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How do you limit or avoid procrastination?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Do you have any tactics that have worked?


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stefandorresteijn profile image
Stefan Dorresteijn

I recently removed all social media from my phone and blocked it on my desktop. It forces me to get to work, or get away from my PC. That + a Trello list of all the things I need to do, turned into tiny tasks that all take less than an hour, makes it much easier to get to work when I need to

jhuebel profile image
Jason Huebel

I didn't delete them from my phone, but I did disable all notifications. I found that the social networks weren't the problem, it was their constant nagging to check them.

I've found now that I only check my social media a couple of times a day, usually during lunch and after work.

lautarolobo profile image
Lautaro Lobo

Oh... I should turn off Whatsapp notifications, really that app just drives me crazy and makes me lose time like a champ.

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rifaimartin profile image
Rifai Martin

Haha :) Good

tsimpson profile image
Travis Simpson

On this note: I totally removed social media. I've found much more time to study and learn and practice but...I've also learned to create or find new distractions as well xD

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I recently removed all social media from my phone and blocked it on my desktop.

Does that mean no social media anywhere, period?

stefandorresteijn profile image
Stefan Dorresteijn

I check all of them once a day for a total of 5 minutes.

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karataev profile image
Eugene Karataev

Is it correct to consider as social media for developers? In this case 5 minutes a day are not enough to be an active member 😀

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stefandorresteijn profile image
Stefan Dorresteijn

Nah, I see Dev as research and networking, so that's not included. It is however limited to 1 hour a day on work days (when I'm not writing)

vuild profile image
  1. Go do some things you like & enjoy. Usually fresh air & sun if possible (learn vitamin D or similar issues).
  2. Collect your 'zone' prep ingredients (music/movies/food/temp/chair/whatever).
  3. Have no plans for a period of time. Quiet time (do not disturb if you need it, I don't).
  4. Sit & get into your zone.
  5. Deliver important tasks based on "results achieved in the shortest period".
  6. Reward for each win above average, make the wins satisfying (this triggers a desire to work more for more of that dopamine). Cheer yourself.
  7. Use a 'slow food' approach. Simple prep, simple focus, basic things right & well.
  8. Knock out the items on your list quickly.
  9. Once you have done the acceptable amount, you can do whatever else you want. With rewards. Not before.

It's very simple:
Do I want money in my pocket & time to do what I want with no stress from work?

Then get the work done asap & find the fastest way to do it well. Before long, your 'whole day' of work can be done in 2hrs & you are enjoying things again.

Want to see the world? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to build a hockey stick tech? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to work with the most talented? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to meet celebs, founders, top meetings & parties? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to experience all 'those' things? Work now, hard & fast.
Want everyone to call you a genius? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to not have to go to an office? Work now, hard & fast.
Want sleep in when you want? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to eat organic, go to farmers markets on Thursdays? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to defeat the empire? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to look after the people around you? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to save lives? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to make the world better? Work now, hard & fast.
Want to play video games a lot? Work now, hard & fast.

Results matter. Time is critical. At one point everyone realizes that time is the most valuable thing you can have.

Procrastination is not a real thing. It is ego & insecurity, boredom or confusion. It can be defeated with chocolate.

jhuebel profile image
Jason Huebel

1 - 4 strike me as being procrastination in themselves. I'll be honest, I'm not sure if you're being serious or not with some of your comments. This doesn't seem like a healthy way to go about things, IMO.

(Reading this after I hit submit, I realized it might come off as a little harsh. That's not the intent. If this works for you, roll with it.)

vuild profile image

No offence taken, I appreciate opinions & advice. It's a bit tongue in cheek, yes but with serious points.

1 there because if you need to 'deal with procrastination' then you probably already sat at the screen/did a bunch of nonsense & couldn't get any work done. By definition. So "walk away" & get sunlight/fresh air because you may as well do something good (rather than go to a movie let's say).

2 is because most people use something. I didn't want to add drugs/stress/mental health/panic/bullying/fear/alcohol/caffeine/pharma etc which is what most high level people in tech (& most industries do).

3 Disturbances usually don't help. Plan to not be disturbed.

4 Usually people need to get into what is considered a 'higher state' to go at their fastest in certain disciplines. It's often referred to as 'flow' by the maslow-ted-motivator types.

On the second half: "Work now, hard & fast."

