Procrastinate less, tackle more

Dec 21, 2012 at 2:49 p.m. ET

We all do it: We put off things we know we need to do, then stress and feel guilty about it later. Stop the cycle by putting an end to procrastination with these tips.

Woman creating to do list

Shorten your list

Approximate time saved: 30 minutes to 1 hour per day

If you're feeling overwhelmed about the length of your to-do list, you may just shut down and not do anything at all. Fix this problem by keeping your to-do list at a manageable length. Go over your list of tasks and eliminate anything that doesn't absolutely need to be done. Don't add tasks that aren't truly important and don't feel that you need to take on everything.

woman cleaning


Approximate time saved: 1 or more hours per day

As you look through your list (or go through it mentally), decide by what time each task needs to be completed. Then decide what time that means you have to begin each task to get it done. Having a schedule will keep you on track, even if it's self-imposed. Leave tasks that don't have a specific completion time until the end of the day, but set a schedule for those anyway or you're likely to simply put them off until tomorrow.

As you're prioritizing, also think about which task you dislike the most. If possible, do that first thing in the morning. This is called "eating the frog." While that doesn't sound appetizing, it's playful enough to lighten you up a bit just before you start work. Not only that, but with the most dreaded task done, you won't lose time on other tasks thinking about your impending "doom."

Managing your to-do list >>

Make time for play

Approximate time saved: About an hour per day

It may seem backward, but all work and no play often leads to no work at all. If you pack your schedule with chores and work, leaving no time for yourself, you'll be super-productive for a while. Unfortunately, that streak of uber-productiveness is often followed by an even longer streak of laziness. Overworking yourself makes you stressed and anxious, both of which quickly lead to procrastination. Set aside a little time for play each day (and if you can, one full day of play each week). This may seem like wasted time, but it lets you de-stress and clear your head. You'll be ready to tackle that to-do list in no time at all.

Get more done with less stress >>

Reward yourself

Approximate time saved: 30 minutes to 1 hour per day


It works with kids, it works with dogs and it works with us. You're much more likely to tackle your to-do list if there's something in it for you. Reward yourself for a job well done once you've completed a particularly daunting task. It gives you something to look forward to, along with the motivation you're lacking to complete the task at hand.

Tips to prevent burnout >>

Just do it

cleaning suppliesApproximate time saved: About an hour per day

The hardest part about tackling your to-do list is getting started, so just suck it up and dive on in. Once you get going, you'll probably realize it wasn't as hard or time-consuming as you thought it would be. Plus, the pride you feel from accomplishing something you normally put off will probably be just what you need to help you move on to the next item on your list.

More tips for tackling tasks

How to make family chore lists
Put a stop to procrastination

7 Ways to push past procrastination