If you consistently put off doing routine tasks, and can’t get started on big projects until the deadlines are staring you right in the face, you might worry this means you’ve chosen the wrong career.

Not necessarily. You can be in a job you adore but still have trouble with the self-discipline it takes to keep on top of things.

Nevertheless, frequent procrastination can pose problems. Sure, you typically get your work done, correctly and (barely) on time, but colleagues who depend on you could become resentful. Worse, the superiors observing all the drama may see your work style as a sign of an inability to focus or a lack of maturity.

But the good news is that procrastination is usually just a bad habit, not a fatal character flaw or sign of deeper issues. And you can stop. All you need is an effective approach. Like this one:

1. List all the tasks that your job entails.

2. Identify which are quick (those that can be completed in five minutes or less) and which are complex. Now you have two lists.

3. Organize said lists in order of priority, most important ones on top.


4. OK, you’re ready to roll. Near the start of every workday, complete five tasks from the top of the quick list. You’ll feel great but you can also, if you want, give yourself a small tangible reward, such as a latte or a brisk walk outside.

5. Next, before you lose momentum, study those complex tasks. Break them down into small steps. Then complete at least the first step of each one. Bravo! You’ve made real, measurable progress. On everything.

6. Now keep going, tacking back and forth between the lists, staying flexible and rewarding yourself as often as needed.

You can also try other motivation tools, like starting and finishing a task first thing every morning. It can be simple, such as making your bed. The positive experience of completing something sets you up for the rest of your day.

Last, and definitely not least, you will find it helpful to optimize your work area. Some people claim to thrive in chaos but, for most of us, messy surroundings are stressful. When you sort, clean, declutter and organize, you feel better, and work better.