How to procrastinate better

We don't need to fight procrastination. We just need to learn how to procrastinate better. Here's my 7-step process to do that, inspired by the book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

How to procrastinate better
Photo by Josh Hild / Unsplash

The beautiful irony of this article is that I've procrastinated its publication.

Our most recent episode of Two Booked Up (ep. 26) was inspired by Oliver Burkeman's book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. My co-host Rowena and I focused on chapter 4, called "Becoming a Better Procrastinator." I mentioned in the episode that you'd be able to find a blog post and printable with the 7-step process I came up with after reading that chapter.

TBU#26 How to become a better procrastinator - inspired by Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks
Shelley and Rowena are continuing the conversation about Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.In his book, Oliver drops the truth bomb that we ALL procrastinate — even the most organised among us! — and that the trick to managing our 4000 weeks is not to fight against procrastination&…

But... that episode aired four days ago. And as of right now, I'm still putting together this post.

I thought I would be able to finish the post before the episode aired, but, as the book points out, I did a very human thing and overestimated the amount of work I could fit into the future.

I was living in a fantasy world. I thought I could quickly put together a post using the notes I'd prepped for the show and then – also quickly – pull together a beautiful infographic on Canva.

In this fantasy world, I'd also be able to fit these tasks in between the usual work that goes into producing an episode of Two Booked Up – recording, editing, producing show notes and transcript, artwork... etc.

Meanwhile in my "homeschool life," I was hosting a group of kids and their moms for a morning of nature journaling, reading aloud, and a watercolour painting lesson. This was an event I'd committed to some time ago and it turned out to be a beautiful experience.

Add to that my retainer-based copywriting work and it was clear something had to give. It was this post (and, let's be honest, a few other things too!).

This post was the victim of procrastination and I feel bad that people will have clicked through after the podcast episode and not found what they were looking for. If you were one of those people, I hope you've found your way back and I trust that you'll forgive me... ;) After all, Oliver points out that we all procrastinate – even the most organised among us.

It's all very meta, but this is a perfect example of how procrastination shows up for us:

  • We overestimate how much we can get done in the future.
  • We simply cannot get everything done in the present.
  • Some tasks and projects have to get pushed to a later date – a.k.a. procrastination.
  • We feel bad – ashamed and stressed out – about procrastinating. Those negative feelings only succeed in making us procrastinate even more.

We are going to procrastinate. We simply cannot do all the things we'd like to do. So let's be intentional about what we procrastinate. We have limited time in our days (and lives) – let's not leave the things that fill up that time to chance.

By being more intentional about procrastination, we can release ourselves from the resistance and negative emotions that come up when we find ourselves procrastinating.

Again, very meta, but when I went through the 7Rs process that I'm going to talk about in this post, I decided that even though it pained me, this very post was going to have to be procrastinated. But if you're reading this, it eventually got done, thanks to me walking the talk and procrastinating better.

So, how can we become better procrastinators? By using the 7R's:

  1. Recognise (when you’re procrastinating)
  2. Recentre (with what matters)
  3. Remove (tasks that don't matter)
  4. Record (tasks that you want to do at a later date)
  5. Ram in (the tasks that matter)
  6. Repeat with Relish (do the work, enjoy the journey, and complete the project)
  7. Reflect (celebrate, review, and reconsiders what matters now)
The 7R process for how to procrastinate better.

Want a PDF of the 7Rs? Download it below. There's the original version, plus a slightly less jazzy version for more economical printing.


When are you procrastinating?

The first step is to recognise when you're procrastinating and what (exactly) you're procrastinating about.

To do that, it's helpful to have a definition of procrastinate, which is:

  • to put off intentionally or habitually
  • to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

I'm also a bit of an etymology nerd of late, so the origin of procrastinate is from the Latin: pro, meaning "forward," and crastinus, meaning "of tomorrow" (the future).

What emotions are coming up?

Also, recognise the emotions that are coming up around procrastination. According to this excellent article, these could include shame, anxiety, and stress, which in turn could be associated with negative emotions such as hopelessness, and could even lead to even depression.

What (exactly) are you procrastinating about?

Challenge yourself to name what you are procrastinating about. Often we can be feeling a general sense of overwhelm. We might say, "I never get anything done! I'm such a procrastinator! Why can't I complete the projects I start?!"

As you recognise procrastination, get specific on exactly what you're procrastinating about.


The second step is to recentre and name what matters. This is not something I specifically saw in this chapter of Four Thousand Weeks, but it's definitely implied. It's also an essential step if you're going to procrastinate better.

