06/13/2013 06:19 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2013

5 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

Everyone procrastinates. Whether it is going to the gym, doing homework, running errands, remembering to buy something on your anniversary, doing your taxes, and a number of many things, people just put it off. If I had 16 weeks in college, you better believe I didn't look at that project requirements page for 15 weeks and 4 days, and then came the 3 days of no sleep , constant researching, and writing it to get it done. I could have just done it in steps over those 16 weeks, but I let the future version of me handle it, and not the present version me have to worry about it.

I started writing my first book; Zombies Ruined My Weekend (Available at, shameless plug!), and it took awhile to get published because of the sheer procrastination involved. The more I told people about it, the less I worked on it. I finally finished it, but it took way too long to get it done because of the excuses that led up to it. Without having a timeline, I surrendered to Parkinson's Law, which is, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Since I had no end in sight, time kept expanding, as did my procrastination.

Have a To-Do List

"How about a TO-DON'T list!?!?" -- Community College general studies major dropout.

Without something to reach for in achieving something, procrastination will take hold and strangle you like Homer Simpson. Whenever I need to get something done, I jot it down in my tablet or in a notebook. Checking off each one of those things you have to do but usually put off feels like an achievement.

If you set out a goal to lose 50 pound, that 50 pounds is going to look daunting if you look at it as a whole. Cut it up into 10 pound goals. Lost 10 pounds, then mark off that goal, lose another 10, and then mark off that goal. Suddenly, you're 2/5th of the way there. The biggest part of procrastination on many projects is thinking it's too difficult to achieve, so you put it off because of excuses. Which reminds me...

Don't Have Excuses

"I'll just start _______ Monday."

No, you won't. The moment you put it off to a later date starts the cycle of procrastination. The weekend put off is the classic excuse to not getting things done. People want to start their diet, they'll start Monday. You want to quit smoking? Monday!

Chances are, if you want to put it off a couple of days, you'll keep putting it off. If you want to quit smoking, drinking, or start a diet, you should start it where the biggest pressure of doing so is at the beginning of your plan. If you can get that weekend out-of-the-way where all the temptations are coming at you, and you succeed in bi-passing them, then the weekdays with little temptation will not be nearly as bad.

Change Your Scenery

Do you know why people go to the library to get work done? They do some because of resources, obviously, but because it's an environment of pure productivity. You don't walk into libraries and see someone lounged out on a futon, eating a Hot and Ready for 1, and watching Season 4 of Arrested Development do you? (If you do, transfer). No, they go there because their normal surroundings are distracting to get work done. If you try to work on stuff at home in areas that are normally meant for television, or sleeping, you won't want to get work done and you'll put it off. I guess this can go back to old cheesy High School movies where a guy is having a girl come over to his room to study. Yeah, they aren't going to study. They're going to play Dungeons and Dragons...I mean, make-out, and possibly be on MTV as one of those horrible kids who also have kids.

Point being, get out of your familiar surroundings. Go to a Coffee shop, library, park, or somewhere that is quiet if you want to get stuff done. It really helps.

Eliminate Alcohol

When you need to get stuff done, and you know that it needs to get done, don't involve alcohol. When I would wake up on a Saturday morning with a pounding head, the last thing I wanted to do was pretty much anything that didn't involve a couch, cartoons, and having the shades down. Did I have things to do? Yeah. But it took hours just to get into some sort of functional mood just to even contemplate doing them. Being sober, I could kill a 5K at the gym like a champion. Being hung-over, I can barely get out of my car and walk to the entrance of my gym, not to mention even think about physical exertion.

(Editor's Note: The exception to this rule and only rule this is writing. Ernest Hemmingway said, "Write Drunk, Edit Sober." And I fully endorse this for myself when working on books)

Get It Out Of The Way

Seriously, there are better things you could be doing than what you're procrastinating on. If there is a lot going on in your life, the last thing you want on your mind is that thing you still have to do that you've been putting off for a while. That procrastinating thought will be a front lawn in your head, and soon it'll overgrow and it will be a blemish on your being, especially, if that task is mowing your front lawn. What will the neighbors think?! No one wants to be that guy on the block, just like nobody wants to be that person that procrastinates on things that really need to get down. So just sack up and do it, you could be hanging out on the beach instead of rushing a PowerPoint the night before a big presentation in the office.