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How to Overcome Procrastination

by Hanaan Rosenthal

With all of the things that stand in our way of extraordinary achievement, none can be harder to understand than procrastination. Why do we do it? Why is it that when we finally get an opportunity, we squander it simply by not acting on it?


Fighting procrastination and winning is not difficult… it is impossible. But no worries, fighting is not a good way to get what we want. In this case, what we need is cooperation.

Procrastination Myths

Before diving into what to do, let’s dispel a few myths:

Myth #1: We need to gain control over our actions

I’ll just go ahead and say it: Control is an illusion and a bad one at that. Ninety-five percent of the time, we are at the mercy of our subconscious. When we get dressed, carry on a conversation, make a decision, cook, eat, etc. – these actions just sort of seem to happen.

Of course, we all get a very strong sense that we can control things. We were told from a very young age that being in control is the means to success. In the material Newtonian reality, it sort of makes sense: nothing moves unless someone pushes it, and so we constantly push. But if the agenda of our subconscious is to not allow us to succeed in a certain area, the subconscious will get its way.

Related Article: The Incredible Power of Self-Talk

Myth #2: Our actions determine our success

Actions determine success much like the motion of the golf club determines if the ball will make it to the hole and go in. But what determines the motion of the golf club is the golfer. The same thing is true for our actions.

Our actions are not something we control or should have to force. If we controlled all our actions, we wouldn’t get from the bed to our front door in a lifetime. Our actions are the result of our beliefs. Our subconscious is powerful, but it does not set the agenda. The agenda is set by your core beliefs. The agenda that determines what our reality looks like is simply what we believe life is.

If you don’t truly believe that something can happen, then it won’t happen. It makes no difference how much you want it. It doesn’t matter what actions you force, how much practical advice you get, or how many different things you try. However, if your core beliefs change, things start to fall into place. What was months or years’ worth of struggle suddenly comes easily.

Myth #3: You have to try to stop procrastinating

If all you had to do was try to stop procrastinating, procrastination would not exist. Of course, everyone tries to stop procrastinating! Trying is forcing action against the natural flow of action as carried out by your subconscious. It is frustrating, short-lived, and should be avoided.

The goal is not to stop procrastinating; the goal is to achieve something meaningful during that time. You might want a degree, a ripped body, a healthy heart, or maybe a hot date. Those are all things that will make you feel good. They are the targets, instead of simply trying to stop procrastinating.

Related Article: How to Achieve Your Goal

Myth #4: We are a product of our genes and our past

This is partly true: We may be a product of our genes and our past, but similarly, dry pasta in a box is inedible – it’s hard, dry, and tasteless. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make something delicious out of it! Yes, we are all a bit screwed up, and we can look at our past and see why. However, with some understanding, we can turn ourselves into miracle-making machines. Not without effort, of course, but with the right kind of effort.

We may struggle with procrastination because we’re not living life the way it’s meant to be lived, and that is in the flow. Living life in the flow happens when you believe you can have what you want. This can be an easy life: working for yourself, having a nice relationship, being fit and healthy, or anything else you desire. The struggle is just the opposite and occurs when you want one thing, but your core beliefs go against it. You will constantly and fruitlessly struggle to get anywhere.

So what are we to do? On one hand, we have this enormously capable side called the subconscious, but it seems to be doing more to mess up our lives than help us.

We need to get the subconscious on our side. Once you start making progress there, procrastination (and other methods of self-sabotage) will slowly melt away. Gaining cooperation from your subconscious is very powerful.

Personally, I changed myself from a stressed-out freelancer running from job to job to a financially independent writer, and from a couch potato to a fit runner crushing near marathon distances completely barefoot. I did this by simply getting my subconscious on my side.

There are two powerful methods of aligning what you believe with what you want. You have most likely heard of both of them because they have turned into new-age household phrases. They are powerful and can produce unbelievable results if practiced regularly. They also don’t take long and are really easy to practice, which makes them ideal for procrastinators! The two methods are affirmations (things you say) and visualizations (things you imagine).

