Behavioral and Cognitive Strategies to Stop Procrastinating

Identify and Plan:

  • Identify your special behavioral diversions
  • Note when and where you use them 
  • Plan how to diminish and control their use 

Bits and Pieces:

  • Break large tasks into small ones.
  • Prioritize work and set deadlines.
  • Use behavioral suggestions, e.g., lay the book you have to read out in plain view.

The Ten Minute Plan:

  • Work on a dreaded task for ten minutes, then decide whether or not to continue.

Bogged in the Middle:

  • Change location or position; take a break; switch subjects or tasks.


  • Make contracts with yourself or someone you see regularly.

Premack Principle:

  • Reward yourself for accomplishment.

Cognitive Strategies to Overcome Procrastination

Prepare yourself mentally. Think of:

  • When, not if
  • The price of delay
  • Positive thoughts
  • Learn to tolerate discomfort

Watch for mental self-seductions into behavioral diversions. Examples include:

  • "I'll do it tomorrow"
  • "What's the harm of a half-hour of TV now? I've still got time"
  • "I deserve some time for myself"
  • "I can't do it."

Dispute mental diversions: Ex. "I really don't have that much time left, and other things are sure to come up later," or "If I get this done, I'll be better able to enjoy my time," or "Once I get started, it won't be that bad."

Mendelson and Stuckey, 1983 University Counseling Center, UNC-Chapel Hill - Not to be duplicated without permission of authors. Compiled by Pauline McNeill, 1992