18 ways to stop procrastinating right now

It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll get to something “later.” It’s especially tempting to put off important tasks when we’ve got things like Instagram and Netflix at our fingertips.

But procrastinating can be costly, especially at work.

To stop, you’ll first need to understand the causes and temptations of procrastination. Then you’ll want to follow these 18 steps:

Vivian Giang contributed to a previous version of this article.

1. Fix up your workplace.

Since you'll be spending most of your waking hours at your desk, you might as well make it an inspiring space you enjoy working at, writes blogger Sam Cleasby on metro.co.uk.

'You are never going to work your best if you are in a hovel,' she explains.

To add some personal and creative touches, Cleasby says she decorates her desk with photos of her friends and family, and other items that make her smile during the workday. 'It cheers me up to have those things in my eye line,' she writes.

2. Schedule your time in smaller increments.

If your time frame is too far off in the future, deadlines becomes generalities, writes psychologist Susan K. Perry for psychologytoday.com.

To fix this, she advises planning your goals in smaller time increments.

For example, she says, if you plan on writing four chapters of your soon-to-be-published book in a month, you won't consider yourself actually procrastinating until the fourth week.

'There is a difference between saying, 'I'll write one chapter a week' and saying, 'I'll write four chapters a month,'' she writes.

3. Create hard-and-fast deadlines.

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Instead of thinking you will work on your project for three hours every morning, determine when you want certain tasks completed, Perry writes on psychologytoday.com.

'If the boss hands you an assignment, she doesn't say, 'Work on this each day,'' she writes. 'No, she says, 'Have this on my desk by next Friday.'

4. Announce your goals to others.

If your friends and colleagues know about your projects, they are bound to ask you about them on a regular basis -- serving as an accountable reminder, says Celestine Chua in a post on lifehack.org.

5. Do the worst things first.

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By default, you probably want to save the worst things for last. Isn't that the whole idea behind procrastination?

But you should actually be doing the opposite -- prioritising the hardest tasks, writes Amy Spencer on realsimple.com.

Eva Wisnik, who conducts time-management training for lawyers and corporations in New York City, told Spencer that we should prioritise the 'baddest' tasks so that we get to them before our energy begins to drain. 'Putting off the dreaded item on your list saps your strength,' she told Spencer.

6. Map out all of your deadlines on one calendar.

With one integrated calendar, you'll see that your tasks are all interrelated, Chua writes on lifehack.org. For example, if your task today affects your task tomorrow, she says you will experience an 'urgency to act' today before it's too late.

7. Create challenging tasks.

If your tasks are too simple, you will lose your enthusiasm, which is an essential ingredient to completing tasks, writes Perry.

8. But don't create tasks so challenging that they're not reasonable.

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Although challenging tasks are needed to keep your interest, make sure they are also reasonable enough so that they don't discourage you and result in you abandoning the task before its completion, Perry writes.

9. Hit 'restart' at 2 p.m.

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If your morning wastes away, be sure to hit 'restart' at 2 p.m. so you don't end up wasting your afternoon, too.

It's better to give yourself a second chance in the middle of the day than to reasses at 5 p.m. and realise you're out of time to recharge, Wisnik told realsimple.com.

'At 2 p.m. every day, assess how much you've accomplished, remind yourself of what's critical, and alter your plan so you can tackle the most important thing,' she said.

10. Switch up your environment.

If your working environment makes you want to snuggle up and take a nap, change it immediately, Chua writes.

11. Get your snooze on.

It's no secret that lack of sleep leads to a lack of productivity.

In an article for AlterNet, Sara Robinson cites research conducted by the US military that showed that 'losing one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level.'

So staying up that extra hour to work on a project is only going to hurt you in the long run.

12. Adopt a buddy system.

Having a companion forces you to have someone else to answer to other than yourself, Chua writes.

Even if both parties don't have the same goals, she says, the accountability will still increase your chances of completing the task.

13. Take guilt free breaks.

If you watch Hulu for two hours but the whole time you can't stop worrying about the work that you should be doing, then those two hours were wasted, writes Quora user Ali Alkhatib in response to the question, 'How do you avoid procrastination?'

'You're not getting anything done and you're not enjoying your show. So just enjoy your break,' he advises.

14. Hang out with other people who don't procrastinate.

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Hang out with people who inspire you, Chua writes, because they will infuse some of their drive and spirit into your own work ethic.

15. Eliminate distractions.

Make it more difficult for you to procrastinate by taking the pit-stops out of the equation.

For example, Chua writes on lifehack.org, if Facebook is causing you to procrastinate, deactivate it for a short period of time. If email is the problem, turn off your automatic notifications.

16. Reward yourself.

If you spend too much time on something, you may start to resent it.

Realise that hard work should be rewarded with a nice meal at your favourite restaurant or a trip to the movies, Perry advises on psychologytoday.com.

17. Force yourself to keep going.

When you feel your enthusiasm waning, put one foot in front of the other.

'This is similar to overcoming irrational fears,' William Knaus, a psychologist at American International College in Springfield, Mass., told WebMD.

18. When your plan is failing, make a new one.

Some goals aren't meant to be achieved since we 'outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves,' Chua writes, so the best action to take is to alter those goals to reflect your own growth.

Take a step back and decide what it is exactly that you want to achieve and what steps you should take to get there, she advises.

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