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Fun Ways to Beat Procrastination

Flogging you doesn't work for long. Might these? (includes a video)

UPDATE: Because this article received a lot of hits and Facebook Likes, I decided to create this little video to drive home a key point...or at least, hopefully make you laugh. HERE is the link.

Most of us procrastinate because we’d rather do something fun. It rarely works to tell us to buck up, grow up, and get it done, dammit!

My procrastinating clients do better using these tactics that make tasks more fun. Might one or more help you?

Honor your inner hedonist. Keep your fun-loving voice ever whispering in your ear: “How could I make this stupid task more fun?” Examples:

  • Procrastinating doing your income taxes? Would it be more fun to think of it as a game you’re playing against the IRS? While remaining within the law, how can you minimize your taxes? Don’t know? Google “tax-saving strategies.” That game may be not only fun but a money maker.
  • Do you have a report to write and dread having to pore over article after article, spreadsheet after spreadsheet? Maybe you’d find it more fun to interview people and have your report summarize your conversations.
  • Are you avoiding having to evaluate that bad employee? Might it be more fun to do the review while taking a walk with the employee in a nearby park? Not only might that be more fun, nature may help make the medicine go down.

Gamify. Could you embed a game within your task? Examples:

  • Set a timer for 20 minutes. See how much you can get done before the buzzer sounds. Then give yourself a five-minute break to do whatever you’d find most fun, for example, taking a walk while listening to your favorite tunes on your mp3 player, or if you’re home, a quick shower, getting on the floor to play with your doggie, asking your live-in love to massage your back….or front?
  • Write a check for $100 to buy something or to give you your favorite charity. Write another check to your least favorite charity. For example, if you’re a Democrat, write one to the Democratic Party, the other to the Tea Party. Give both checks to someone you trust. If you get the task done by the appointed time, you get your gift or desired donation. If not, the check gets mailed to your charity from hell.
  • Create a competition. Find a friend who's facing a task of similar length. Bet on who gets it done first.
  • Make a list of all the little sub-tasks. As each gets done, cross it off the list. For a surprising number of my clients, that little "game" is quite motivating.

Picture it. Picture the benefit(s) of getting the task done, for example, getting your boss or spouse off your back and having the time do fun stuff, guilt-free. Also picture the liabilities, for example, risking getting let go and having to pound the pavement. You might even do a Google image search so you can literally picture the benefits you’ll get from doing the task and the liabilities if you don’t. Post those pictures where you’ll always see them: next to your computer, on your refrigerator, whatever.

Of course, some tasks can’t be fun and simply must get done—a root canal comes to mind---but more often than we might think, you can make that crappy task at least fun enough.

Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to his articles here on, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on Of Nemko's seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. His bio is on Wikipedia.