Eating that frog…tips on how to stop procrastinating and get things done!

Our clinical psychology registrar Claire Fitzgerald talks us through “Eating the Frog” tips on how to stop procrastinating and get things done……

Do you find yourself constantly leaving things to the last minute? Getting bogged down in doing the laundry, perfectly sorting your notes, scrubbing the kitchen, picking your spilt ends (me!), over-researching the topic before you start writing…basically engaging in every possible delaying tactic to avoid doing what you actually need to be doing? Then finding yourself panicking at the last minute racing to smash out your work to snake it across the deadline just in the nick of time. Telling yourself it’s ok, you got in it, and if you don’t do so well, well, it doesn’t matter anyway, as it wasn’t your best work, or that next time you’ll start it the moment you get it… Then collapse in a heap as you’re completely spent from all the pent up fear and the frantic mad dash at the last moment. Only to not actually be able to sleep as just as your head hits the pillow your mind kicks into overdrive worrying about all the things you could have included but didn’t, or what if you misread the question and, and, and….

 If this sounds familiar you’re not alone, many of us are guilty of putting things on the long finger, in particular those among us who are high achievers get caught in this cycle of procrastination due to a fear of failure. Often times, people who procrastinate place a high amount of pressure on themselves to perform, and as a result the task at hand becomes overwhelming, so they engage these avoidance and distraction tactics so they don’t have to feel the uncomfortable feelings of not being able to do something, or doing something and not being good at it.

If you identify with these behaviours you may be very critical of yourself, often beating yourself up for being “lazy” or believe that you have poor time management skills. Actually, it is more likely that we operate like this out of anxiety and fear, always putting stuff off until later, or better yet…tomorrow. The down side to this approach is that we don’t actually get to enjoy our time today, not just because of the guilt of not doing what we should be doing, but as we are constantly living in a state of dread, our body is constantly kept in a low level stress state – which then can impede our ability to perform at our best when we do finally knuckle down.

As simple as it sounds, the best way through it… is through it. We need to learn that we can tolerate our emotions, and what we often find is that we are more capable than we think we are, and that most things are less bad than we imagined them to be. But when we keep putting things off, we never learn that our fears are just our thoughts and not fact. So next time you find yourself putting things off, or avoiding scary tasks – I invite you to eat the frog and just make a start…


Here are some ways that may help you to keep on-task:

  • As Mark Twain is credited with saying: “eat the frog first thing in the morning, as then the worst thing you have to do that day is already behind you” – starting with the most difficult or scariest item on your list at the top of your day will give you a sense of achievement and buoy you to feel confident to tackle the rest of the days challenges.


  • Splitting things into smaller chunks using the SMART goals technique can be helpful to reduce the mountain of to-do lists that most procrastinators love making, into: Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Relevant and Time-based tasks – again making it more likely we will complete them and feel good about ourselves in the process. I personally swear by using the pomodoro technique to get me through grad school. (There are many apps available via the App Store or Play Store on your phone to help you grow a tree or get rewarded with a picture of a cute kitten for every block of time you focus without getting side-tracked insta scrolling!)


  • Talk to a close friend, teacher, boss or even a therapist: getting stuff off your chest, actually articulating it out loud or writing it down can take away some of the power that things hold over us. Verbalising our fears can be very scary, but we may find that it normalises our experience as others can relate to what we are going through, or it helps them to better support us in the way that we need as they have more insight into what is happening for us and why we have been distancing ourselves, or stress eating, or numbing our feelings by drinking, smoking or restricting. 


  • Delegate, delegate, delegate – more often that not, people who procrastinate are very hardworking and dedicated students, employees, partners, and friends who regularly bite off more than they can chew. This leads us to become overloaded, and struggling to know where to start. Handing over responsibility to someone else for some of the less essential tasks, or more specialised duties that somebody with expertise in that area may be able to complete in half the time you can, is not a sign of failure, but a very wise, and time-saving, stress-busting decision, freeing you up to focus your attention on the things that matter most to you.

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