Two Ways to End Your Procrastination


A powerful affirmation is one that works for you. It is simple, and hits the spot you’re looking to improve.

Instead of trying to put a stop to procrastination, pick something related to what it is you do want and reaffirm that thing. For example, “I am fit and look great,” or “I make a living doing what I love,” or, “I am dating a smart, good-looking woman I love.” Notice the common thread: Affirmations are not “I want’s,” they are “I am” and “I have.” Affirmations should be worded as if you believe you already have what you want.

It’s important to use affirmations any time you can. Even if you’re stuck in traffic, you can advance your agenda by simply repeating your affirmations to yourself. Stop and say your affirmations a few times.

Related Article: Fight Stress With Mini-Meditations, Affirmations, and Visualizations


Visualization is almost the same as affirmation, but instead of a phrase, you build a new reality in your mind. Instead of saying a phrase, you imagine a story in your mind. For instance, imagine yourself as if you were already successful at whatever it is you dream of. You are with that girl. You are fit. You are a millionaire.

You may feel foolish at first, but really, next to being a procrastinator, you’ll look like a genius.


Hanaan Rosenthal is the author of How to Lose Your Mind in No Time
and the Founder of Custom Flow Solutions, a tech company with clients including Reuters and the New York Times. He is an inspirational speaker, runner, happily married with two children, and lives an active, anxiety-free life.

Featured photo by hang_in_there

Originally published 7/17/12 and updated by the Inspiyr Team 6/17/13. 

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C. Gardner January 12, 2013 - 12:59 am

Hello Mr. Rosenthal and M. Bond,
This article was an epiphany moment for me. I have been a procrastinator for many years and just didnt know how to be better. I was told negative traits about myself as an adult. I had heard about changing my mindset but did not know how to make it a daily way of living. I have always spoke negative to self as M. Bond stated. Set goals, push through, consistently walking to my goal. Affirm and visualize goals. Picturing accomplishments before they even occur.Yes. Your article reminds me of a book entitled, “Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I appreciate both of you. Thank you for putting the pieces of the puzzle together for me; it has changed my life for the better.

Hanaan Rosenthal January 12, 2013 - 1:16 am

C Gardner, Thank you so much for writing and sharing your experience. I am touched that my words could be an inspiration to you.

Cecilio Mendez Sr January 11, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Just what I needed at this time. I also have been very depressed about my not being able to find a job. I just moved to NJ from NY and am having a hard time with the transition. I like being around people, but since I moved to NJ, I am pretty isolated and without a vehicle, which makes it even more difficult to find employment. I will implement what you have suggested and let you know how I progress. I can do it! I will do it! I can see it! It’s right in front of me! Now let me go get it!

Hanaan Rosenthal January 12, 2013 - 1:18 am

Cecilio, no – your comment is just what I needed! 🙂
I can already see you smile more. Make it happen in your mind, put a lot of hopeful, positive emotion behind it, and let the details take care of themselves.
Please let me know how you do.

Roger Monk November 28, 2012 - 9:23 am

Determine a goal you want to achieve.

Establish all the benefits of completing the goal that you can think of.
List also the negative aspects of working to the goal. Acknowledge hardships, roadblocks, setbacks. Decide to find a way forward regardless of obstacles.

Then step into the direction of your desire. Things will appear to help you that you cannot see until you actually start the journey.

Affirm and visualize continually. Make it real.

Reinforce the worth and benifits of achieving your goal, not only those that benefit you but also those that benefit others; i.e children, family, friends, people in need, and so forth. In so many cases the completion of your goal will positively affect and benefit so many others. The positive energy released through the single will of your actions is truely amazing.

Your gift of achievement is powerful blessing in the lives of so many. Your commitment and relentless determination will result in so very many blessings and profound, beneficial changes in so many. A ripple effect multiplied countless times. And all that is required is your simple movement of mind, body and spirit, and the universe moves in kind.

