Procrastination is a commonplace, insidious habit that can poison our personal and professional relationships, our chances for advancement, even our health and happiness. But you can fight back. Here's how.

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The holidays are over, and maybe you feel a little let down.

In fact, maybe it’s more than a little. Maybe you dread going back to work because of “certain tasks.” You know the ones — the tasks that you tend to put off. The more you put them off, the harder they become.

Procrastination is a commonplace, insidious habit that can poison our personal and professional relationships, our chances for advancement, even our health and happiness. But you can fight back. Here’s how:

Break it down. You are faced with an overwhelming task. You’ve tried breaking it into steps (because, let’s face it, you’ve already heard this tip), but still you put it off. What to do? Break down those steps into even smaller ones.

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Still overwhelmed? Break them down even more. Soon you will be faced with a set of mini-tasks so short and simple you will be thinking, “Gee, I might as well just do a few of them now.”

Harness the power of habit. Try scheduling your most procrastination-prone tasks at the same time every day. Keep up this routine for a few weeks and you may find that those jobs have become as automatic as brushing your teeth. If you schedule the hated tasks for the morning, you can feel good about yourself for the rest of the day.

Play the “it’s only 15 minutes” game. The hardest part of any job is just getting started, so give this little mind game a try: Tell yourself you have to work on it for only 15 minutes, and that at the end of the 15 minutes you get to decide if you want to continue. You’ll be surprised how often you opt to keep going and finish.

Find an accountability partner. This is the person to share your progress and problems with. Often just knowing that you have to report to someone can get you moving. Set deadlines for yourself, and tell your accountability partner about them. It’s a powerful tool.

Bonus tip: The less you procrastinate in one area of your life, the less you procrastinate in others. Try it!

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.