  • Name what matters in your life (big picture)
  • Name what matters in your business/career (big picture)
  • Name what matters in your business/career (seasonal/medium-term)
  • Name what matters in your business/career (short-term e.g. weekly/monthly)


After reading the book and studying chapter 4 quite intensely, I’ve been challenged to recognise when I’m living in this fantasy world of the future where there are no limits to the possibilities and I somehow do everything. And I also do it perfectly!

When I find myself in that fantasy land, it’s time to bring things back into the present.

And that’s where the next step in the process comes in, and that is to REMOVE ideas, tasks, projects, etc.

Removing things from the proverbial to-do list feels like a loss, but ultimately, it’s quite freeing because it’s one less thing to procrastinate about. And it’s one less thing to feel bad about that you didn’t get done!

Here, Oliver Burkeman warns us about what he calls “middling priorities.” Those priorities which are not important enough to be our top priorities, but which have just enough importance to take up our time. But then what happens is that we neglect our top priorities when we’d do better to face facts and cut the middle priorities.

So it’s worth it to sometimes get a bit brutal and when we recognise ourselves procrastinating, to ask ourselves: Does this really matter? Is this really important once I’ve recentered with what is important?

Does this really matter? Is this really important once I’ve recentered with what is important?

Sometimes the reason we’re procrastinating about a task is that it’s actually not important to us (at least for our present season).

Or... we could realise, “Sheesh, this really is important. I’m willing to shift other priorities out of the way to make this happen.”


But how do we handle those projects or dreams that are genuinely good ideas and that we want to do, but that we simply cannot fit into our lives in the near future?

The answer is to record those tasks somewhere e.g. a journal, a spreadsheet, in your voice notes, or on a Trello Board.

Those ideas will then be safe and ready for the future.

You're effectively removing these tasks from your present and deferring them into the future... which is... yup, you guessed it: procrastination! But it's procrastinating with intention.

As you record your ideas, you'll be limiting your Work in Progress (WIP). This is an idea from the project management system of kanban. By limiting your WIP to just three small tasks per day, you'll free your brain up to focus on a small area and prevent context-switching, which can be very distracting and counter-productive.

Ram (in the tasks that matter)

You should now only be left with the tasks that matter. So at this point, you can afford to get a bit aggressive and force them into your schedule.

Even if other important tasks have to get neglected, you can shoehorn in the tasks that matter, knowing that the benefits will be worth it.

In Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver encourages us to start small — so even just 30 minutes, every second day on a task you've identified as important will be very impactful.

Also, don't delay. Start today. Make some token action to communicate to yourself that you're starting. After that, you can "take a break," but then getting back to the important task becomes so much easier!

Walking the talk, I'm committing to launching an updated version of my product Sales Page Superhero at the end of July. It's probably going to have a new name, but I've already started with some baby steps.

Serendipitously, I've come across Amy Hoy’s Launch For The Win free course, which guides you through the process of launching an info product in 12 weeks. I've followed Amy since 2012 and I highly recommend her approach to product development.

Repeat (with Relish)

Do the work! There’s no getting around it. But now you’re set up for it. You’ve removed many of the procrastination traps by trimming your priorities and limiting your WIP.

I’ve called this step: Repeat (with Relish!).

The "repeat" part is all about consistency, commitment, being aware of shiny objects, and seeing it through. I've coined a new mantra here: Repeat until complete.

And we're not robots! We're going to add some delicious relish! We're going to truly enjoy and delight in the work we're doing.

Remember, by this point in the process, we've chosen this particular path/task/project with a whole lot of intention and thought.

Enjoy the moment, enjoy what you create, show it off to the world with pride and get the satisfaction of watching them enjoy it!


The final step in this process is to reflect and review.

Rowena and I do this each month when we meet for our Design Your Season sessions. We reflect on the month that’s passed; look at what we’ve completed and achieved; the lessons we’ve learned; and look at the things we haven’t completed and may be procrastinating on.

I find this a lovely juncture to pause and reflect. It’s one of the important things that I ram into my calendar because it absolutely matters. And if I didn’t ram it in there, I would just move swiftly on to the next task or the next project.

This is also the point to go and have a look at all those projects you’ve recorded in Step 4 and then consider them for your month or season ahead.

No more procrastinating!

It's 7:50 pm on Friday night and there's no more time for procrastinating! I'm hitting publish on this post, as-is and I'd love to get your feedback. Let me know in the comments and please sign up for my newsletter – it's free!

If you'd like more content on becoming a better procrastinator, let me know in the comments or send me a mail at Questions, comments, ah-ha moments – I'd love to hear from you.