MimiB November 25, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Very insightful way to view procrastination. I’m slightly familiar with affirmations & visualization & have successfully practiced both. I fall short after I reach the first couple of goals & retreat back to my old mindset.
Starting today I’m going to work towards the habit of visualizing for a month straight & return with my results.
Thank You!

[email protected] November 3, 2012 - 8:12 pm

WTH!!! There is stupid ‘Share” thing floating along the side & it is covering some of the words. I can’t control it!!! I can’t get rid of it!!!

Dan Cassidy November 4, 2012 - 12:30 pm

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Thanks for visiting, and for the feedback. Team

Saida November 6, 2012 - 9:44 am

I has this bad habit “procrastination” to extent that I don’t believe myself anymore! I’ll practice the two methods you recomended here and I’ll get back my confidence.. Thank you for sharing this precious informations.

Soup Mhhawk November 1, 2012 - 10:00 pm

This article must’ve been written by a Buddist

Jake October 31, 2012 - 3:55 pm

Hey there, liked the first two pages of the article, but the third seemed to fall short. I mean no offense here, I’d just honestly like to understand more about how the first two correlate to the third.

In the first two pages were some great insights into the subconscious, they made perfect sense, and are definitely things I could see happening at those times in my life when I made a habit of procrastinating. I didn’t personally use affirmations and visualizations to stop procrastinating, but I certainly did exercise the ‘get your subconscious on your side’ idiom in order to stop putting things off. Essentially I realized I am unable to focus unless I feel like I’m learning something, so I made everything into a learning experience.

For instance, I had to develop a webmail server for a client recently, and instead of thinking, ‘man, this is boring as all get out, why did I choose such boring work’, I just pretended I was developing the server for my own uses, and learning how to make such a server function well. It worked perfectly, my focus immediately returned, and I believe this was because I ‘got my subconscious on my side’ as you said was the key.

Back to my main point, would it be possible to explain more about how affirmations and visualizations influence your subconscious? The article seemed to jump straight from explaining how the subconscious worked to saying you needed to do affirmations, but the workings of the affirmations were not explained. This change would make this article fantastic in my eyes. If it’s not possible to change it now, or would require too much work, that’s fine too, I’d just love to know how affirmations/visualizations work on your subconscious, since I think that would help this technique work better for me.

c.a. October 29, 2012 - 7:53 pm

i’m getting a server error when i try to open page 3 of this article. hope you can help. thanks.

c.a. October 29, 2012 - 7:54 pm

never mind–it’s working now! 🙂

MRM October 25, 2012 - 3:14 pm

Thank you, Hanaan for a great post! I’ve recently been really depressed and have been putting off looking for a job after finishing the grad degree for a new career. (“The market stinks.” “I’ll never get the kind of position that I had dreamed about.” “It’s all been a giant waste of money.”) Meanwhile I spend a lot of time reading about depressing issues in the newspaper and discouraging items in the trade journals every day instead.

You see, a few years ago, I was feeling discouraged that I felt like I didn’t know what was going on in the world. So I started reading every day. It became a *habit*. Now, a few years later, I consider myself pretty well-informed. But, of cocurse, the stuff in the media is not very upbeat–downright depressing actually. And just recently I have been thinking about how I became informed by *practicing* the HABIT of reading, and how I need a new habit to PRACTICE in order to lift myself out of the doldrums. So, while I was looking for something else, I happened across your column–Heaven sent, I think. 🙂 I will try to think about what you suggest and see if I can turn it into a habit too. (People want a quick fix; but the difficult stuff comes bit by bit 10-15 minutes every day over a long period of time.)

Loretta October 18, 2012 - 2:25 pm

Rock on, Mr. Rosenthal! You have the gift to inspire and motivate, and I’m always surprised by how few people are willing to really work at something new. The issue with seemingly simple fixes is that they are difficult to really implement. Have a pro adjust our grip on a golf club and see how long it takes before the swing starts to flow again. “Move your thumb this way,” sounds easy, but it takes practice and application to make it work.

