Tricks for Combatting Procrastination | Tim Ferriss
Tricks for Combatting Procrastination | Tim Ferriss

Procrastination. Let’s talk about it. It’s a big topic. And by the way we all face it. It is a ever present evergreen issue for a
reason and even the people you see on magazine covers, most of them, there are a few mutants,
but they all have things they put off. And there are a few different tactics, approaches
that I found very helpful that I’ve borrowed from, whether it’s guests on the Tim Ferris
Show or people I interviewed for Tools of Titans my newest book, here we go. So down the list. So one is break it down into the smallest
action conceivable. And there are a few different types here. So if you have a macro goal, which is double
the number of podcast downloads per episode. All right. I’m just giving that as an example. Well, we need to modify that to make it really
actionable. So the first is making it hyper, hyper specific
so we need a timeline at the very least. So let’s say within six months doubling, and
this is a real example for me, doubling the number of podcast downloads. Well, downloads are ongoing so by what point
in time? All right, I want to double the number of
podcast downloads per episode by week six after publication and I want to accomplish
that within six months. All right. And then we can borrow from David Allen and
just ask what are some of the prerequisites, the component pieces of doing that? Let’s break it out into say content and organic. You could have it paid acquisition, you make
a long list of these potential buckets of activities. From there you would look at next physical
actions, and this is directly from getting things done. And you could apply that to any number of
these, let’s just say it’s ten buckets but you would ask yourself, this is a question
I ask myself very often when I’m procrastinating because there is indecision, and this is a
particular breed of procrastination. In other words if I have ten things on my
to do list or ten potential products I could pursue what to do in that situation? And what I ask myself is which one of these
if done will make the rest the relevant or easier? This is a key question I ask all the time,
which one of these will make all the rest easier to do if done first, or all the rest
irrelevant, don’t even need to do them. That is how I will hone in on one piece of
the puzzle. And this can be applied all over the place. But let’s just say it’s the doubling podcast,
it could be losing weight, you can see that’s very, very amorphous. We need timelines. We need an amount to lose. And then you want to make it as small as possible. So I’ll give you a different example. If you want to start flossing your teeth,
who likes flossing your teeth? Pretty much nobody. So how do you start flossing your teeth? Well, you want to make it as easy as possible
to develop as part of your routine, to make it as automatic as anything else that you
do consistently. And you could borrow from the say BJ Fogg
who’s done a lot of research at Stanford and elsewhere, make it as small as possible, meaning
in the beginning do less than you’re capable of doing. So this is another key when you think something
is too big or onerous, so it’s too intimidating or it’s too much of a pain in the ass. So for flossing you might say I’m only going
to floss my front two teeth. That’s three gaps. That’s all you’re going to do. And you want to make it, again, as easy as
possible. So you might use a WaterPik or you might use
those disposable flossing gadgets so you don’t have to do tourniquets on your fingers, which
is also one of the side effects of flossing that deters people. Make it as easy as possible. Now this applies to a lot more than flossing. So I’ve talked to many of the people for say
Tools of Titans, people who are eight time New York Times best-selling authors or prolific
musicians, prolific music producers like Rick Rubin who is legendary, and it all comes down
to tiny homework assignments. So Rick if he has a stuck artist, for instance,
he will say can you get me one word or one line that you might like for this song that
you’re working on by tomorrow, is that possible? Many, many homework assignments. So with the creative project in the beginning
that’s one. It’s related to a piece of advice that I got
from Neil Strauss, eight times New York times best selling author, he has written for The
New York Times, he’s written for Rolling Stone Magazine, and that is lower your standards. So he doesn’t believe in writer’s block. He says your standards are just too high. You’re creating performance anxiety for yourself. So the advice that I got from another writer,
which matches with that, is two crappy pages per day. So a lot of people are like I’m going to kill
it. I need an ambitious goal. Let me do 1500 words, 2000 words per day for
this book I’m working on. Well, there is a very high probability that
you’re going to fall short of that and then you will get demoralized, then you will get
intimidated by the task and then you’ll start procrastinating. So make the hurdle, make the success threshold
