5 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Your To-do List Done


to do list

Do you have an endless to-do list that never gets done?

Maybe you don’t have that many things to do, but they still don’t get done.

Are you a procrastinator, forever transferring things from today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s?

Today we’re looking at how you can overcome procrastination and turn your ‘undone’ list into a ‘done’ one.

But first,

Here are some things people procrastinate about the most:

  • Studying
  • Making decisions
  • Confronting people
  • Organizing/tidying things
  • Exercising
  • Working
  • Answering emails
  • Changing eating habits
  • Housecleaning
  • Apologizing
  • Doing laundry
  • Decluttering
  • Taking out the garbage

Before we get into how to help yourself stop procrastinating and get things done, let’s talk about dopamine.

What does dopamine have to do with getting things done?

Apparently, a lot.

Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. [i]

Dopamine is a happy hormone that used to be associated with pleasure, but new findings are showing that it is more connected with motivation.[ii]

“It was believed that dopamine regulated pleasure and reward and that we release it when we obtain something that satisfies us, but in fact the latest scientific evidence shows that this neurotransmitter acts before that, it actually encourages us to act. In other words, dopamine is released in order to achieve something good or to avoid something evil.” [iii]

So, if you have a good amount of dopamine, you will be motivated to get things done. And the more you accomplish, the more you will want to accomplish.

How nice!

But what if you don’t have any dopamine to start with?

Don’t wait for the dopamine to hit before you get started. The satisfaction of achieving even the smallest things will trigger your brain to release endorphins and dopamine – both feel-good hormones.

So, make your bed as soon as you get up. Tidy one drawer. Stretch for 5 minutes.

Do something small that will set you on the path to being more motivated and getting stuff done.

Here are 5 ways you can stop procrastinating and start getting things done:

1. Figure out why you procrastinate.

Common reasons people procrastinate:

  • Don’t like the job
  • Just plain don’t feel like it
  • Fear of failure or disapproval
  • Self-doubt
  • Depression & anxiety (usually linked to low dopamine levels)
  • Perfectionism
  • Not knowing how to do it
  • It’s boring
  • Getting distracted
  • Lacking self-discipline

Once you identify why you procrastinate you can work on that area. Don’t know how to do the job? Ask someone to teach you, read a book, or google it! If getting distracted is your problem then set a timer to help yourself stick to the job until it’s done.

Get the picture?

2. Eat that frog.

Mark Twain said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

The ‘frog’ is that one thing you have to get done, yet don’t feel like doing at all. You procrastinate, get distracted, avoid doing it, and then add it to tomorrow’s to-do list.

This one thing weighs on your mind and gets heavier as the day goes by. It prevents you from accomplishing much of anything.

‘Eat the frog’ means: just do it.

Don’t think about how you feel about doing it.

Just do it.

Once it is done you will have a sense of accomplishment and motivation to do the next thing. It will give you momentum for the rest of your day.

Because will-power decreases as the day goes by, early is better.

My ‘frog’ is exercise. Getting it done early always gives me a great mental boost.

3. Have a written list and tick things off as you do them.

Dopamine increases when you are organized and finish tasks – regardless if the task is small or large.

Don’t allow your brain to worry about things that need to be done even if you can remember the tasks. It’s been shown that it’s more satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels when you physically check something off your list, no matter how small.   

Make each item on your list an action. Instead of: emails, windows, presentation, documents and drawers, put: write email, wash windows, finish presentation, sort documents, tidy drawers.

Assign a time to each item on your list. Write it in your planner – even if you’re a housewife – and then do it at the assigned time. This will take some self-discipline, but once you get going your dopamine will help you along!  

4. Break big jobs into smaller tasks so they’re more doable.

I wanted to paint some garden pots but just never got to it until I realized I could break the task down into smaller bits.

Instead of putting ‘paint pots’ on my list, I wrote, ‘clean pots’ for one day, ‘sand pots’, the next day, ‘paint first coat’, ‘paint second coat’ etc. Suddenly the job didn’t feel as intimidating and getting started was less of a mental hurdle.

Breaking goals down into smaller pieces creates a series of small finish lines and provides a continual flow of dopamine, keeping you motivated.

5. Exercise.

It boosts dopamine. If you do it early in the day you will feel like you’ve accomplished something and the injection of dopamine will motivate you to attack your to-do list.

Dopamine is your friend.

Hack into it and start getting things done!  

What’s the one thing on this list that you are going to start doing? What do you do to help yourself get things done?


[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thai-nguyen/hacking-into-your-happy-c_b_6007660.html

[ii] https://today.uconn.edu/2012/11/uconn-researcher-dopamine-not-about-pleasure-anymore/#

https://neurosciencenews.com/dopamine-learning-reward-3157/

[iii] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130110094415.htm

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Charlene Jooste | 8th Feb 19

    Wow, I am truly blessed by the topics that I have read thus far and I am always excited to see the next🤗
    It is an inspiration and helps me through many situations.
    It gives me great pleasure to share as I know many will be Blessed by the information. Please continue with your ministry and may God continue to bless every effort. Be blessed🙏

    • Jenny Lovemore | 8th Feb 19

      Thank you, Charlene! It’s great to hear from you and get confirmation that the things that have helped me are helping others. Appreciate your encouragement! Please feel free to share with as many as you wish.

  2. Focus on Yourself Series: Developing Yourself - Love More to Live | 10th Jun 20

    […] If you struggle with distraction then aim to finish one task at a time and mark it off on a To-Do list. (Read 5 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Your To-Do List Done). […]

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