Hello everyone. My name is Emile and I’m a procrastinator. I’ve always put off important tasks until I felt motivated or to fulfil my need for instant gratification. Luckily for me, over the past couple of years, I’ve started to break out of my natural cycle. However, sometimes my old ways do rear their ugly head. Last month it happened again…

For 2020, I’ve challenged myself to write a blog post every month. At the start of May I had an idea for what I wanted to write about, I just never seemed to get around to it. Before I knew it, it was the morning of May 31st and I hadn’t written a single word. So I did what all of those high school essays trained me for: I hastily wrote a post, barely edited it and published it just in time.

Since then, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what happened. The truth is, some people always do things last minute, but with a little change to your approach to tasks, maybe you won’t have to.

Understanding procrastination

After this happened, I decided to watch Tim Urban’s great TED talk called “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” again. Tim does a great job of outlining the thought processes (or sometimes lack thereof) of your average procrastinator.

It’s important to note that procrastinators aren’t merely lazy people. A truly lazy person doesn’t try to accomplish anything. Your average procrastinator has goals that they want to achieve, they just can’t force themselves to start.

There are several reasons for this, be it lack of motivation, lack of self-discipline or something else entirely. However, Tim does mention that in the absence of concrete deadlines, procrastinators may end up putting off their goals ad infinitum. This can cause feelings of regret to build up over time and eventually, it can make you miserable.

How can we tackle this problem?

As Tim goes on to explain: Deadlines are a procrastinator’s best tool to get stuff done. That sounds almost counter-intuitive, right? As a procrastinator, you probably really dislike deadlines. The trick is to break your goals down. You want to end up with the smallest possible tasks to achieve your goal. It’s also advisable that you make these tasks as verbose as possible. They need to have a clear beginning and end so you know when you’ve completed them.

Once you have those, you should spread them evenly throughout your project timeline. This way you’ll ensure momentum on the project while never being overwhelmed all at once.

As an example, I’ve created a “Monthly Blog Post” project in my to-do list app, here’s how I’m tackling this month’s post:

The sections of my Monthly blog post project on Todoist.

Firstly, I broke down the work that goes into writing a blog post into several clear subcategories. After that, I added tasks that fit into those categories, ranked them by priority and gave them deadlines. The deadlines lead up to June 15th, when I’m planning on publishing this post. (If I don’t post this before or on the 15th, you’ll know this method doesn’t work!)

The tasks under my Monthly blog post project on Todoist. Evenly spread out until the deadline to avoid procrastination.

As I’m writing this paragraph, I still have six days until I’m planning to hit that big old publish button. It really feels great to be on top of this goal. I’ve also saved this template to be reused and improved upon as time goes on.

Final words

Do you have goals or projects that you’ve been putting off indefinitely? Take some time to see how you can break them down and start working on them today. I have a daily goal of five tasks on my to-do list. It’s not a whole lot, but I do everything in my power to complete them every single day.

There’s no magic trick to make you achieve all of your dreams. A couple of years ago, I posted a blog post called “No More Zero Days“. If you break down your goals into small tasks, you can start with as little as one task a day. Eventually, as you build the dedication to do more, you’ll achieve your goals in no time. And hopefully, never again at the last minute.