How to effectively beat Procrastination?

How to effectively beat Procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else

Jame Clear

What is Procrastination

It often happens when we choose temporary comfort over facing necessary tasks, leading to a negative cycle of laziness, making excuses, and ultimately stress as deadlines approach. Procrastination leaves tasks incomplete damages our reputation, misses opportunities, and negatively affects our mental health. Regret and a decrease in positive energy are inevitable consequences when procrastination becomes a habit.

Chu trình phổ biến của Sự Trì hoãn. Nguồn:

The Common Cycle of Procrastination. Source:

Why do we procrastinate❓

When exploring the reasons behind procrastination, we often quickly blame external pressures from work and life, viewing the root cause of procrastination as external environmental impacts. However, in reality, the deeper cause lies within ourselves.

💭 Psychology behind Procrastination

Procrastination is understood through the concepts of “Present Bias” and “Time inconsistency,” where we tend to overvalue solving tasks that bring short-term rewards instead of aiming for long-term goals that offer greater benefits. In a 2013 publication, Dr. Tim Pitchell, a procrastination research expert, defined procrastination as “the primacy of short-term mood repair over the long-term pursuit of intended actions.” This is also seen as a way to relieve stress rather than continuing with tasks that need to be done in the present.

💥 Facing Consequences and Rewards

A major challenge is how to turn future consequences and rewards into immediate motivation. For example, if you have a report due in 2 months, despite being aware of the “consequences” and “rewards” in the future, finding the motivation to start writing can be very difficult. Time passes, and the work hasn’t begun. In the final moments before the deadline, the future consequences become present ones, and the increased pressure forces you to focus intensely to complete the task at all costs. This is when the “Action Line” is crossed, and you truly begin to act. This process has been illustrated by James Clear (author of “Digital Minimalism”) in the diagram below:

The Procrastination-Action Line. Nguồn:
The Procrastination-Action Line. Source:

Right after you successfully overcome the Action Line, the feeling of “misery” caused by procrastination will start to fade away. The guilt, shame, and anxiety often associated with procrastination will also diminish, replaced by a sense of relief as you begin to focus on the task officially. Understanding the problem and the reasons behind procrastination is the first crucial step to overcoming it, gradually developing positive habits, and thus completely eliminating procrastination from our daily lives and work.

“At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”

Steven Pressfield – The War of Art

In the next section, I’ll share some methods I’ve found quite effective in eliminating procrastination, improving work performance, and gradually achieving my long-term goals.

How to beat procrastination?

1️⃣ Understand Motivation and “Start” Taking Action!

  • Motivation Follows Action: A common misconception is waiting for motivation and inspiration before starting to work. The familiar excuse for not achieving a set goal, like “I’m not motivated/inspired enough to start,” is also a common cause of procrastination. In reality, motivation often comes after we start taking action. In other words, motivation is usually a result of action, not the cause of it.
  • Create Active Motivation from Small Actions: Motivation doesn’t necessarily have to come from big inspirations or significant actions. I used to think that motivation would easily come after watching inspirational videos or reading motivational books. While this can provide some motivation, it’s usually passive and often not sustainable. The best way to generate active, natural, and long-lasting motivation is to start taking action, even if it’s just a tiny step in the task. The core issue here is not “action” but “starting” to act. Sometimes, just starting with very small actions can be enough to create change, building motivation and maintaining action.

In summary, the first approach I often apply to overcome procrastination and create sustainable motivation to maintain work performance is to “start” taking action.

Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it .

Jame Clear
Just get started! Just do it!
Just get started! Just do it!