Affirmations and visualizations are the same as an amateur golf grip. We’re all doing these all the time, but most of us aren’t doing them right. In fact, my undirected ones are most often negative.

Good stuff is good because we like the way it is and don’t have to do anything. Bad stuff is bad because it costs us time and energy (and pain) to make it better, so of course it gets the lion’s share of the attention.

But if you want a good life, you have to start pouring more energy into the good than the bad. It’s just that simple, and that incredibly, unbelievably, difficult.

Nancy Findley October 21, 2012 - 6:13 pm

I’d like to forward the to my son,how do I go about it?

Dan Cassidy October 22, 2012 - 3:18 pm

Hi Nancy. You can sign him up for our weekly email newsletter by adding his email to the “get free updates” signup form directly above the comments. You can also ask him to become an Inspiyr Facebook Fan and Twitter Follower using the buttons on the right side of the page. Thanks for checking in and sharing the Inspiyr-ation!

M. Bond October 2, 2012 - 10:05 pm

Thank you Mr. Rosenthal for this bit of light you sent from your heart and mind. I have just discovered something about myself that I have struggled with “for years. I have never been give permission before to tell myself that “I am” anything except: ugly, skinny, dumb, a loser, a &*&%#, etc. It may sound silly to some, however, all of my life significant people in my life have been labeling me with unkind labels and so I learned to label myself just the same, yet, I always hoped for something different.

After reading this post I realized you gave me permission, in a sense, to label myself something positive. I can give myself affirmations by saying I am smart, funny, thoughtful, etc. instead of “I wish I was smart, funny, thoughtful, etc.” I was always hopeful that someday I would be these things, though, I never really believed that I would ever achieve this. As I was thinking about what “I am” and what I can be another thought occurred to me.

“For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth
embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light…”
(Doctrine and Covenants 88:40)

I never say to myself I wish I was lazy, ugly, stupid, a loser… I always say to myself “I am lazy, ugly, stupid, a loser…” I am constantly affirming the negative, yet, wishing for something better. Because you sent a bit of light out into our world and it came to me and I accepted it, more light was able to come to me. Thank you Mr. Rosenthal for sharing your message.

Right now, I am thinking: “I could say to myself, ‘What an idiot you are, it took you long enough.’ or I could say ‘You are so smart! You figured out something that will redirect your life and bring you joy!'” Now I have a choice. Now I have more light and intelligence.

“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in
God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until
the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

Because you took time to gather this light and write these thoughts, I have a new life. Thank you, Mr. Rosenthal.
M. Bond

Hanaan Rosenthal October 3, 2012 - 10:07 am

M. Bond. One can live a lifetime wishing for a note like this to come. You are welcome, you are welcome. This post, I now know, was written for you. Please share more of your journey, and if you need encouragement, I can be found at author[at]hanaan[dot]com. All the best.

Dominik Lenné November 4, 2012 - 8:28 pm

I know this “How (you name any negative adjective) I am” – approach very well, and I was wondering a lot what the gain in it is, the hidden motivation. And the outcome is for me, that it is a kind of search for harmony with any hypothetical person who m i g h t want to blame me. So for a moment, when I think thoughts like the one above, a short small agreeable wave of accordance goes through me, like “now nothing worse can happen to me” – which is quite unexpected, isn’t it? A kind of preemptive self-humiliation to avoid – I don’t know what – something like greater harm or so. Thus, self blaming is (always of course to me) a paradox tactics of self stabilization.
Often I realize self blaming occurring in the vicinity of a real conflict, a problem difficult to solve, a decision difficult to make.
I cannot say where those “evil spirits” of blame come from, anyway this is not so important.
What we do thinking friendly and positive thoughts, is creating “friendly spirits” in ourselves, with a little luck becoming more and more stable. And we can actually support this by opening ourselves up for the real positive messages coming from real persons which almost certainly happen.
I am afraid that I cannot report a big success in changing these structures, but at least some smaller, where I did not need to resort any more to the above tactics.

