Motivation to Beat Procrastination

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Procrastination can be tough to beat because, although the steps to beating it aren’t that tough, sometimes we just don’t feel motivated to tackle them.

How do you build the motivation you need to finally beat procrastination?

There are two things I’ve found to work well to add motivation:

  1. Public accountability
  2. Intrinsic rewards

Let’s take a look at each.

Public Accountability

I haven’t found anything better at providing motivation than some kind of accountability to others — whether a large group, a handful of friends, or just one or two people you care about.

Why is this? It’s interesting, because when we’re only accountable to ourselves, often we will allow ourselves to slide. It seems to be OK to fail if no one else is watching. But when we know we’ll look bad in the eyes of others, we’ll put in more effort to succeed.

Have you ever been challenged by someone else to do something — maybe something you really didn’t care about doing before the challenge? The challenge from someone else is what motivated you. You wanted to seem like the kind of person who can meet the challenge, not someone who would fail.

This powerful tool can be used in many ways to beat procrastination:

These are just a few ideas to get you started. But choose one and get started today! It’ll make all the difference.

Intrinsic Rewards

The definition of “intrinsic rewards” is tricky — it’s best if viewed in opposition to “external rewards” such as allowing yourself some dessert if you don’t procrastinate today, or buying yourself some shoes, getting a massage, etc. These are external rewards, and they aren’t bad at all.

Intrinsic rewards, by contrast, are pleasures that come from doing the activity itself. There are many of them, such as:

These, of course, are just a handful of examples. Everyone enjoys different things, and you’ll want to find your own version of intrinsic rewards. What about the task can you find enjoyable? If there isn’t anything, can you create an enjoyable environment, turn it into a game or competition, or practice mindfulness as you work and enjoy that? Can you enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of doing 5-10 minute bursts of work and getting things done this way?

Find a way to enjoy doing the task, and your reward will be the task itself. This is one of the best motivators of all.