really, really low. That’s what I’ve done for my last three books
is two crappy pages per day. That’s all I need. If I don’t end up using them that’s fine I
just need to get out two crappy pages. What ends up happening? With the flossing, with the writing, with
say exercise, if you’re going to exercise you’re making a New Year’s Resolution, don’t
make it an hour a day four times a week, no, no, no, and if you don’t have an exercise
habit five to ten minutes at the gym three times a week, plenty. And in all those cases you will feel successful
because you’ve checked your box for success and then very often you will exceed that for
extra credit. You’ll be like oh I’m already at the gym I’ll
go for an extra ten minutes. Well, I’m already flossing my teeth I’ll do
an extra four. Well, I’ve already hit my two pages but I’m
feeling great and I’m in the flow, maybe I’ll do ten, maybe I’ll do 20. But it prevents you from feeling like a failure. This is very, very important. That is what derails a lot of people and it
also makes the task list intimidating. So those are a few recommendations for avoiding
procrastination. Some of them are time related. So if you are looking at a task, and we’ve
already talked about chunking it down, if it looks gigantic an onerous and you calculate
in your mind well that’s probably going to take me a hundred hours or three weeks, however
you look at it, you don’t take the first step because it’s like taking a bite out of a whale
or something like that. So you can use the technique, for instance,
like the pomodoro technique. And people have interpreted this in different
ways but it effectively means sprints of say 20 to 25. Some people do 23 minutes where you’re like
all right I know I’m not going to get this done but I’m going to sprint for 20 minutes,
25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. And then I will sprint again for 20 to 25
minutes. And the magic of those time constraints, I’ve
talked about this a lot has Parkinson’s Law, but the complexity of a task swelling to fill
the time that it’s allotted. Once you have these positive constraints,
which by the way for a creative person, very important to have positive constraints. Being able to do anything you want all the
time is a recipe for disaster and paralysis and procrastination. And I’ll talk about one or more constraint
that you can apply. So you have something like the pomodoro technique. If it’s email related you can actually use
a tool called Email Game. I won’t go into a long description but
is the URL. You can check that out. It avoids the inbox view and forces you to
answer sequentially. So I’ll let people check that out. That will probably cut down your email clearing
time by 40 percent or so. The next way that you can apply positive constraint
is by building in incentives and consequences. All this means is make yourself socially accountable. And you can use a site like, you
can use Coach.tome, having someone else to hold your feet to the fire and keep you accountable
for whatever goal you’ve set for yourself. That could be a check in via phone, it could
be a bet, so a financial component, which is very effect. I’ve seen high ranking folks at Google lose
a hundred plus pounds because they had a bet with a friend, this is what got them started,
their gym buddies if someone didn’t show up they had to pay the other person a dollar. So it’s incredible what a small amount of
money can do. You could also put together a betting pool
say five people each put in $100 and the person who loses the most of body fat or improves
their body fat percentage using say DEXA Scan by the end of the first-quarter gets the $500. That is hugely, hugely effective. And I think in part not because the money
you will win but the money you will lose. People will work a lot harder to counteract
loss eversion it turns out. So those are a few things that you could utilize. And I’ll give you one kind of wacky one that
is from Mike Birbiglia who’s one of the most successful comedians on the planet, has done
tons of TV, tons of movies and is fantastic at standup does, lot with This American Life. And when he was procrastinating working on
his screenplay, his latest screenplay, we noticed that when he was accountable to someone
else he had a meeting he was never late, he was always early. But when he had a commitment to himself to
write he might put it off for hours. So he took a Post-it and he put it next to
his bed, and this sounds ludicrous, but it said, Mike, and I think it was three exclamation
points, you have a meeting with yourself at 7:00 a.m. at café whatever it was where he
intended to work and that actually for whatever weird quirk of human psychology got him to
stay on track for his meeting with himself to write his screenplay. So that’s another Jedi mind trick that you
might try on yourself. There are many tools in the toolkit but keep
it small, keep it defined, rig it so you can win and when in doubt figure out a way to
create a loss or shame if you don’t actually tackle your task and achieve some type of
measurable goal by a specific point in time.

