12 Tips to Becoming a Successful Procrastinator


Like most people, you probably determine your level of success by your academic and career goals. The bigger the goal, the more successful you believe you will be once you have achieved it. With so much pressure placed on you to be successful, even one moment not spent working toward your goals starts to feel like failure. This sense of failure is exacerbated when you are procrastinating and not productively working.

If you struggle with procrastination, you are not the only one. According to a 2014 study by StudyMode, over 85% of high school and college students procrastinate. Is procrastination really a big deal if so many students are doing it? Well, that depends. Some people are chronic procrastinators and others are occasional procrastinators. For some, procrastinating diminishes the quality of work produced or damages reputations. If procrastination is holding you back from receiving opportunities and achieving your goals, then it is a significant problem.

A high percentage of students procrastinate because they are overwhelmed or distracted. Many experts say that procrastination is the result of fear that is overwhelming. Procrastination is believed to occur when your fear of the outcome leads to inaction. Rather than experiencing either success or failure, you remain in limbo, which is a very dissatisfying and stressful state that may lead to more procrastination.

Among students, distractions such as watching TV, being on social media or sleeping are the most common activities undertaken while procrastinating. Recognizing how you spend your time when you are distracted or overwhelmed, and then limiting those behaviors when you are (or should be) in work mode may help you to shift from a chronic to an occasional procrastinator. However, as any procrastinator knows, ending procrastination is not as simple as limiting these activities.

Other reasons that you may feel stuck and procrastinate are poor time management skills, perfectionism, and self-doubt as well as issues with social-esteem (e.g., your image) and decision making. Attempting to understand why you procrastinate, which is likely complex and multifaceted, could lead to more procrastination. Instead, you may increase your productivity by implementing counteractive behaviors rather than solely focusing on trying to understand the cause. Moreover, having realistic expectations and maintaining balance in your life are important to combating procrastination.

Create or borrow a personal definition of success that considers your level of productivity as well as your lifestyle. For example:

Success is having a balance between improving your life and enjoying it, and failure is when you have neither – you do not enjoy life and you are not making improvements toward your future.

This definition provides a good litmus test for a balanced life. No matter what you have accomplished, if you are not enjoying life, then you need to make adjustments. Your vision of success should include personal achievements along with professional ones, and getting enough rest and having fun should be among them.

Experts offer countless tips, or “cures,” to help you to stop procrastinating. The sheer amount of advice that is online may feel overwhelming, which may confuse you and leave you not knowing where to begin to make adjustments. Here are some suggestions that may help you, and just pick a few to start:

  1. Focus on being productive: if you are productive, procrastination will be less of an issue; so focus on what you can do rather than on what you should not do.
  2. Maintain a balanced perspective: set personal goals as well as professional goals, and be patient with yourself because everything worth having takes time.
  3. Prioritize your time based on importance and urgency: set limits for your time so that you are working toward your goals; prioritize important non-urgent tasks over urgent unimportant tasks.
  4. Envision your goal: planning out your future can help make it manifest; this approach may be applied to small and large goals alike (e.g., writing a paper or running a company).
  5. Break it down: bite-sized projects and goals allow you to see and experience success sooner rather than later; create smaller tasks that lead to the end goal.
  6. Acknowledge the baby steps: create a list of tasks (daily or weekly) and cross them off the list once they are completed; you will feel productive and this will help motivate you to keep going
  7.  Create structure where it is lacking: if you do not have regular or frequent deadlines, assign a specific deadline to individual tasks on your list; this will help to prevent missing deadlines or having last minute all-nighters.
  8. Do your research: you may not be ready to start a project (e.g., a research paper); get more information on the topic so that you are not stuck spinning your wheels.
  9. Address your roadblocks: you may have other life issues going on and may need to address those first before taking on more than you can handle.
  10. Don’t go it alone: you may get more accomplished with a group or a team, such as a study group or a tutor
  11. Work toward your own capabilities: try to avoid comparing yourself to others, and compete with your best self instead.
  12. Persevere: if you are not as successful as you hoped to be today, try again tomorrow and do not give up.

Helpful Tip: Avoid making too many adjustments at once. If you are a procrastinator, accept this and give yourself a break. You are not the only one, and it will likely be a lifelong challenge rather than something to conquer. Just keep at it and you will reach your goals.