8 Must-Read Books on Procrastination
In a recent article, I told you about the four most important steps I took to overcome severe procrastination.
Step one was all about becoming a learning machine. I describe in the article how the life-long learner mindset has played a crucial role in helping me improve many aspects related to procrastination, such as self-discipline, self-compassion, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.
In today’s article, I want to show you the top eight books that helped me the most on my own journey of overcoming procrastination.
Without further ado, here are the eight best books on procrastination.
1. The Now Habit by Neil Fiore
This is where it all started for me – the first book on procrastination I’ve ever read.
I remember like it was yesterday. I just moved into a new apartment with Jonas, and I was struggling like crazy. I had literally zero self-discipline back then. Every day was an internal struggle of trying to be productive versus giving in to distractions. The amount of guilt I was experiencing these days was just nuts.
In the aftermath, I’m happy I’ve had to go through that period. After all, it’s what brought me on this path of lifelong learning, personal growth, and becoming the best version of myself.
The Now Habit is an old-school book that makes up for its lack of scientific evidence with counter-intuitive strategies, such as guilt-free plan, the Unschedule, the work of worrying, or three-dimensional thinking.
Here are three crucial lessons you’ll learn from this book:
- Sacrificing play doesn’t work. I often fell into this trap myself. I was always either working (being busy, but not productive) or feeling guilty for not working. Fiore’s counter-intuitive approach is to prioritize play and commit to it before even thinking about work.
- Tracking your time is perhaps the easiest way to reduce procrastination and eliminate a lot of the guilt associated with it. Forced to track your time, you automatically waste less of it. Plus, you feel better about yourself because you realize you’re doing better than you thought.
- Find ways to reduce fear and create safety. We often procrastinate due to unconscious fears, such as fear of success, fear of inadequacy, or fear of failure. By creating safety in our lives, we can calm down and be more productive.
2. The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel
This is a great book and one of my personal favorites for overcoming procrastination.
That said, I don’t view it as a procrastination book per se. It’s more about the science of motivation. In fact, Piers’ entire approach to procrastination is one of motivation.
At the core of the book is his motivation equation, which shows precisely why we’re motivated to pursue an action or not. If the motivation for an important task is lower than the motivation for distractions (e.g., watching television, playing video games, or eating ice cream), then we procrastinate.
As long as motivation for other activities is higher than for the activities we’re putting off, we’ll procrastinate.
Here are three other lessons you’ll learn from this book:
- Technology is a major driver of procrastination. We’ve seen a five-fold increase in procrastination over the last few decades. Why? Because modern temptations – video games, TV series, smartphones, etc. – are too sexy and we have a hard time resisting them.
- Fatigue is the #1 reason given for procrastination. In Piers’ own words: “When you are tired at the end of day, after your job has already got the best part of you, cleaning out the garbage is the last thing you are going to do. Fatigue increases task-aversion, saps interest, and makes the difficult excruciating.”
- Be deliberate about creating your environment. In short, you need to purge your environment from everything that induces procrastination and fill it with things that prime you to get work done.
3. Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl
This book is very procrastinator-friendly: it’s short and practical.
You can read it in one or two sittings, which is enough to learn a few important facts about procrastination. In addition, it gives you a good feeling because you’ve actually finished something.
Here are three important lessons you’ll learn from this book:
- It’s all about short-term mood repair. Procrastination happens when what we want to do makes us feel bad and we end up doing something that feels better. It’s all about emotions. And it’s all about feeling good.
- Focus on getting started. I’ve written an entire article about this. The gist of it is that the pain is in the anticipation, not in the actual doing of a dreaded task. Once we get started, good things start happening – we just need to overcome the initial resistance.
- Your mind is a reason-giving machine. Your mind will create all kinds of bullshit excuses designed to keep you from doing the very things you should be doing. These reasons can be seen through and nullified.
4. Getting Things Done by David Allen
Ever feel like there’s a hovering anxiety that never seems to go away? An anxiety about missing or forgetting about something important?
This book will help you tame that anxiety.
Getting Things Done, or GTD in short, is all about organizing your life so that you feel more in control of. You just know you’ve got everything covered. You know you’ve got an overview of your life. You know it’s all saved in your system somewhere.
The GTD system will significantly reduce the amount of anxiety and worrying you experience on a daily basis.
