Most people are guilty of ignoring a task from time to time. A challenging deadline, an uncomfortable meeting with a coworker, and organizing documents might be tempting to put off.
Procrastinating isn’t inherently bad — until it becomes chronic or disrupts your workflow. The deadline arrives, and you haven’t given yourself enough time to do your work efficiently. Tension with your coworker grows.
Files pile up on your desk until you can’t find anything. You’ve gained temporary relief by procrastinating but now suffer from increased stress and missed objectives that negatively impact your professional development.
Techniques abound to combat procrastination and keep you motivated. One such method is using others’ inspiring stories to gain the insights and push you need. Ted Talks is a global community dedicated to spreading valuable and life-changing ideas. Learn from others — and likely more about yourself — by watching some of our favorite TED talks on procrastination.
12 best TED talks about overcoming procrastination
1. Why we procrastinate, by Vik Nithy
As a psychology student, Vik Nithy became curious about the internal argument in your mind when you decide to put off work. He argues that feeling overwhelmed about where to start, dreading joyless tasks, and fearing failure all stimulate your brain’s stress response. To return to safety, you subconsciously distract yourself with activities that bring you pleasure.
To trick your brain’s fight-or-flight response, he suggests several techniques, including breaking down tasks into time frames, preparing your workspace, and planning for failure.
2. Inside the mind of a master procrastinator, by Tim Urban
One of the more famous TED videos, the procrastination monkey TED Talk by Tim Urban is insightful and hilarious.
Tim Urban’s procrastination recovery began after a failed thesis he wrote three days before its due date, which made him curious about how a chronic procrastinator’s mind works. He argues that non-procrastinators have a rational decision-maker in their brain that guides them through practical decision-making.
Conversely, procrastinators have an “instant gratification monkey” and “panic monster” that keep you in a “dark playground” of fun and easy distractions until last-minute deadlines become unavoidable. And knowing when your instant gratification monkey interferes with your process is the key to completing tasks.
3. I’m not lazy, I’m procrastinating, by Victoria Gonzalez
For a year-long senior project, Victoria Gonzalez studied the link between laziness and art. Victoria believes that procrastination has nothing to do with time management or laziness. Instead, it’s about a lack of self-confidence and a fear of failure.
Using artists as an example, she suggests that procrastination often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People procrastinate and underperform because they lack self-esteem, so addressing confidence and self-worth are the first steps to overcoming procrastination.
4. The surprising habits of original thinkers, by Adam Grant
Adam Grant is interested in “originals,” people who march to the beat of their own drum. As a self-proclaimed “precrastinator” (someone who rushes straight into a task), he became curious about incredibly creative people who engage in moderate procrastination.
His studies found that a bit of procrastination can actually be helpful. While chronic procrastination curbs your productivity, it encourages creative thinking. Distracting yourself with a fun activity (like a video game) lets ideas incubate in the background. This process might help you come up with more innovative ideas.
5. The vaccination for procrastination, by Bronwyn Clee
Bronwyn Clee’s insightful and personal talk focuses on the stresses of making big life decisions and pursuing your dreams. She suggests that overthinking gets in the way and derails instinct and decisiveness with intrusive thoughts rooted in fear. Her solution: the first step is to give yourself permission to pursue the change you want to see in yourself.
6. Change anything! Use skillpower over willpower, by Al Wizler
Al Wizler’s insightful talk covers the mental barriers that challenge your desire to build better habits. He argues that willpower places too much emphasis on individual action. When you fail, you believe you aren’t committed or capable enough to make meaningful change.
Instead, he advocates for “skill power,” a set of strategies and techniques to empower you to make meaningful changes. These methods include continuously learning, embracing social support, and refocusing your behavior.
7. An end to procrastination, by Archana Murthy
Then high school student Archana Murthy talks about overcoming her impulsivity and lack of discipline. During a road trip with her family, she was inspired while reading the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, who preaches work for the sake of work rather than an abstract reward or expectation.