2️⃣ Limit Multitasking and Optimize the Work Environment

After moving past initial hesitations and transitioning into the action phase, all my efforts and focus are typically dedicated to a specific task at a time, striving for continuous engagement. However, the modern environment often interrupts this process with its many distractions and noises. Social media, emails, and even friendly invitations from colleagues can easily scatter our attention and lead to procrastination in important tasks at hand. To face these challenges, I actively apply the following methods:

  • Optimize the Work Environment: Switch all electronic devices to work mode, temporarily turning off all unnecessary notifications, except for apps directly related to the current task. This helps minimize interruptions and allows me to control the time spent on social media and emails, usually only during breaks or after work hours.
  • Create a Private and Noise-Proof Workspace: When working requires intense focus, I often look for a quiet or private room to avoid noise and disruptions from the common workspace. If a private space is not feasible, I will use noise-canceling headphones and opt to listen to natural sounds or instrumental music to isolate surrounding noise and enhance concentration.
  • Apply the Pomodoro Technique: By dividing work time into 25-minute intense focus periods interspersed with 5-minute breaks, this method helps me maintain concentration without feeling overwhelmed.

Tips: To minimize distractions from colleagues who often come to my desk to chat during work hours, I usually display a Pomodoro countdown timer from the Momentum app on my browser with the note “Focus time” and concentrate on my screen or the document I’m reading as a friendly and polite reminder. When receiving a request for support that requires more time, I typically schedule it for after work hours of that day and note it down to follow up. I also often share with friends about the focus improvement method I’m applying, and everyone is very interested and respects the times I’m focusing on work. Of course, I also make a conscious effort to respect others’ focus times when making requests. Applying this method requires tact, and it has helped me maintain concentration in an open space while still keeping good relations with friends and colleagues around.

Pomodoro Focus time (Sử dụng Momentum Extension)
Pomodoro Focus time (Sử dụng Momentum Extension)

3️⃣ Develop a Detailed Daily Schedule

  • Creating a Specific Schedule: Once I’ve managed to eliminate external distractions and overcome my own subjective barriers, building a detailed daily schedule becomes crucial in maintaining work efficiency and avoiding further procrastination. At the start of each day or the night before, I always take time to add a list of tasks to my Calendar for specific time slots. I also define exactly what I will do for each task – the more specific, the better it helps me use my time efficiently. For example: Instead of a general task like Read paper, Learn Python, or write a report, I specify tasks such as Read and analyze experiments in paper A, Learn and practice module X of Python framework Y, Write the manuscript for the Introduction section.
  • Optimally Allocating Time During the Day: I also pay close attention to allocating time according to the time of day. Tasks requiring creativity and high concentration are prioritized in the morning when I am energized and less distracted. Meetings and less critical administrative tasks are planned for the afternoon. In the evening, I dedicate time to learning new skills or relaxing to prepare for the next working day.

This process not only helps me avoid the “don’t know where to start” situation but also creates a sense of comfort knowing that everything is clearly organized. In the following articles, I will delve deeper into the details of a daily schedule for a PhD student, hoping to provide a practical and useful perspective for those looking to improve their work efficiency.

“When we say we don’t have time for something, we’re really just saying that something’s not important to us

You have time for everything. It’s just that you choose to do other things.”

Tim Pitchell

4️⃣ Apply the 2-Minute and 5-Minute Rules

I continue to use these two effective methods to overcome procrastination and boost my daily work efficiency.

The 2-Minute Rule

If a task takes less than 2 minutes, you should do it immediately. This approach quickly deals with small tasks without giving them a chance to become a mental burden later on. I have applied this rule to minor tasks like drinking water, making coffee, or paying a bill. For larger tasks that can’t be completed right away, I create reminders to plan for their execution at another time during the day.

The 5-Minute Rule

The main idea of the 5-Minute Rule is that if I find myself procrastinating or feeling pressured by a task I need to do, I will pause to acknowledge my current anxiety, then count down 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 -1, start, and focus on doing it for exactly 5 minutes, and take a break afterward. Usually, after 5 minutes, I find that I’m ready and want to continue rather than stop. I learned this interesting method from Ali Abdaal and Mel Robbins. It’s a clever way to trick myself into getting started with the thought of only doing it for a short period. And “starting” the work is also a crucial element in creating motivation and momentum to maintain action, as I shared in the first method – one of the core issues of procrastination is our inability to start.