100 thoughts on “Tricks for Combatting Procrastination | Tim Ferriss”

  1. Moss Bresnahan says:

    Great value!

  2. Meinung Abundance says:

    Sorry guys, but I never procrastinate…I know, this sounds arrogant, but it is true. I am 41 old and I think that after 40 – if you've done your "homework" in life, you should be able to do merely things which you like to do. I cannot name a single thing to procractinate with.

  3. Sarina Saman says:

    Thank youu

  4. Max M says:

    well if you are only working 4 hours a week procrastination cant be that big a problem.

  5. Gabe Riel says:

    What was the "sprinting" technique Tim mentioned? I couldn't quite catch his enunciation.

  6. Naveh Halperin says:


  7. Juniorgun1 says:

    * Subtitles In Spanish , when ?? – Thanks!!!!

  8. Frog says:

    I'll use these tips…tomorrow

  9. Danny Seaton says:

    I know myself too well. if I left a note to myself saying "you have a meeting with yourself at 7am" etc. I'd look at it, say to myself "fuck that" turn over, go back to sleep

  10. Alex Kasinskas says:


  11. C-z TapX says:

    Procrastination is just sharpening the axe before cutting down the tree.

  12. D Master says:

    he didn't talk about the number one single thing to stop procrastination

  13. H0wlrunn3r says:

    He should have said “Procrastination… can we talk about it later?” 😂

  14. grandpahiggins says:

    the people that disliked actually liked this video they just procrastinated and didn't change it. because how could you not like this video.

  15. MrJosh2578 says:

    this helped me thank you 😊

  16. victorJ2050 says:

    When I was a kid and had trouble getting up early, my dad used to say before you sleep request the pillow, blanket and mattress to wake you up at 6 am. I made that a habit and it helped creating a mindset to get up.

  17. bozics chuck lxye says:

    I just added it to my watch later list..
    I was procrastinating while watching this.

  18. aaron gwayn says:

    you should not floss!!! It has toxic chemicals that lead to immune system and endocrine system problems and causes cancer. I get better sleep and feel much better since I stopped flossing. It was drying out my throat and I tried everything else to fix it and nothing worked — only stopping flossing. Use a toothpick or plastic or cotton string if you must, but do not use floss. The chemicals are in all types of floss, but they don't have to tell you.

  19. David Hunt says:

    This looks reeky great, I'll look at it tomorrow.

  20. William Mason says:

    Nice content, good work man.

  21. nexus says says:

    Is it still considered a #humblebrag if you lack the capability for humility?

  22. Billy Bobbie says:

    Don't "Just do it." Rather, "Just start it." Establish the habit by starting with the easiest possible iteration of it. After you get going and create those hard wired neural networks, it will be easier to maintain and build on the positive habit.

  23. S S A says:

    Added to Watch Later.

  24. Juubes says:

    This channel's videos are so visually boring. Something has fucked up my attension span.

  25. Shane Binot says:

    I find this video really infuriating. So much of this guys ethos is name dropping supposedly famous people whom I've never heard of who apparently have won awards that I HAVE heard of. His actual advice on what to do may be helpful to some, but the way he sells it is all wrong.

  26. siddhant sharma says:

    thanks a lot tim.. ☺☺☺ have an important exam in 60 days… this is something i needed.

  27. Simon Banks says:

    Where's the evidence behind all this? It all sounds anecdotal. Every self help guru has 'these new ideas that will help solve all our problems' but where is the data behind it and does it still work on the different people throughout society who would never have signed up to an experiment because of their character.personality and so the advice from the studies are irrelevant. Then someone will come along and say 'the only way to tell is to try it yourself' which then completely negates the idea that the tricks themselves will stop you procrastinating… At the end of the day it just comes down to the type of person you are, someone cut throat society would describe as 'willing to open yourself up to new ideas and experiences' or someone like me who is described as 'unable and unwilling'. This won't combat procrastination unless you already had it in you to beat procrastination. Nobody in society cares about the people with no drive, not even the shrinks, even they tell you that it's up to you to want to change. There's a line they will never cross to fix people with no motivation. They will never cross the line of intervening with 'freewill' using electrical stimulation of the brain to give new memories of past experiences. They might try ECT on you if they think you have schizophrenia or depression etc and you have proven to them you're a danger to yourself physically but if they think you're just 'plain lazy' because they can't understand what has happened to you in the past then they don't give a fuck

  28. GivemeFreemeal says:

    I'm watching procrastinating video , while reading comment to find answer.

  29. mojowent says:

    This video has shown up on my feed for a while now but I kept putting off watching it

  30. Waseem Qazi says:

    Very very practical n helpful video. Thanx. Off to code/read java for a bit. Little steps everyday!

  31. u wot says:

    procrastinating as I watch this.