8. Keep your goals to yourself, by Derek Sivers
When you think up a brilliant idea, your first instinct might be to share it with someone — or everyone on your socials. But according to best-selling author Derek Sivers, this is the cause of your great idea’s demise.
The social gratification you receive from sharing your idea tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already achieved it, making you more likely to quit. The trick: keep your goals to yourself.
9. The magic of not giving a f***, by Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight is the bestselling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” In this humorous talk, she presents her “NotSorry Method,” a technique to mentally declutter and free up time and energy. She theorizes that your day is filled with unimportant, unnecessary, and totally unenjoyable tasks.
To worry less about obligations and more about things you actually care about, she recommends creating a time and energy budget. This practice helps you consciously choose how you spend your time and mental and physical energy.
10. How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done, by Yves Morieux
Too many rules, metrics, and internal structures create more incentives to fail than succeed, according to consultant Yves Morieux. His informative TEDx talk is useful for managers and team leaders looking to reorganize team structures for better productivity.
Using Olympic relay teams as a metaphor, he promotes changing traditional management and accountability frameworks for more supportive teamwork. According to Yves, collaboration unlocks productivity, encouraging employees to take ownership of and care for their work.
11. The art of stillness, by Pico Iyer
Sitting still may sound counterintuitive to being productive, but Pico Iyer thinks otherwise. Using his extensive experience as a travel writer, he argues that hectic schedules and constant communication with the external world exhaust and distract you.
Quiet moments in your calendar let you pause so your brain has the space to mull over information, create better ideas, and re-energize before working again.
12. How to gain control of your free time, by Laura Vanderkam
Counter to popular thinking, you have more time than you realize. Time management expert Laura Vanderkam studied the schedules of highly successful and very busy women.
Her hypothesis is that most people have an overestimating problem. You delegate more time to work commitments than required, leading to burnout and poor productivity.
Vanderkam’s findings suggest that scheduling space for valuable free time is the key to less procrastination and increased accomplishments. Anyone needing help creating a better work-life balance will benefit from this inspirational and informative talk.
4 books on overcoming procrastination
Inspired and ready to take on more in-depth learning? Here are four fantastic books on fighting procrastination and increasing your motivation levels to accomplish more.
1. The now habit, by Neil A. Fiore
Psychologist Neil A. Fiore has a strange method for combating procrastination: when you build your weekly schedule, write down all your commitments except work. Necessities, self-care routines, and guilt-free play come first, so work is interspersed with leisure. This attention to fun motivates you to work quickly and efficiently — saving you time for family, friends, and yourself.
2. The procrastination equation, by Piers Steel
Piers Steel is a professor of organizational behavior and researcher who fuses psychology, evolutionary biology, and self-help techniques to shed light on the sources of your procrastination.
His comprehensive book, “The Procrastination Equation,” is wonderful for anyone struggling to build lasting work habits, as it includes self-regulatory techniques for preventing overthinking and creating productive routines.
3. The willpower instinct, by Kelly McGonigal
Based on her Stanford University course, “The Science of Willpower,” psychologist Kelly McGonigal breaks down the science of self-control. Procrastination and willpower aren’t personality traits — their physiological responses.
And understanding the mechanisms behind them can help you improve your self-control, reach your goals, and develop more self-compassion.
4. No excuses!, by Brian Tracy
Author Brian Tracy pulls from his experience consulting and training staff and executives at companies worldwide to express that envying others’ success often causes procrastination because it creates a fear of failure. In his book, “No Excuses,” he provides 21 methods that’ll help you create a simple, no-nonsense approach to rescuing your time.
Grow from others’ inspiration
Podcasts, audiobooks, and Ted talks on procrastination are excellent avenues for inspiration. But the hard work comes in after you listen. Ride your inspiration by creating an action plan that involves consistent habit adjustments, like checking off one to-do list item every hour or time-blocking your obligations.
And consider working with a life coach who can pinpoint the cause of your procrastination and hold you accountable as you work toward your procrastination-related goals.
This hard work pays off as you accomplish increasingly more personal and professional goals. And that momentum can have a snowball effect so it becomes easier and easier to start on your tasks without hesitation.