If you've ever found yourself scrambling to complete a task the night before it's due, even though you had days to do it, then you, my friend, have just seen what procrastination looks like. Where does all that time you thought you had, disappear?
Procrastination is a known phenomenon. But why does it happen? There are several reasons-- difficulties with organization and time management, or the unpleasantness of the task. But research also shows that the cause could be a little more nuanced. Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, for instance, suggests that procrastination is actually linked to negative emotions, like fear, boredom, anxiety, or a lack of confidence in your ability to do the task.
Based on this theory, your procrastination can be broadly considered as being one of two kinds.
Types of procrastination
People often face a fear of failure, so they don't want to take up or start on a task till they know it can be done perfectly. This kind of procrastination can often be defined as one where you're "waiting for the right time." And it makes you riddled with anxiety till "the right time" comes.
As the name suggests, this kind of akrasia comes up when just thinking about doing the task makes you feel "meh". It's either too boring, or difficult, or is just going to take a lot of time, when you'd rather spend that time doing something fun.
Now, if you strongly relate to either (or both) of these situations, it's time to finally beat procrastination!
How to beat procrastination
You can't start overcoming your procrastination problem till you acknowledge the problem. Deadlines don't always seem to creep up on you, you just don't notice that they're around the corner! Accepting it is the first step!
Identify the negative emotion
If you find yourself repeatedly procrastinating on just one task or a certain type of task, ask yourself some questions - are you unsure of how to do the work? Have you had an unpleasant experience before, and want to avoid it again? Are you scared of not getting it perfect? When you identify the why, it's easier to tackle it.
Be kind to yourself! You're only human, and you're allowed to make mistakes and have negative emotions. Don't beat yourself down.
Moving forward means doing better. Get your mind and work organized so you know exactly what your goals, how you can go about achieving them, and the obstacles you may face.
You can achieve anything you want, but be sure you understand the actual amount of work and time that will go into all the tasks behind it so you can figure out how to manage these.
Get some help
The best way to stop yourself from slipping back into procrastination habits is to get some external stopgap. This could mean having a family member or friend check on you, working with an accountability partner or coach, or maybe downloading an app designed for beating procrastination!
Want to dive deeper into the topic? Check out our best recommendations for books about procrastination!
The Best Anti-Procrastination Apps To Help You Overcome Procrastination Once and For All
Technology is right now at its all-time best! There are so many productivity apps. But among these, there are several specific anti-procrastination apps now you can try that are specifically designed to help improve focus while you work, and overcome issues that you're facing with productivity.
Apps for procrastination, if you need help with negative emotions
Self Awareness Log
A free app for iOS and Android, Self-Awareness Log is a tool that helps you analyze your emotions and why you react to certain situations or tasks the way you do, through a six-step process. It's a bit more than an emotions journal or diary, as it pushes you to ask the "why".
A paid iOS app, Arise helps you analyze which negative emotion or "procrastination demon" is hindering you from getting work done. The demons are Wishful Thinker, Intimidator, Stigmatizer, Elusive, Gigantic, Resourceless, Someday Maybe, Dead Boring, and Last-Minute Junkie. Once you've identified which of these are on your back, the app offers advice on how to push past it and get started!
Another one for iOS users, Mindfulness promotes guided meditation as a way to reduce stress and keep those procrastination triggers at bay, so you can go about your day with a calm and clear mind. Mindfulness comes with in-app purchases and subscriptions.
Another meditation app, Simple Habit is for busy people--who can literally only spend 5 minutes a day for some guided meditation. Available for free on iOS, Android and the web, it is perfect to remind you to chill for a few minutes (not hours) and get clear-headed.
Procrastination Apps, if you need help staying focused
Forest is one of the more popular anti-procrastination apps, with helps keep focus through gamification. Specifically, the Forest app is designed to keep you from using your phone to procrastinate, by having you plant a virtual tree during a focus session. If you leave the app during the session, your cute tree dies. The more focus sessions you complete successfully, the bigger your Forest grows. The app also uses your progress to plant real trees!
Even better, the paid app is available as a Firefox extension along with iOS and Android.
Write or Die
Write or Die is as hardcore an app as they come, designed to help you finish that novel! The online app poses a challenge--complete your target number of words in the time limit you've set, or the next time you open your word document, all the vowels will be gone! Brutal, isn't it? But a sure way to keep your head in the game!
People often find it easier to procrastinate when working by themselves or remotely, so by that logic, having someone work with or near you is likely to keep you focused! That's the philosophy behind Focusmate. You can book three free sessions per week (more, if you pay to upgrade) to virtually connect with a stranger from anywhere across the world, and get your work done together! Whether you're studying for an exam or starting a business, you can turn to Focusmate when you need to get deep, uninterrupted work done.
Procrastination Apps, if you need help to remain focused (through stimulation)
Lots of people find that the right kind of background sound can get them amped and enthused to work. For them, Focus@Will offers a range of music to help them into the elusive flow state. The paid app, available for iOS, Android and online, has a range of genres to choose from, including ambient music, electro back, and Baroque piano. The app also has options to recommend the right genre based on your needs, as well as a timer function and productivity tracker.
Similar to Focus@Will, Brain.fm is a science-based music app that offers sounds designed to help you get focused, relax or meditate quickly. The team behind the paid subscription app focuses on studying the impact of music on the brain, so they know what they're talking about!
It doesn't always have to be music that helps us stay focused, and sometimes you might want to try and make your custom productivity sound. So you have MyNoise.net, an online and iOS app offering sounds, and sound generators to help you make your own kind of music, literally! Just don't get so into it that you end up forgetting your task! PS - as paid subscribers of MyNoise, we highly recommend it!
