All external links open in a new tab. For more info on how I use links, see this page.

Disclosure: Cryptic Butter uses referral and affiliate links to earn commissions from featured products and services. Think of it as giving me a tip and supporting the website. Learn more

Today, I’m going to take a slightly different approach to solving the issues of procrastination. As a consequence, you will hopefully see procrastination from a wholly unique perspective.

Let’s take a moment to reflect, firstly: sometimes, you try, but you simply can’t stop procrastinating.

“I’ve scanned all of the productivity textbooks; I’ve signed up to all sorts of habit-tracking software; And, yet, I literally can’t stop procrastinating! What under the sweet wrath of the heavens should I do?”

Anger, guilt and depression means we can't stop procrastinating.

Most people would tell you how to let go of the procrastination so that you can get back to being fully productive. While this advice should definitely not be ignored, it doesn’t always work effectively.

This is primarily due to the immense difficulty in making a gargantuan leap: from an upsetting state of procrastination to a willpower-abundant state of ultimate productivity.

In this article, I will show you how to minimise the impact of your “wasted time”. Rather than resorting to social media, you could do an easy but still somewhat productive task during your downtime.

However, this technique has some obvious caveats, as discussed later.

Before discussing that, though, you must first understand what you should ideally do if you’re procrastinating.

Firstly, Try to Break Out of Procrastination

In many cases, the idea that you “can’t” stop procrastinating is simply untrue. What is more, the more frequently you affirm that you can’t stop procrastinating, the more powerful the statement’s influence becomes.

So, ask yourself, why are you putting off work? What has caused a sink in productivity?

The moment you realise that you are being woefully unproductive, you must act — break out of the cycle.

To clarify, there is a lot that this process entails. Not to mention, the range of things you could do is vast.

Nonetheless, you can avoid being overwhelmed by trying out a few things at a time. To exemplify, here are a few articles to get you started:

What I’ve found is that there is one key element keeping you from being productive when you procrastinate:

The reason why you can’t stop procrastinating, it is because of depression, regret, and guilt.

These emotions inevitably build up into a burning heap of negativity. Therefore, according to As a Man Thinketh, you are destined for an unproductive life.

Positive thoughts, after all, are the seeds for a truly great, fulfilling life.

On the contrary, negative thoughts make you want to reject reality hence forget why work is important. This is also due to the Law of Substitution, as outlined in Maximum Achievement.

So, when you’re thinking about how much time you’ve wasted, you cannot possibly be thinking about how to use time wisely now.

Undoubtedly, this is your best approach, although, continue reading if that does not work out for you.

When you can't stop procrastinating, give up and accept that in order to be productive.
Don’t do this.

Really Can’t Stop Procrastinating? Give Up.

Yep. If you’ve really tried everything, just give up.

Sometimes, the solution is not the ideal one, so expect that to be so. If you can’t stop procrastinating entirely, then you must accept that such that you can take a completely new approach.

Remember, we all procrastinate at times, albeit different solutions work for different people.

But you may be wondering,

“Giving up on productivity is — by definition — unproductive! Why should I quit now?”

To be clear, this strategy is not about quitting. By contrast, you should aim to do the most productive task possible when your willpower is low.

Clearly, you do not have sufficient willpower to plough through the seriously challenging work. However, that does not mean you can exclude the other easier, yet constructive tasks.

This sounds like common sense. And it should be.

In spite of this, I highly doubt people truly do strive to be the most productive all the time.

What Usually Happens When You Can’t Stop Procrastinating

Unfortunately, humans are not rational. So, imagine what they’re like during The Great Willpower Recession!

In the previous article, I mentioned the sunk cost fallacy, and the same concept applies here. Please refer to that article for more details about this concept.

Essentially, in this case, you’re focusing too much on making a quantum leap to productivity. Consequently, you make your decision harshly binary — in that you only have two options:

  1. Do the difficult work hence become super-productive
  2. Waste your time

Ironically, the intention of becoming super-productive is actually your downfall. As a result of this intention, you deny yourself the ability to do all other forbidden activities.

After all, you want to get this one piece of important work done and done well!

However, look closely at the previous two paragraphs. Therein lies a paradox — can you spot it?

Of course, you may forbid all of the “non-important” tasks, but you’ve got to be doing something! When procrastinating, do you avoid all non-important tasks? Absolutely not.

To illustrate, this is what happens:

The Process of Irrational Procrastination Due to Weak Willpower

  • Firstly, you make it a rule with yourself to exclusively do the most important, productive tasks. Although, your willpower gauge indicates a shortage.
  • Secondly, you are unable to penetrate the wall of resistance. In other words, you procrastinate on the work.
  • Thirdly, your mind recognises that it should not be doing anything else other than the assigned task. (This includes other worthwhile tasks.)
  • So, due to the resistance of completing the assigned task, your mind defaults to the activity of least friction: social media, idly lying on the floor, doing pointless web-surfing or research, as well as other wasteful activities.

Avoid distracting activities: Want to Take Control of Your Time? Stop Being Impulsive Now!

