How to Overcome Procrastination

At SmartRules, we know that attorneys sometimes need to fight the uphill battle against procrastination – and we try to help with by streamlining access to rules with our product and simplify drafting with our sister product,

This week, The Missouri Bar posted a blog piece by Anne Chamber, LCSW, focused on attorneys, procrastination – and spring cleaning, Seven Steps to Help Conquer Procrastination: A Different Kind of Spring Cleaning (Part 1).

Spring is here. Some of us will turn our focus to freshening up our homes, preparing our gardens and celebrating this time of renewal. Likewise, now is also a great time to consider cleaning house around the office and giving renewed focus to your productivity there.

Procrastination is a common challenge that can raise the risk of complaints about communication and diligence. If procrastination is a concern, any gains in minimizing that tendency can be helpful to avoid problems and protect your bottom line. Procrastination can generate practical challenges, stress, financial loss and sometimes even ethical dilemmas. Lack of communication and lack of diligence are the top two ethical complaints clients make about attorneys in Missouri. In 2013, these two categories combined were involved in 86% of complaints resulting in Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel investigations.

For some people, procrastination appears like a personal trait, bound to negative emotions. Styles of procrastinators include the rebel, worrier, over doer, perfectionist, dreamer and most recently, the cyber slacker. Some factors that play into procrastination include time management concerns, disorganization, dilatory strategies, boredom, professional stress and burnout, substance use and attention deficit concerns.

Here are some interventions that may be helpful in overcoming procrastination:

  1. Divide big projects into baby steps or chunks. Set your timer for 15 or 30 minutes to work on a task. When your timer goes off, decide whether or not to reset it. Most tasks seem more manageable when broken down this way. Once folks get started they often find their groove and keep going.
  2. We generally put off tasks that are less interesting to us. To balance that out, layer your work by doing a task you like less for a while, then a task you love. Repeat this throughout the day. It’s called building a work sandwich. This way, looking forward to the tasks you enjoy the most can lead you to address the ones you find less interesting.
  3. Jump or dive in at any point in your task list. Just do what you can.
  4. Many strategies to overcome procrastination revolve around motivating yourself. Picture an incentive and dangle it in your mind’s eye. See the project done on time and all of the benefits. Imagine yourself literally doing the job, then get started. You can also envision the sheer opposite in which you finish the task late or not at all, and then imagine experiencing the fallout.  


  1. Another strategy to motivate yourself is to calculate your financial reward for a job well done, and then picture yourself doing something really meaningful and worthwhile to you with those earnings. If skill deficits play into your unease, become more proficient by attending a CLE or completing professional reading on that topic. If all else fails, consider if that task is better delegated or referred elsewhere.

  2. Some anti-procrastination strategies revolve around working against your mood. Mandatory procrastination is one such method. Instead of procrastinating for vague periods of time, do it on purpose. Lay out your material, set your timer for a short interval like 4 or 7 minutes, literally do nothing for those minutes, then get started. Another strategy along those lines is to plan a nightmare day. List those tasks you have been avoiding and do them on that day.

  3. When you work hard, play hard too.  Instead of sacrificing vacations, take them. It may seem paradoxical, but in the long run, using your free time does help increase productivity and reduce procrastination.


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