As the name suggests, Rainy Mood gives you a plethora of rain sounds designed to help you get enthused, relax, or focused to study or work. The app comes as a free web version, or paid on iOS and Android with additional features.
White Noise Generator
Similar to MyNoise.net, White Noise Generator on Android lets you mix different sounds -- ocean waves, bonfires or whatever else you like--to help you stay positive and clear-headed to work.
Procrastination Apps, if you need help with organization
Todoist is one of the most popular apps for beating procrastination and getting productive, on desktop and iOS/Android. It lets you create a detailed to do list and organize your tasks by priority level, add sub-tasks, set up recurrent goals, and even share your schedule with others for the day.
Trello is another app that is similar to Todoist, in the sense that it can function as a to do app, but it's basically a Kanban board. You create boards and cards for different tasks to help you see your tasks in an organized, efficient way. You can also share your organization with others to leave you comments or make suggestions.
Notion is a really well-known tool for teamwork (which makes the dream work) to organize projects, include multiple inputs, take notes – pretty much have features of multiple platforms into one. It's available for desktops and iOS.
Another group work tool, Evernote is great for project management in that it lets you create group lists, set reminders for yourself and others, and let everyone comment on different steps or aspects. It's also available on desktop and iOS/Android.
If a never-ending, messy to do list make you break into a cold sweat, Mindly is the app you need. It creates a 3D model of your deadlines, to do lists, and reminders to help you map your work and related projects in true Tony Stark style! The app has a limited free version for iOS and Android (which can be upgraded) and a paid version for desktop.
Need more? Check out our article on apps for goal setting!
Procrastination Apps, if you need help with time management
Do you know the Pomodoro Technique? It's a classic productivity and time management concept, typically suggesting 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break. To try it out, you can time yourself using Tomato Timer, available online. You don't need much more than a timer to practice the pomodoro technique, but Tomato Timer has some cool features -- it lets you schedule a slightly longer break if you like but after a good four sessions of work!
If the 25/5 pomodoro is not for you, try Toggl to let you track your productive time as you go about it. Available online and on iOS/Android, the app organizes your focused work data so you can see exactly when and for long a day you're being productive.
TimeTune helps you time box your day so you can improve your time management and get more productivity out of a day. It also has tips and templates to help you create a time box schedule. The paid app is available on Android.
Productivity Challenge Timer
If you work well under pressure and like being challenged, try Productivity Challenge Timer, an Android Pomodoro timer. The app is designed not just to keep you working in pomodoros but also pushes you to get more done in time.
Procrastination Apps, if you need help to eliminate distractions
RescueTime is a popular app for multiple platforms, which automatically tracks the time you spend on different apps and websites and categorizes them, so you can see where you're procrastinating the most. You can create a strict workflow for yourself, and the app will enforce it. It also allows you to summarily block out distracting websites and set goals for, say, spending less time on social media.
If you need a tool to literally just block distracting websites, Freedom is a great solution. The best part is its cross-platform nature; it can also block distracting apps on your phone. It can be synced across devices so you're not tempted to look at Youtube videos on your phone if your browser won't let you open them. You can even block access to the internet completely if you have to focus on an offline project.
Simple as its name, BlockSite lets you restrict access to categories of websites on your browser to help you stay focused. For parents, what's great about the app is that it lets you create a password to unblock sites, so you can keep your kids safe and studying!
Take a Five
A five-minute break from work is necessary, but it shouldn't turn into a a five-hour waste of screen time! So Take a Five helps you avoid that bad habit. You set a timer for the break and open a tab. Once the countdown ends, the app will automatically close this tab and remind you to reutrn to work.
Procrastination Apps, if you need help with motivation
Habitica lets you get productive and have fun. You can set your tasks as quests and earn rewards when you complete them, leveling up as you go! Habitica, as the name suggests, works amazingly well to inculcate good habits, but it's flexible enough to act as a to do list, for you to knock off your daily tasks as well.
CARROT To-Do is a paid iOS app that lets you set a simple to do list and get rewarded with “fortune cookies” when you cross things off. and several hundred unique rewards for completed tasks. But beware! Failure to complete your tasks will unleash the wrath of your taskmaster, as the app declares itself to be.
Beeminder makes you put your money where your mouth is — literally! You set up a goal and give yourself points for staying on track, but too many derailments and you'll be charged real money from your account!
Stickk, on the other hand, is an accountability platform that helps you set goals and list out what you need to do to achieve them. You can also choose to work with a referee who will monitor your progress or include a financial obligation to pay money if you fail to achieve your goal.
Both Beeminder and Stickk are commitment devices – you can choose between them, and others, based on the type of goal you have, and the type of tracking you want. (Data nerd? Beeminder is your best bet!)
Momentum, available as a browser extension, gives you a distraction-free timer, inspirational quotes and a prioritized schedule, a to do list for your daily priorities and other important tasks. The free version, though, has only a few of these options.
How BaaS Works with Apps for Procrastination
Interested in trying out one of the anti-procrastination apps but want some more accountability? We totally understand - overcoming procrastination is hard. On that note, remember that chronic procrastination may be linked to other issues such as ADHD. Always consult a professional if you find yourself chronically putting things off!
At Boss as a Service, our bosses work with you to set and achieve your goals.
They can also take over managing your anti-procrastination apps, eliminating distractions, and monitoring app usage and your progress on their use, to make sure it's being used well.
In case you find the app alone is not motivating you enough, we're here to give you some more productivity tools, tips and tricks, encourage you, call you out if you need it, and celebrate the wins when they come!