cbSullivan Consulting, LLC

It's Not The Task We Procrastinate - It's Getting Started!

Apr 16, 2019 | by Cindy Sullivan


We’ve all been there - - that lingering item that needs to be done but we just can’t seem to make ourselves do it.  Sometimes it’s that the task is large or difficult.  Other times it’s something that’s new and we’re not quite sure how to proceed.  Or, it could be that we are waiting for ALL the information needed to get started.  Whatever the case may be, we can move toward combatting procrastination when we look beyond the task and start to tackle the first real hurdle - - just BEGINNING.  Try these tips to get un-stuck and get the task underway:


  • Incorporate FUN!  Often, it’s a lack of engagement that keeps us away from launching into an activity.  The perception that it will be boring, cumbersome, or hard sparks negative emotions from the beginning so we will search for anything that can shift our focus to something more enjoyable.  So, try tying the activity to something you perceive as fun.  Can you put on music, grab a favorite drink to enjoy while working, enlist a partner to work with/alongside you to help keep you focused?  Get creative and see what ideas you can spark that will tie in a more positive reaction to the idea of buckling down.
  • Beat the Clock!  I love to enlist timers as a productivity tool.  On tasks you tend to procrastinate, set a timer for 20-30 minutes and see how much you can get accomplished in that timeframe.  Sometimes that alone is enough time to get it completed.  If not, even allotting only one session a day will see quite a bit of work done by the end of the week. 
  • Do it first!  This is the idea behind Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!  You could dread the fact that you have to eat a frog all day but in the end, it still needs to be done.  Better to tackle it first thing so that it is behind you.  A bonus is the lift it gives you when you can proceed with your day knowing you’ve already gotten that annoying task out of the way!
  • 10 Minutes – then reevaluate.  The idea here is that you don’t need to commit to finishing, you just need to commit to starting.  After 10 minutes, look at where you are and decide if it’s worth continuing.  Often people will choose to just continue now that they’ve gotten things underway. 
  • Identify the tiniest next step.  Things we dread tend to grow and loom large on the horizon.  When getting started is the hurdle, try identifying the next TINY step.  Purposely focusing on the small moves can turn that mountain into a molehill.  So, don’t put the whole task on your task list – instead assign yourself the next tiny step.  When that one is done, pick the next tiny step.  
  • Build routines.  Procrastination happens when our intentions to act bump into negative emotional reactions.  Routines turn into habits and habits operate from a place where things are more instinctive, and we don’t take time to think about them.  Consider the task of brushing your teeth.  You likely don’t stop to ask yourself if you feel like brushing your teeth, the activity is just habit.  Where can you start building routines so that the activities you don’t want to waste mental energy on are transitioned to habitual behaviors?


Cindy B Sullivan works with clients and organizations to address issues such as procrastination and other time management challenges, helping them improve their productivity and effectiveness.  Take her 6 Pillars of Effective Time Management assessment to find out where you can work to hone your time management skills.  Free phone consultations are available.  Email: or call 615-406-5436 today to schedule!