I did all of those & lots more at the highest levels.. With proof (I didn't want to post more as it already looks silly/unbelievable...I don't generally talk online, this is a one off for early 2019).

Mostly due to being really productive.

EDIT: Not empire, working on it.

justsharkie profile image


I've created a mindset of needing to complete my Daily To Do List by the time the day ends. So I write everything that needs to be done on the list, and it needs to get done by the end of the day.

I've found creating that mindset super easy, and it's always a good time when everything gets completed. It's brought my procrastination down to such a low level, teenage me would be shocked!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Nice suggestions!

nachomahn profile image
Lowell Hamilton

Procrastination is an addiction and it takes hard work, discipline, and many failures before you find what works best for you.

ADHD is killer for me if I do not manage it well... but I feel I finally have a system down that I have stuck to for 3 years with great success... too bad half my career was over before I finally got this figured out.

My laptop is for coding and design only. Only a few sites whitlisted in the browser and usually just for cut/pasting.

My Ipad is only for work/coding related consumption and always with me when I have my laptop ... reading docs, tutorials. No personal social media accounts, personal email, etc. I keep do not disturb on and block all notices.

And everything I could waste time on is on my phone with digital well-being on to limit it, or on my desktop where I never do work.

I plan every day with a sprint + bullet journal hybrid thing I have going. I pull from a kanban for the day, get stuff done hardest and most annoying first, retrospective at the end, migrate unfinished tasks to the next day.

Through the day I use a tomato timer. If I stray from what I should be doing I have trained myself to notice, write it down on my daily sheet, and get back to what I should be doing. Every long break I migrate those distractions to project sheets or my personal notebook. Every break I log what I did, plan the next timer, and step away and do something to reward myself... play with puppies, a quick game on my phone, whatever. It is ok if I run over the 5 minute break if I need to finish that reward, but not more than 10 minutes.

Always using paper for planning... opening an app, for me, is one step closer to a distraction. I use Rhoda reverse notebooks in dot-grid and a fountain pen. A page for every day, tiny sticky notes on a laminated kanban “today” board. I log every timer, every distraction, every accomplishment to hold myself accountable for misses and celebrate wins.

simo97 profile image

this way of limiting stuff in your computer is great man...

But it seem to need you to have a lot of computers. But this way of organizing your stuff make me think about this new OS (to come), it have been design to help users to stay productive, and it work in a similar way to what you described up there. An article on it:

jhuebel profile image
Jason Huebel

Your methods are similar to mine in that I use the Pomodoro Technique and Kanban boards. I don't use notebooks or a dot-grid paper, though. I did try a Hobonichi Techo at one point, but it felt less productive than what I'm doing now. Planning can also be procrastinating. So I try to keep it lean.

Really, my primary planning tool is kanban boards (, specifically). I've got some project specific kanban boards for detailed tasks. But also a "General Tasks" kanban that tracks my overall task list. I do use a bit of bullet journal methodology in how I setup each column within that board in particular. The great thing about integrating bullet journaling techniques into my kanban boards is that it's updated as I go. I don't have to review anything at the end of the day. And my next workday is basically planned out for me already.

I also use Pomotroid for time management. I've tried other time management techniques, but the Pomodoro Method works well for me. It encourages me to keep very focused for short bursts of time (I use the standard 25 minute pomodoro), then I can take a break for a few minutes. I don't use the 5-minute breaks for anything related to work. I don't plan my next pomodoro interval. I don't look at email. I don't make phone calls. If it's resembles work in any way, I avoid it. When I hear that pleasant "ding", I drop whatever I'm doing-- even if I'm in the middle of writing a line of code. The breaks are "me" time and I guard them fiercely. When I hit the long break (again, the standard 15 minutes), I usually do something away from my office. I go take a walk, grab some coffee, go enjoy an unhurried restroom break (regularity is important!), etc. I don't track the number of pomodoros I've completed in a day, though. That's just more work. I don't need more work.

Last week, I tried going through my workdays without using pomodoros or my kanban boards. It was a hot mess. I won't be doing that again.

jjmu15 profile image
Jamie Murphy

I find working from the same location all the time leads to less productivity and focus. I try to mix up my time from a regular co-working space, a couple of coffee shops and random days working from home to keep my focus and productivity high.

Also investing in a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones is a good send. Even using them without music can lead to a deep state of focus. I'd recommend the Sony wh-1000xm3.

lautarolobo profile image
Lautaro Lobo

In my case I prefer to have my place to study. Not changing it. Just keeping it simple, comfortable. Gives me a sense of security. Because if I change the location I lose so much time putting stuff in the right way and setting all things up.