Kim October 2, 2012 - 10:48 am

Wow Erica! Was that necessary? I loved Hanaan’s article and I loved the thoughtful responses it triggered.

XX October 1, 2012 - 5:13 pm

“Our actions are the result of our beliefs.” I think that’s pretty much been disproven at this point. At best, the subset of our actions which are determined to be socially significant intersect with our beliefs, but even there, the relation is oblique and not uni-directional and deterministic.

Hanaan Rosenthal October 4, 2012 - 1:05 am

How was this disproven, and by who? Not always comfortable to admit, but true nonetheless.

Felicia B September 25, 2012 - 2:30 pm

I appreciated this article as not a quick fix. You made a lot of good points that will help someone who is serious about eliminating procrastination for the long-term not just temporary. I especially loved the part about affirmations and visualizations!

Renee September 18, 2012 - 2:13 pm

Your ideas about continually choosing the positive and reinforcing it in your mind are good ones. They seem high-level, which I guess is what Erica didn’t like.

Also, as a technique, reframing situations and experiences as positive helps in a similar way. I find it helps to have a few mantras like the ones you suggested – this has helped me deal with depression as well as procrastination. It’s not pollyanna thinking, it’s learning to dig out rather than dig in.

Here is a useful phrase I use when I don’t do as well as I want to, especially if I’ve procrastinated and beat myself up over it: “it’s practice for getting it right the next time.”

Patty October 19, 2012 - 9:45 am

Love that affirmation Renee! I’ve tried a lot of them with a serious procrastination problem, which is usuallly followed by even worse beating up on myself. But am really excited to try, “It’s practice for getting it right the next time.” Thank you very much for sharing it!.

Melissa Kurtzer September 7, 2012 - 10:05 am

I really enjoyed this article and I think you made many excellent points.


Ralph Dunn August 22, 2012 - 12:44 am

Great article. Not insta-fix, but with some thought I’m sure I can apply these concepts to my procrastination problem. Thanks.

gia September 4, 2012 - 2:31 am

This was a nicely written article…this is the stuff i need to read o help me out of this rut of no or little action I feel like i am stuck…and its frustrating. Internally i am always forcing myself to complete the smallest mundane task.This has slowly become worse over the last 5 years i suspect some of it is depression related.
It is almost as if there is an invisible hand holding me back! I lack direction and focus. I am going to bookmark your post and look back on it when i am feeling sluggish and stuck hope some of it will sink in!

Renee September 18, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Hi Gia:
Your post sounded like me a few years ago.

I found a lot of useful insights in “The Feeling Good Handbook” and in Cindy Glovinsky’s books, such as “Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It.” She also has a website or blog, I think.

The first one is a classic in helping people help themselves deal with depression and its effects on your energy and thinking. It’s based on proven cognitive behavioral therapy principles. The Glovinsky book is more about understanding how you’re thinking and why you might be this way – and how to help yourself. She helps you see it’s not your “fault”. Like Hanaan says, your subconscious does a lot of driving; we just need techniques to help stop feeling trapped.

Procrastination ties into energy levels, stress, psychological concerns, brain chemistry, and differences in learning. The good thing is you will find more energy by doing things – and you can learn to feed your energy level.

Toclynn September 26, 2012 - 11:02 am

Hi Gia! I was & am in the same boat as you have mentioned in your reply/comment; but now realizing it more & more I have gotten a bit better & just do my best to not think about things so much & just do them. It will help you get out of your rut as I was in…commit yourself to doing this and watch as the change will happen from within! So far so good but I’ve got a ways to go myself on these issues of procrastination and building myself up again with the affirmations. Good luck to you!