5️⃣ Pursuing Professionalism Over Amateurism

In the renowned book “The War of Art,” often cited in videos discussing methods to overcome procrastination, author Pressfield introduces the idea of the difference between a Professional and an Amateur:

An amateur takes action whenever inspiration strikes or when they’re in the right mood. They’re not committed and the goals are focused on fun, money, and status
A professional shapes their life so that the work is a priority they’re determined and committed to succeed by following their inner drive and creative spirit.

Steven Pressfield – The War of Art
  • An Amateur acts only when they feel inspired, motivated, or in the right mood. They do not commit to what they are doing, and their goals often aim for pleasure, money, and status.
  • A Professional shapes their life with the understanding that work is a priority they are determined to pursue and commit to achieving success with their best abilities through intrinsic motivation (by “starting” to work), passion, and creativity. They typically do not think about money and material things right when they start working; instead, those result from persistently doing their utmost in the tasks at hand.

Professionals can easily work under difficult conditions and face adversity. They are open to criticism and feedback because they always want to have a multi-dimensional perspective and improve themselves. In contrast, Amateurs often feel profound pain and emotional distress when criticized, encounter failure, or face difficulties, as if it’s destroying their lives, and they tend to react sharply to contrary comments. I constantly remind myself that I cannot please everyone. I am not perfect, but I continuously improve to improve myself daily.

Furthermore, when faced with hesitations, a Professional tends to think about solutions and make decisions decisively rather than hesitating, waiting on others, and discussing the problem like an Amateur. Saying no to unimportant things and knowing how to Refuse is also one of the important characteristics of a Professional. Pursuing the lifestyle of a Professional, eliminating personal ego, and having a growth mindset will help us reshape and have a better attitude and reaction to life as well as to people around us.

6️⃣ Persist in Building Personal Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is a key factor I persistently strengthen every day to eliminate procrastination and negative elements from my life, maintain work productivity, and achieve balance.

Our lives can be divided into two main parts: the life we are living and the life we want to live, or in other words, our current circumstances and our dreams or future aspirations. To move from the first to the second part, of course, requires a lot of perseverance and effort. However, between these two parts, there’s always a significant barrier called Resistance.

  • According to Steven Pressfield in “The War of Art,” resistance is the thought that prevents a person’s creative activity. It evokes fear, anxiety, and is the root of avoidance, making us timid and losing confidence, with the ultimate goal of keeping everything unchanged. Each time we face a difficult task, resistance often appears, convincing us to give up.
  • As Sam Thomas Davies suggests, self-discipline also relies on facing Resistance. What we need to resist against are the negative thoughts and the urge to quit that arise whenever we face difficulties. It involves acting regardless of how we feel, living a life according to our plans and goals, not just letting life happen and living by fate. More importantly, our actions should be based on reason rather than emotion.

By having a strong, iron-willed determination, cultivating self-awareness, and living responsibly for ourselves, we can lead a more balanced and fulfilled life. This helps us overcome difficulties, negativity, unhealthy habits, and especially procrastination.

Self-discipline is about leaning into resistance. Taking action in spite of how you feel. Living a life by design, not by default. But most importantly, it’s acting in accordance with your thoughts, not your feelings.

Sam Thomas Davies

I hope you find new perspectives, overcome procrastination, and eliminate negative habits for a fulfilling and balanced life.


For further detail and to explore experiences from influential figures I referenced, learned from, and shared in this article, you might consider watching the following videos:

  1. Thomas Frank: How to be more Self-Discipline
  2. Matt D’Avella: How to stop Procrastination
  3. Ali Abdaal: How to stop Procrastination and How to beat Procrastination
  4. Marcus Aurelius: How to build Self-Discipline (Stoicism)
  5. Niklas Christl: How to build Self-Discipline and stop Procrastination
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Lê Văn Hiếu

Cảm ơn Hòa đã chia sẻ, tổng hợp cũng như nêu quan điểm của mình về Sự trì hoãn, Bài viết rất hay và hữu ích. “Không có thời điểm nào là hoàn hảo để bắt đầu… Đừng trì hoãn, Thời điểm tốt nhất để bắt đầu là ngay bây giờ…”


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