NOT doing something when we are doing something. It’s more about the opportunity cost than about procrastination there – what am I giving upon to do this? Eg: I’m increasing stress and last-minute panic if I waste 90% of my project time Netflixing.

Break things down to a dummy’s level

This is said to be a productivity tactic. But it also helps beat procrastination well because you exactly know what to do to make something happen. We sometimes don’t do stuff because we don’t know what exactly to do!

What is suggested is that you break down a task/todo to the smallest level so that you don’t have to think at all.

Eg: Call the house owner – is vague – you may procrastinate on this todo
But: Call the house owner today at 11 AM and ask about him giving me a rent receipt (Need receipt for tax filing) – his number: 9808473988

Now any dummy can do this task!

Eat that frog

This advocates that you should do the most difficult task first. Get it out of the way!
Brian Tracy’s book – Eat that Frog is a good read I’ve heard.

Thoughts → Feelings → Action → Output

IDK where I read this but this made soo much sense to me.

I think we all do things that have some ‘Feeling’ or ‘Emotional’ component attached to it. 

I also think we often mute how we feel about the activity and try to think just logically. I mean yes, while you logically know you want to get fit, the real motivation for you might be being able to wear a nice dress or looking good in pictures or being more appealing!

Tapping into your inner feelings and really understanding how not doing something would make you feel could help serve as a motivation for you.

Example 1:
– I should get healthy
Feeling – My current look makes me feel bad about myself. I feel horrible when I see how much worse I’ve become. I feel tired all the time!
Action – Eat healthily and exercise
Output – Get fit

Vision board or Visualising your goals

Just imagine: What if we finish this project? What if I get that promotion because I did this great yet difficult project?

What is the worst that can happen?

What is the worst that can happen if I don’t get selected for this job interview?
What is the worst that can happen if X does not even open the email I’m sending?

I try to think of these things when the downside of doing something is much less. It is a way of making myself realise, there’s not much to lose, but everything to gain.

Make yourself accountable

Aside from deadlines, what also matters to us very dearly is our reputation. You sometimes do something because you don’t want to disappoint your boss or parent or partner!

I know a friend who wanted to write regularly. He added 30 of his friends to his council to catch him if he does not write. He basically committed to sending them a 1000 blog post every morning before 9 AM. If he did not, he gave all these people the power to question him why he did not.

Just because of this accountability bit, he wrote consistently for 30 days.

Shitty first draft

Another key reason why we don’t do things is because of fear of failure. The shitty first draft is us allowing yourselves to do shitty work!

So you essentially tell yourself, “Ok darling, let’s try to do the first version of this project or blog (or anything) and it is ok if it is shitty. We will try to improve on this next week”

This works best for those creative projects, or blogs, job applications, etc.

2-minute rule

We’re most often just lazy to start. Once we do, we might get going. The 2-minute rule asks you to spend 2 minutes doing the activity. And then you have the power to stop it.. But just do it for 2 minutes. Likewise, read one page of that book. Or write 3 lines of your blog post.

Not zero

Not zero is a concept I’ve started practising these days – It is a modification of the 2-minute rule where I tell myself.

“If we measure how much you wrote today, it should be ‘NOT ZERO’”
“If we measure how much you exercised today, it should be ‘NOT ZERO’”

This also translates to ‘Do Something, Anything!’

A major issue for me is how I deal with fitness – I know I should do it, I know what will happen if I don’t. But I don’t exactly know how to start – It feels like a massive goal with 0 actionable activities in front of me. So these days I just tell myself that your fitness activity should be ‘Not Zero’. 

No major goals until my mind and body accept that this is a new habit we have to develop.


Well, we know this one. The carrot at the end of the stick.
If you do X, you get Y.
If you finish homework, you get chocolates?
Design your own incentives! 

Eg: I told myself I will get a proper WordPress site+hosting if I maintain my website and blog for 2 years.
If you finish cleaning the house on Saturday, you get to meet your friends on Sunday.