  32. Mo Ak says:

    this video lacks editing. guy talking with no visuals got boring pretty quickly. could at least ad numbers like "1. Break it down" so that when I skip to number 2 or 3…

  33. Zeddicus1976 says:

    My pile of shame is shrinking!

  34. David Park says:

    Just added this video to "Watch Later" LOL

  35. sanket deshpande says:

    thanks scofield

  36. Alberts stuff says:

    This was excellent, thank you!

  37. Henri Huttu says:

    Best tip ever

  38. Auto Focus says:

    Added this to my watch later list. Just kidding. I'm not an annoying, unoriginal youtube commenter.

  39. AAA BBB says:

    Some of the best ideas you will ever have will come to you while you are procastinatig.

  40. Roger Syversen says:

    what if you are studying and you have 15 weeks to get through a certain amount of curriculum and that calculates to a set number of pages per day that you are not able to do? lowering your standards wont help.

  41. Uri Tibon says:

    As if watching this video wasn't enough procrastination, now you're reading the bloody comments!

  42. Lamarr168 says:

    This has good ideas I can use and share with others. Thanks Tim!

  43. Lamar Asher says:

    Great vid! All the tips were super helpful

  44. Laura Stenz says:

    I'll try out the technique to pay my friend each week that I haven't lost weight. Thank you 🙂

  45. 200%productions says:

    god, its so hard to get started though.

  46. Mr Sunshine says:

    Solid advises right there. Love the pomodoro technique – been using it for years. Personally, I'd also add that it's super important to finish the most important work in the beginning – till 12, for example. Concentrating AND intending to do the best job during that small window of time is easy mentally (compared to intending to do the best whole day), but for me it's very likely that the way I perform till 12 will determine the rest of the day. Also, putting big fat "X" mark on calendar at the end of the productive day (when you've performed some quantifiable unit of your goal – e.g. "2 crappy pages a day") will motivate to keep the "chain" on the calendar running (I call it Jerry Seinfeld method, 'coz I've read somewhere that he used this method, not sure if it's true, but the method itself helped me a great deal).

  47. Chris Corley says:

    Sounds great. I will try it tomorrow. 🏄

  48. Zamundaaa says:

    well I knew most of that, but I'm too lazy to do it… what's wrong with me?

  49. Jean Roch says:

    I should really watch this video, but I have better things to do right now. Wait a minute…

  50. DavidKFZ says:

    The lower your standards one works quite well, I find that if I say to myself "just do half an hour solid of creative work" I can keep going and going, it's like the half hour is spent tuning a radio into a work mode and from there its easy

  51. Ricardo Ruíz says:

    The brain is lazy by nature.

  52. The Achiever Skills says:

    I use his advice for a month! The results= 4 YouTube videos, 2 books read, and I haven't failed going to the gym 🙂 this thing works!

  53. Charlotte says:

    The link to the full transcript doesn't work for me.

  54. Alexis Williams says:

    The "meeting with myself" trick sounds intriguing. I'm going to try it now.

    Update: Just tried the Pomodoro technique on my 130-question exam, and IT WORKED. I had been putting it off for 2 days, but tonight it is DONE.

  55. Azeez says:

    I thought of watching this 6 months ago

  56. Todd Starbuck says:

    Hone is something you do to a knife. Home is something you do to a target.

  57. Jack Gude says:

    Took me months to get around to watching this

  58. speed07 says:

    Why are we adding this video to watch later list?

  59. Atomic Rooster says:

    This video has been in my watch later list for 11 months. I still haven't watched it.

  60. Hemin Adil says:

    Most helpful advice on procrastination.

  61. Gutty Dozen says:

    Cool awesome. And so if someone could solve how to go from knowing what to do to actually doing it, that would be great.

  62. French Hammock says:

    I don't give a shit if I fail a task, losing money via an agreement with a friend didn't work, nor did the incentive to earn something, so how can I motivate myself to actually complete things? There's no anxiety to start the project, but nothing happens once all of the programs are open and I'm meant to start working.

  63. Swimming in the Dark says:

    Awesome summary. I so desperately need to implement these. I am aware of many of them it's just a matter of using those positive constraints.

    Interestingly, the very last tip to schedule a meeting with yourself seems like something that might help me deal with my waking up early issues. I've been struggling to go to bed earlier and wake up early when I am in control of my own schedule and don't have to get up for anybody else.