Here are three concepts you’ll learn in the book:
- “Mind like water” is the result of being organized and having a system you can trust. As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki used to say: “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”
- The two-minute rule. This is easily one of the most powerful rules in the productivity game. And it’s simple, too: “If the next action can be done in two minutes or less, do it now.”
- Your mind is a great place to have ideas, but a terrible place to manage them. This is perhaps the core teaching of the book. Your mind is great at generating ideas, but you need to put them into a reliable system. Otherwise you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed a lot of the time.
5. Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
This book was crucial in helping me overcome procrastination for two reasons. First, it released a lot of guilt I was carrying around with me. Second, it helped me move from self-criticism to self-compassion.
It’s all about creating a healthy relationship with yourself. It’s okay to have flaws, make mistakes, and mess up sometimes. The key in those situations is to react with warmth, understanding, and compassion – not with self-hatred, criticism, and mental beatings.
If you’re struggling with guilt and self-criticism, this book will make a massive difference.
Here are three things you’ll learn:
- Self-compassion trumps self-criticism. Self-compassionate people are happier, healthier, have better relationships, feel better about their lives as a whole, achieve greater financial and career success, and so on.
- Self-forgiveness, rather than self-punishment, reduces procrastination. It’s all about creating a place of safety and care, rather than fear. Once you’re operating from a safe place, you’ll find yourself less in need of procrastination.
- The more self-compassionate you are, the less you’ll procrastinate. When you sincerely care about yourself, you’ll want the best for yourself – and that’s never procrastination.
6. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
I could have chosen any other book on the topic of mindfulness and being present. The Power of Now just turns out to be one of my favorites and one that I recommend everyone read anyway.
The truth is, mindfulness is an absolute game changer in overcoming procrastination. The ability to watch your thoughts and emotions from a distance, stay detached and non-reactive, and operate from a place of calm, safety, and nonjudgment makes a huge difference.
Here are three things you’ll learn from this book:
- You are not your thoughts. You are the witness behind your thoughts. You are the sky, not the clouds. You are the deep ocean, not the surface waves. Once you realize that, you start taking thoughts less seriously – and that helps in beating procrastination.
- Self-criticism is silly. If you could have possibly done better than you have, you would have done it. There’s no point in beating yourself up all the time. At any given moment, you do the best under the given circumstances.
- Guilt and self-pity are self-indulgent. It’s all about Me, Me, Me. Nobody cares about your feelings and nobody thinks they’re that important. Get over yourself, move on, and do what needs to get done regardless of how you feel.
7. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
At the end of the day, procrastination is a willpower issue.
We want to wake up early, study for exams, go to the gym, or clean the dishes… but we lack the necessary willpower to follow through.
The Willpower Instinct is easily the best book on willpower out there. It offers a complete crash course on everything you need to know to build real self-discipline (and self-discipline is the one thing that will make all the difference in the long-run).
Here are three things you’ll learn from the book:
- Willpower is physiological as much as psychological. Willpower isn’t just in your head, it’s in your body, too. This explains why energy, deep breathing, stress, and other factors are so crucial.
- Stress is perhaps the #1 threat to self-control. This explains why we’re most likely to procrastinate when we’re under stress – we just don’t have much willpower available to us.
- Exercise boosts willpower. This resonates with a study I’ve recently read which showed that people who exercise regularly procrastinate less.
8. Stop Procrastinating by Nils Salzgeber
Hands down the greatest book on procrastination ever released and ever to be released is my book, Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Hacking Laziness, Building Self Discipline, and Overcoming Procrastination.
My book is a blend between science and my personal experiences. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with procrastination all my life, and I have only recently gone through a remarkable transformation. (Read more about it here.)
I’ve kept the book as short and practical as possible. The last thing I wanted to do was give a 500-page bible into the hands of a procrastinator.
Here are three things you’ll learn:
- The one underlying cause of procrastination. Yes, there’s only one, and it always comes down to your emotions and the problem of two selves.
- Why awareness is a crucial yet often neglected ingredient in overcoming procrastination. Hint: the more awareness you develop around your procrastination tendencies, the better you’ll fare.
- A complete walk-through of the new science of willpower. After all, procrastination boils down to willpower. So the better you get at this skill, the less you’ll struggle with procrastination.
Any Books Missing?
Now I’d love to hear your opinion on those books. Have you read any of them? Are there important ones missing?
Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!
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