Hanaan Rosenthal August 13, 2012 - 12:15 pm

Lovecat, thanks for the lively note! Hanaan

Courty Lovecat July 31, 2012 - 11:31 pm

I appreciated this article. I have been reading a lot of similar information and really enjoying it, as well. The subconcious is a very powerful tool. The more you imagine what you want, the more your mind will need to create that reality. Your actions will become a joy, and procrastination will melt away. Thank you for writing this. 🙂 Positivity is also a powerful tool (ahem) and I was very impressed by the way you let that other comment roll off your back. ~Good vibes~ -Courty

Erica July 30, 2012 - 1:09 pm

This is literally the most badly written article about procrastination I have ever read. It’s incredibly vague, often incoherent, full of platitudes, and the author clearly doesn’t understand how non-conscious processes work.

Next time, don’t procrastinate. Do some research and write an article worth something.

Hanaan Rosenthal July 30, 2012 - 4:52 pm

Thank you for the comment, and sorry you just hated it that much. I wish there was anything I could reply to, but apparently it was just, well, bad. Hope to catch you next time with something you’ll hate a bit less 🙂 Hanaan

J.L.C. October 5, 2012 - 3:01 pm

Well, Erica has just proven there needs to be ‘opposition’ in all things!

Kevin Turner October 5, 2012 - 2:01 pm

Erica, I disagree with you.
I have found this to be a simple, uncomplicated way to understand some of my struggles with procrastination.
It doesn’t need to be a thesis, just a gentle prompt to action – action that does not involve beating myself up about it, action that is not so far out of reach that it overwhelms and allows even more procrastination as a result.
Thank you, Hanaan, for reminding me not to fall into the control trap. Your article is a helpful reminder for me of Otto Scharmer’s “Theory U” – something I have been working with recently in the context of trauma, sadness and anger and the alternative “letting go and letting be” source of action.

observer October 26, 2012 - 4:25 pm


You are clearly up on big words but maybe not so much on comprehension. Hopefully you are not entering the job market as a critic (one who finds fault). This article was a basic insight on the subconscious and how it affects our ability to follow through or achieve our goals which may leads to procrastiation. Much of what Mr. Hannan elaborated on was something my comapny spent $1,200 per person on in our corpration 30 years ago and was very helpful in realigning our mindset in accomplishing our goals.

You certainly have a right to your opinion, but your were very rude in doing so. but it is very obvious everyone else who read this was enspired or at least was made aware of another way of dealing with procrastination and achieving their goals. Just because you don’t agree with what was written, does make it a poorly written article. Just some food for thought.

Jackie December 1, 2012 - 3:21 pm


First of all, “the most badly”??? Where did you study English? And if you think “the author clearly doesn’t understand how non-conscious processes work,” apparently you do understand. If that’s the case, why aren’t you writing an article or book to enlighten all of us?!?

By the way, that would be “subconscious” NOT “non-conscious!!!

Your comment “Next time, don’t procrastinate” is just STUPID!! Like or dislike the article, that is an irrelevant comment, nothing there would tell you whether in reality, the author procrastinated or not. You try to sound smart, but it seems you’re really someone very dumb, with clearly evident poor English writing skills, which is why you cannot understand what the author is writing, so in frustration you’d rather try to criticize the author rather than to broaden your own learning skills.

This is an article, not a book, it has to be vague to some extent, although there is enough information in this article for someone to think about what issues they personally are having with procrastination and apply the concepts mentioned in the article and actually benefit from the author’s advice. A cure all?? Probably not, but it could definitely help many people, and if not a “cure” this is advice that could help people get on the right track, even if only to print it out and take it to a counselor and say, THIS is what I’m struggling with! Can you help me?

Often half the battle for many is accurately describing their frustrations in a way to enable them to get the proper professional help. This article does that.

So, brush up on your English skills, and if you know more than others, put that knowledge out there and write your own articles and/or books. In the meantime, don’t criticize things in which you can’t do as well yourself!

As for me, I think the author wrote a great, concise article that has substance. I AM PRINTING it out!!

Comments are closed.

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