Those headphones is a good a one!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

This is a good call

ganderzz profile image
Dylan Paulus

Lists help a ton.

I have a giant whiteboard, where I'll list out things I need to do. Crossing out items on the list gives a dopamine hit that then snowballs productivity. That'll be why I try to put the easiest tasks first for quick wins. Also, putting the whiteboard/paper/etc somewhere you'll be forced to see it helps a ton. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. My whiteboard is right next to my TV so when I start to procrastinate I'll see the board and feel guilty. :) It's for this reason I prefer analog lists instead of digital. Digital tools are too easy to forget about, and don't feel as great crossing off/erasing an item (but maybe I'm just old).

perigk profile image
Periklis Gkolias

I employ many tactics, not all work in all contexts

  1. I say to myself "do X in 3,2,1" and just start. Whether I feel like it or not. Easy to employ, difficult to master.

  2. I think and feel of the consequences. Old and good.

  3. If there are no consequences (eg personal projects) I make up. And I also make rewards, because all work and no play makes us dull boys. The only prerequisite is, to be honest with yourself. Don't get the reward if you procrastinated.

  4. I exercise and sleep well (not as much as I wanted to, but above average). If I am tired I am prone to laziness.

Those are the main ones. I can come with more if you want

subbramanil profile image
Subbu Lakshmanan

This is something I read from the book, Put More Time On Your Side and that has helped me a lot.

  1. Set yourself a timer for the task and tell yourself that you aren't going to spend any more time on that. Whenever I find myself need to complete tasks that are a priority but boring to do, I set myself a timer for 25 minutes(Pomodoro Technique), I work on it and move on to next task. I don't start another Pomodoro timer for the same task immediately. I pace myself on the task through a number of Pomodoro timers.

  2. If I am procrastinating a task, there's an inherent reason why I don't want to do. Identifying the reason helps a lot. Identifying the reason and weigh it alongside the benefits that I'm going to get when completing the task helps me.

lostintangent profile image
Jonathan Carter

In my case, I tend to procrastinate because I’m overthinking a problem, or worrying about what “perfect” looks like, which makes it really easy to put off getting started. The only thing I’ve found to actually mitigate this is to force myself to just get started, with a focus on completing a “v1”, and therefore, optimizing entirely for progress rather than perfection.

I tend to find that it’s easier to refine something, then it is to create something. So if you force yourself to create something, then you have the luxury of being in a better position to see what’s good/bad about it, and then refine it from there. As long as you create “v1” quickly, you’re likely saving time in the long run, since tangible assets (e.g. code, documents) can be easier to critique than just ideas.

I also tend to find that the refinement process is super enjoyable, and therefore, it’s not only easier to make forward progress based on the existing foundation, but it’s now faster, become I’m more motivated to complete it.

In so many cases, I’ve found that the “v1” thing I forced myself to created, is actually good enough. And therefore, I’ve tried to change my entire mindset to be about making enough progress to get feedback from others (e.g. a WIP PR, a “strawman” product spec, a draft blog post), since it gets me out of my own head, and also, the enjoyment of collaborating further motivates me to make more progress.

At that point, my goal isn’t just to get started, it’s to get to a point that I have something meaningful enough to share. For me at least, that’s a pretty powerful incentive, since I’m naturally pretty social 😁

elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

Get rid of active distractions. That means disabling everything that produces notifications of any kind. Only failing build results should be a possible notification.
You can read your email 3 times a day, when you get in, when you got back from lunch, when you wrap up your days work.

Reduce time to verified work. Waiting for things like compilers or tests will cause you to wander off. Your builds and unit tests should be small. You should be able to verify your work without too much waiting.

chiangs profile image
Stephen E. Chiang

I've moved all social media apps off my main screen... And when I need a break from work I'm scrolling through Dev so I'm still doing something 'productive' even if I'm not actively building something.

miku86 profile image
  • have a Why (Why do I have to do this? What are the benefits? What will happen if I won't do it?)
  • use pomodoro technique
  • have actionable, clear tasks (micro tasks work very well for me)
  • block phone completely (neither I'm a firefighter nor a doctor, so nothing is that urgent... for Android: Keep Me Out)
shindakun profile image
Steve Layton

Heh. I've been trying to figure this out for myself for what seems like ever. I do have some ideas around planning stuff out in a private repo and a notebook to try and give myself a focus list. Needs a bit more thought but maybe I'll write something up on the idea. 🤷‍♂️

actinarium profile image
Paul Danyliuk

There’s no silver bullet, and I’m certainly not in position to advice anything because I’m the biggest procrastinator in the world.