Graph of limited downside but unbounded upside

How You Can Limit Your Losses by Accepting Your Weakness

As you can see, the moral of the story here is that you cannot override your mind so easily. Therefore, when you can’t stop procrastinating, be sure to change your attitude:

Do not be harsh on yourself. Conversely, allow yourself to complete other pending tasks — free of guilt — as long as the preferred task is not a possible option.

That is to say, at least make your time worth something.

It makes no sense not to do more attractive, but still useful tasks; just because they involve less friction does not mean that they do not have a productive outcome.

Moreover, effective time management, especially as a student, involves making compromises from time to time. For this reason, do not blacklist other productive tasks solely on the basis of a rigid daily plan.

See what you feel like doing. If you feel like cleaning or workspace-organising, do that! If you want to work on some form of online business rather than schoolwork, go ahead!

As long as what you do has a clear aim and utilitarian outcome, you’ll be pretty toasty.

Indeed, accept the bug of limited willpower.

However, do not accept total surrender; now that you are doing a useful task, you can “level up” and slowly regain your former productivity power!

Continue Climbing the Ladder to Ultimate Productivity

Whatever you do, don’t stop!

By not settling for the ultimate timewaster (social media), you have already placed yourself one-step closer to the godly state of full productivity. As a result, you are in a position to build up some momentum and your productive streak.

Hopefully, the thought that you are not entirely wasting your time should begin to lighten your mood a bit. This could lead to an increase in motivation thereafter (because motivation is a product of work, not vice-versa).

Unfamiliar with the notion of momentum in productivity? In event of that, imagine your work as pushing a snowball which gradually accumulates in size.

Admittedly, your work may not be the most challenging. Despite this, the act of committing to some form of productive work still builds up that snowball.

Eventually, you may get that snowball so big that you can start to work on a more challenging task; in other words, you transfer the momentum you initially built to tackling a particularly intimidating task.

This is climbing up the ladder of productivity — and it means you can stop procrastinating.

Soon, your energy, spirit and mood would have improved so much that you’ve utterly forgotten those hours you’ve wasted in the past.

Now, you’ve regained your productivity in all its entirety!

Use your finite energy wisely: How Should You Prioritise Your Work as a Student?

Effective time management produces results not excuses

But You Must Not Abuse This Technique

It must be said that this technique is simple yet effective. On the other hand, it is not, by any means, to be abused.

While not to the same extent as just doing what you should be doing, this technique still requires some effort; hence why the key point here is that you should do the absolute most that you are capable of at the time.

That is to say, do the most productive task with your limited willpower (this takes more effort than browsing the web).

This involves a deliberate intention to carry your momentum through in order to hop back on the train of ultimate productivity.

By contrast, you must not make excuses! Doing something “productive” does not eliminate the fact that there is something more important hanging over you.

For example, regardless of how intensely you sell your software applications, the deadline for that homework assignment will never change! (Although, you may no longer need the education system by then.)

But you get the point: other productive tasks are not a true substitute for what is really important at the time.

It’s just better than doing nothing. That’s the one and only reason for not sticking to the plan.

So, ensure you do not stay in the “sort-of productive” state for long, whereby you exclusively focus on the secondary tasks in terms of importance. Otherwise, you will never stop procrastinating.


From the beginning till the end, we’ve discussed a technique to help you get the ball rolling again when you can’t stop procrastinating.

The number one reason why this would work, of course, is due to the concept of momentum.

To demonstrate, in the productivity space, a great way to start working efficiently is to architect small wins. As a product of encouraging small work efforts, this anti-procrastination technique does just that.

One task at a time, you can work your way up the difficulty spectrum. Eventually, the flow will take you straight to the important task that you need to do.

And don’t forget that there is a correct attitude involved in living the perfect day, too:

When you can’t stop procrastinating, don’t say (or even give a mere thought to) “I can’t stop procrastinating”.

Equally important, don’t forget that you mustn’t avoid that important task forever, as well; use the limited willpower you have wisely for maximum effect.

Furthermore, when you’re in the swing of productivity, never think it’s okay to downgrade to less important tasks purely because you’re feeling lazy.

If you can master this time management strategy, your losses will be minimised and your comeback accelerated!

My Book Recommendation of the Week

On the topic of the sunk cost fallacy and mental judgement errors, you may be interested in:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

While you could never truly eliminate all rationality from your thinking, you can certainly use Kahneman’s insight: a new understanding will enable you to make better decisions.

I hope you can use the guidance in this article for good, and I encourage you to reply in the comments:

Have you discounted the accessible yet productive tasks when procrastinating?

* * *

Questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? Please leave your ideas in the comments below!

Thank you for learning at Cryptic Butter!

What Should You Do When You Can't Stop Procrastinating?
Article Name
What Should You Do When You Can't Stop Procrastinating?
Despite all your best efforts, you simply can't stop procrastinating! If this is ever the case, follow the logical guidance in this article: learn how to avoid wasting your time entirely when you're short on willpower.
Publisher Name
Cryptic Butter
Publisher Logo

Posted by Luis Thiam-Nye

If you want to learn how to use technology to increase your productivity, you should visit Cryptic Butter! I also have a GitHub project.

Leave a Reply