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Overcoming Procrastination by Replacing it with Helpful Phrases

Tuesday June 12, 2018

In my experience, “procrastination” is almost always a poor word to use in describing a productivity problem. It’s a word that many of us fear, and for good reason. Once you say it, you reinforce feelings of failure, lowering your energy levels further and potentially putting your goals in jeopardy. Your estimation of your skill level goes down, and with it, your mood will tend to drop as well.

To assist, here are some replacement phrases that can help diagnose actual problems and otherwise provide some problem-solving energy.

To use these phrases, start writing or talking about your procrastinated activity, and replace the word “procrastination” with one or more of the phrases below. As an advanced exercise, you could work your way through all of the phrases, writing about how the phrase applies or does not apply to the current problem.


  • “Delayed action on activity X”
  • “Inappropriate timing issue with activity X”
  • “No identifiable point of leverage at the current stopping point on activity X”
  • “No existing breakdown of activity X that would help me identify problem points and non-problem points.”
  • “No breakdown of activity X into its more easily-handled component parts.”


  • “Missing pieces with regard to the resolution of activity X”
  • “Part of the mapped trail has disappeared en route to the summit of X Mountain”
  • “An insurmountable black monolith has appeared along my journey toward X.”
  • “Activity X is now a labyrinth, and I am unable to make myself continue after turning the first few corners.*
  • “The symbolic image that comes to mind when I think about activity X is…”

(Note: You may find it helpful to solve these metaphorically first—for example, name some things you could you do if stuck inside a labyrinth)


  • “No outside help on activity X”
  • “No instruction booklet to tell me what to do at this juncture on activity X”
  • “Circumstances aren’t right to finish activity X”
  • “Activity X cannot be completed in this kind of environment”
  • “I need to know what people do when confronted by what feels like an insurmountable pause in completing an activity like X.”


  • “I lack the psychological energy to do what it takes to finish activity X”
  • “I am inefficient in my thinking and acting toward activity X”
  • “I am not interested in finishing activity X”
  • “I really don’t feel like finishing activity X right now”
  • “I doubt I’ll ever feel like finishing activity X—it’s not really ‘me’”
  • “I’m in some kind of repeating pattern that always happens with activities like X”
  • “Activity X requires skills I would like to think I have, but don’t really have lots of patience for (example: Sorting lots of details).”

(It can sometimes help to use the external questions to follow up on internal questions, and vice-versa.)

If one of these phrases seems to help you, immediately pursue that line of thinking and feel free to abandon the other phrases, or come back later as needed.

If none of these phrases seems to help you, and if other frameworks don’t seem to help either, you may wish to consult your intuition on the matter or otherwise try to figure out if your psychology knows something about the situation that you don’t.

Filed in: Productivity /118/ | Openness /49/ | Procrastination /23/ | Ti /28/ | Goals /51/

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