But take a look at this technique I once came up with and just recently turned into a Coda doc:


While most habit-building techniques are more or less based on streaks and "not breaking the chain", mine is a bit different and I'd say more humane. It has a carrot-and-stick system that:

  • makes you set a manageable daily goal
  • encourages you to work beyond the goal
  • punishes you for not meeting the goal
  • is still forgiving if you cannot meet the goal for the day, as long as you’ve been exceeding your goals before.

It helped me before, it is helping me now to some extent. Maybe it’ll help you.

epolanski profile image
Enrico Polanski

Deleted all social medias but IG and Twitter (which I seldom watch anyway and I just follow devs). This was good for my life as well.

I use an app that tracks what I do on my PC it's called rescue time. I aim at 5+ hours of productivity per day (which means having vs code, docs or localhost in focus on my screen). I start the day trying to get as close to the 5.5 hours target ASAP, which means that if I'm good by the time it's 3 PM I already did the overwhelming majority at that point I start being more relaxed, I try to focus more on learning, I distract, I try to code with colleagues and help them solve problems. Or I do code reviews of the merge requests we have. I start being very critical and try to find stuff that could be written better.

That gives me good insights on our codebase and gives me countless opportunities for learning new approaches.

If it is for my own projects it's harder. I generally wake up extremely early (6 am), make coffee and get straight into working. By the time it's 9 I worked 3 hours which for my own projects is not bad.

After all coding all week depletes lots of my energies already so if it's 10 am and I don't want to code anymore I just launch league of legends or go out or spend time with people and family and who cares. Being fresh makes you more prodictive.

Another tip that I have is to favor quantity over quality when writing code. We waste just too much time writing clean code that we get to a solution too late to really understand it and polish it. Jm2c anyway

ronsoak profile image

I treated my time like it was money. If I wanted to do X and I only had Y time I had no right to bitch and moan that I didn’t get it done. It’s like moaning you can’t afford a holiday when you buy hundreds of dollars of clothes every pay check. I decided I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and put myself on blast.

tam360 profile image

Before starting any work, I put my cell phone on silent mode for 6-7 hours and pen down time slots on a piece of paper. I assign different tasks/sub tasks with each slot. I then put my cell phone far away on a side table. Another thing that I do is try not open Youtube unless I need to follow some coding tutorial. I spent a lot of time watching random stuff on Youtube. Same goes for my FB consumption.

For every time slot that I fulfill for the task that I've associated with it, I put a tick against it. This (for some reason) acts as a social reward by forcing me to fill all those slots with ticks (instead of crosses).

aleccool213 profile image
Alec Brunelle

Todoist is a great to-do app where I write down all of the stuff I feel like I should do. Every morning when I wake up, it’s the only thing I check on my phone. This has been motivating me like wild-fire lately.

This, plus using screen-time on IOS to limit social media to thirty minutes a day :)

wesleylhandy profile image
Wesley Handy

I find the times I'm most likely to procrastinate are times when I have gotten a little code-weary, moving towards burn-out. I'll take a day or two off with no coding, then come back with a vengeance. I'm still learning to think ahead and plan breaks so I can keep my productivity up. Besides my day job, I have so many other ideas I either have in the works on the side or want to have in the works, I really hate losing several days to half-***ed work or putting of completing a task because I'm zoned out on youtube or something along those lines.

lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz

Honestly, my best tactic is to not have one except calling myself out for acting like my motivation has any impact on getting shit done. A majority of the time, my motivation has very little correlation on my ability to do something.

  • "I don't feel like responding to this email"... welp good thing I am still capable of typing despite that
  • "I don't feel like going to the gym." Well, luckily you're still able to go.
  • "I don't feel like doing that ticket." Well you get paid to complete tickets and it's literally just a bug you forgot to address.

