Taxes & business banking for the self-employed


Being Proactive about Procrastination

Last updated on Feb 21, 2020

Kate Bailey

Freelance Editor

Aug 22, 2019

No one is perfect and no one always finds it easy to get to or to start or to finish their work and you have every right to question the integrity of someone who adamantly states otherwise! And if they maintain it, well, lock them in a room and call scientists to come and study this human first! Jokes aside, procrastination is like business insurance - it’s going to happen whether you like it or not. So, what are the five stages and how can we overcome them? 

As mentioned, it is indeed inevitable to confront the ugly face of procrastination and most especially when there is no boss to stand over and put the pressure on for you to finish work. But, you can treat dealing with procrastination kind of like sales forecasting - in that, we know it is going to happen - let’s get an idea of how much. However, unlike sales forecasting we want to decrease our projected output (usually in the hope of increasing the sales output!) and in this way we can see how a holistic habit can impact the ecosystem of our little world, our little freelance business!

If you want to joke, you can say that it took some time before the word procrastination became a well-known expression in many Latin-rooted languages. The word comes from Latin pro, which means, for example, forward, and crastinus, which roughly means tomorrow. Perhaps it is symptomatic of today's society that interest in the phenomenon has increased… no judgements here, we are here for the Millenials anyway. We work increasingly alone, have more flexible working hours and the risk of being interrupted increases with all the technology that constantly grabs our attention.


Procrastination is about more or less deliberately choosing to delay an intended course of action, despite the knowledge that this can lead to negative consequences. It may be strange that someone consciously chooses to continue with a behavior that easily leads to both stress and anxiety and not infrequently to feelings of shame and guilt. However, it may have its explanation that evolution has favored this. By allowing our ancestors to make quick and impulsive decisions to maximize well-being in the moment, we have survived as a species. Choosing a smaller, but guaranteed, reward directly outperforms often getting a bigger one in the future. How's that for you?

Imagine running on a happy acquaintance who has just won a lot of money and feels generous. You are offered a sum directly in your pocket or a larger sum in exactly one year. How much more would you ask to forgo an immediate five hundred and wait a year instead? The higher the amount you enter in such a situation, the harder you are assumed to have to wait for a reward. Thus, you tend to be more inclined to procrastination. In turn, the more confident you are in a project, the less likely you are to procrastinate… and so on!

There are many different reasons for procrastinating. It may be that the task you are shooting at is actually not interesting. Or it is difficult to say no and therefore takes on tasks that there is not a realistic chance to catch up with. In both cases, you should reflect on what you want with life - do I go in the direction of my life goals and what is it that makes me dare not stand up for myself? Most often, however, you see the benefits of performing a certain task, but you still do not get shot. Or you live by the slogan "I work best under pressure". To be fair, sometimes this is a great slogan - after all, no pressure, no diamond! But it is not sustainable.

Whatever the reason, one of the absolute best tips is to try to divide what to do into several manageable sub-goals. Instead of "cleaning the whole apartment", you simply settle the timer in just 15 minutes and concentrate on a wardrobe. You can also mix people in your surroundings. Tell your partner that you have trouble concentrating on the task and ask them to remind you if you need to water the flowers. You also don't always have to bite into the sour apple, but you can sweeten it by, for example, making something boring more fun, like sharing with a friend. Also, remember to reduce the interference moments when you start - turn the phone on silently and shut down your email program. And most importantly, don't wait until it feels right, because it rarely does.

One would think - surely this is enough to motivate the mind to cease such illogical practices and simply begin work. But, oh no. We are far too smart to fall for that… so here are some more specific recommendations:


Valuations / Defining Priorities

To formulate higher goals and what is important in life to achieve long-term satisfaction. Write down which activities you want to prioritize, and why.


Breaking down goals and major activities into smaller activities, prioritizing them based on how important they are rather than how urgent they are, identifying deadlines, planning activities in to-do lists and in their calendar. In particular, the first step should be planned. At the end of the week, plan what to do next week, in the evening what to do the next day, or before a break, what to do after the break, and for how long. Also breaks, holidays, and rewarding activities can be planned.

"Five minute" method

Short passports are often best for postponers. A task that feels insurmountable and anxiety-provoking can become affordable if one plans to devote himself to it for a limited time only, and then only take the first step of the task. A timer is a useful tool for timing activities. In this way, you can switch to easier tasks without risk of getting caught in them. A timer can also limit perfectionism.

"Unit Strategy"

Organize the day in 45-minute time blocks with a 5-15 minute break in between, and use a timer. For example, set aside four time blocks per day for the most concentration-demanding tasks, when you work separately without reading e-mail, and more, during the time of the day when you are most efficient and creative, if possible only with paper and pen, in a room without a computer or without a network. One or two blocks a day is set aside to grapple with less demanding tasks such as replying to emails, searching for information and doing repetitive tasks. Leave the computer during breaks.

The "first-things-first question"

To constantly ask the question which activity is most important.


As soon as the opportunity arises, give yourself verbal instructions to immediately begin the scheduled task. Practice saying "Now!" to yourself and to act directly. You may need to get to the next point in the planning list, to get up immediately when the alarm clock rings, or to change activity when a timer rings.


To keep records of their time use, prioritization, attention and fulfillment of plans during certain periods, to analyze in which situations and environments and at which thoughts procrastination arises, to learn to recognize what can develop into and to evaluate countermeasures. To report to someone how well the plans are being met.


Development of strategies to manage the impulse

An example of this is the PURRRR method

  • P = Pause: Stop and delay the impulse to do something less important for a while.
  • U = Utilize: Take advantage of your ability to resist the impulse.
  • R = Reflect: Reflect on how you felt and thought when the impulse came.
  • R = Reason: Analyze your thinking pattern.
  • R = Respond: Plan the activity to be done and give yourself verbal instructions.
  • R = Revision: Customize your strategy to further improve it.


Really, this is a problem that one has to be in a position of privilege to experience. And it is one that differs from self-care or maintaining yourself because we rarely know when or how it will affect us, which is as bizarre as it is annoying. However, like anything once we move into becoming a freelancer, we have a choice to make. We have a chance to progress and develop not only as a professional but as a person, and hopefully these are just a few notes that will help you be proactive about procrastination.