    Basically every time I set my alarm and it interrupts my sleep pattern, it's way too easy for me to just shut it off and go back to sleep because nobody else is depending on me.

    I can get up extremely tired if other people are expecting me. I just can't do it for myself. So maybe that Mike Birbiglia trick will work, as silly as it is.

  64. JenJan RanJan says:

    I watched this video rather than working… Oh…

  65. Journal of Jack says:

    Excellent video so practical as always Tim Ferris!

  66. Jaizhi T. Amoguis says:

    I love how Tim talked about the need to identify fears and even how to overcome it. You'd see that they are based on experience, even his books are also amazing! I’ve heard influencers and authors who does it too, even therapist that host podcasts like the Pioneers of Insight podcast, but not too many others.

  67. Marten Dekker says:

    Left out " reward yourself afterwards" Geeez.

  68. Janice MacIsaac says:

    So LoveTim Ferris!! 🤗

  69. Salvador Salazar says:

    Saving it. I'll watch this video later.

  70. Peasant Pheasant says:

    He needs tricks for combatting indigestion.

  71. T. Thomas says:

    Lower you standards on writing. Genius by Neil Strauss.

  72. Matthew Triolo says:


  73. Matthew Triolo says:

    How could someone not like this? He’s a BEAST

  74. Marcus Cross says:

    The most important part of this advice is breaking big tasks down into smaller tasks. Whenever I do that, I am 100 times more likely to get on and get things done, and enjoy the process of ticking little tasks off my list. It really works!

  75. Tyler Mcghee says:

    Thank you Tim!

  76. Pixie says:

    This is one of the best 'tim talks' so far.

  77. Joseph Noonan says:

    I need to figure out how to stop procrastinating. Hey, let's watch this YouTube video about it.

  78. SevenDeMagnus says:

    Thanks. God bless, Proverbs 31

  79. ChristiaanOosterveen says:

    We only floss, when it is too painful not to floss. If you want to quite your procrastination, stay around people who are doing what you want to do.

  80. Tejus Wadbudhe says:

    Thank you

  81. João Gabriel says:


  82. Mike o'connor says:

    Yes, guy!

  83. Tony Ofarrell says:

    I like this guy

  84. DDier says:

    I'll watch this forever

  85. bobsdavenport says:

    It's easier than that, it means you don't want to do it for some reason, so dont do it!

  86. damienpenglin says:

    Need advice. What about situations where you have a few goals that need to run concurrently but time per day is a huge challenge. I have to build an ecommerce site showcasing 250 plus products, train for a marathon in 2 months and build my current online business to at least 350(now around 230 per month) products sold per month. Anyone can give me some quick and fast tools?

  87. Kevin Mcgrath says:

    The final death of procrastination

  88. Paritime School says:

    Magnificent video SIR

  89. Dennis Gordon says:

    with all this acting by the end i wanted to punch you in the face.

  90. Gobul Verinas says:

    I was with him until he called Mike birbiglia a big comedian. He's nothing compared to the Legendary Rich Vos.

  91. Maximus says:

    I've had this tab open for about 2 years and i've yet to watch it.

    Just wanna look at myself in the mirror and be dissapointed…

    Time to watch it i guess.

  92. blackl1steddrums says:

    Thanks to Tim I’m now flossing on all my haters!

  93. Traveling with Kristin says:

    Damn, the Email Game was discontinued a few days ago! Feb 7! Bummer

  94. Joel Cheong says:

    Which one of these, if done, will make the rest irrelevant or easier? : Systematisation

  95. CYBOPOD says:

    I have been procrastinating video uploads to my channel.. while watching this..

  96. jez warren-clarke says:

    I have just noticed that there are already plenty of witty jokes about procrastination here. I’m going to add one later myself.

  97. KitBot says:

    action creates motivation..not the other way..start small

  98. Orion says:

    Feels like the second half contradicts the first one. I mean, what's the point of using all those little tricks that lessen the anxiety only to then crank it up 300% by making yourself additionally responsible?!



  100. Mike Girard says:

    There's procrastination — which everyone does — and then there is Procrastination — Capital P -which is a chronic, debilitating and dangerous condition. The second kind is a cognition and emotional regulation problem, which has more in common with ADHD and drug addiction than with the perfectly natural avoidance of tasks we fear or dislike. Hence, it requires a more serious approach than anything presented here.

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