Sometimes if I really can't get myself to do something after going through the above, it's because I need rest. If I need rest, I ensure I honor that.

darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar

I just found this image yesterday on a telegram channel and it sums it up pretty good (at least for me):

DEV speed up tabs

I always have dev open in one tab to check it regulary. But there are other sites where I browse "just while waiting for the system to finish" and totally loose myself there for an hour or so :D

thejohnstew profile image
John Stewart

I've recently been trying to just isolate myself as much as possible when trying to get something done. I've been reading Deep Work and have realized that I'm basically in a constant state of distraction.

At night or in the morning I will really try and just hide myself from all distractions and focus on what I need to do.

This involves usually me putting my phone in the other room and just trying to forget I have it and stop worry about what ifs.

buphmin profile image

For me there is only one thing that can be done, and something I think can apply to anyone. And that is "just do it!" Unfortunately, like many things in life, there is no magic pill to fix things. I think by just getting to something you need to do before you have a chance to convince yourself not to is the best method.

johnkazer profile image
John Kazer

I try to have something to look forward to. So don't do everything you enjoy in one evening, leave it for the morning and get some sleep.

To avoid meetings encroaching too much I use my calendar for tasks rather than a separate task list.

simo97 profile image

When I try to figure out what I can win after getting the job done it helo to go and work.

ruheni profile image
Ruheni Alex

I installed Blocksite on my phone and the Momentum extension on my desktop.

Having clear goals/tasks and deadlines also gets reduces procastination.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Is the extension effective longterm?

ruheni profile image
Ruheni Alex

To be honest, we all slip sometimes🙊. It works most of the time. But the extension is minimalist and can help you set a main goal for the day and to-do tasks too.

brandelune profile image
Jean-Christophe Helary

Does it look like you have a social media issue ?

conw_y profile image

I think procrastination is a symptom of not being motivated. If I really want something, and I know exactly what to do next to get closer to getting it, then there's nothing stopping me from simply acting, and I tend to just act.

I've found the problems begin when I'm unsure about what the goal is and whether I can achieve it. Or if there are so many obstacles in my way that I feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.

I've been feeling overwhelmed recently about several personal software projects, particularly due to difficulties with the tooling and frameworks, which are so difficult to resolve that they really cut into my energy and motivation. I hope that when I eventually work through them and resolve them I can get out of wrangling with the tools and actually do what I really love, which is designing and building the apps themselves.

But I also need to think more carefully and clearly about my long-term goals, so that I can have those goals in mind to sustain me during difficult periods like the one I'm going through now.

thomlom profile image
Thomas Lombart
  1. I prepare as much as I can for the next day: preparing my stuff, writing my tasks, etc. I find it easier to be motivated to work when everything's ready.
  2. Work using the Pomodoro technique. Taking breaks are super important.
  3. Block all distractions during my work sessions: activate airplane mode, close social media websites, etc.
straleb profile image
Strahinja Babić

Whenever I do something I tell myself, will do it for 5 mins then end up working xD mindset is always ahh can't quit now when I started :"D

citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl

I embrace it. I have a full-time job, a wife I like spending time with, co-organize meetups and conferences and do FOSS. Without the procrastination in between I’d burn out pretty fast.

russormes profile image
Russell Ormes

I'll tell you tomorrow.

biros profile image
Boris Jamot ✊ /

I quit all social media platforms except mastodon. Social media are toxic, they steal your data, and they're based on advertising. I didn't lose anything by quiting them.

shiling profile image
Shi Ling

Deadlines. Hard deadlines.

jeremyabbott profile image
Jeremy Abbott

I'm not great at it. I'm at my worst when I'm trying to get things done at home. Coffee shops and no social media are my go to though.

ld00d profile image
Brian Lampe

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I'll get around to doing something about it one of these days.

kayis profile image

I always have something bigger in the back hand.

At the moment most of my success is based on the master thesis I'm procrastinating since 8 years.

cathodion profile image
Dustin King

Going somewhere else to work, like a coffee shop. I can only drink so much coffee though.

bizzibody profile image
Ian bradbury

I spend hours reading

Oh. Damn. Hang on!

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

I don't, it's an important part of the process, procrastination is your brain telling you it needs a break.

helpermethod profile image
Oliver Weiler

What helped me was embracing procrastination. Accept it as part of human nature.

Give yourself permission to procrastinate!

sandeepbalachandran profile image
Sandeep Balachandran

Pretty much simple i guess. Everything will be gone when i remember i got nothing to eat tomorrow.

wolfhoundjesse profile image
Jesse M. Holmes

The first thing I do is come to this site and scroll.