Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Guest Post: Five Ways to Bust Procrastination

NOTE: Today’s guest post is by Joshua Duvauchelle. I am a huge fan of Josh, and am so grateful that he took the time out of his busy schedule to write this post – which I think we can all relate to. Josh is an editor and freelance writer living in Vancouver. He has been interviewed about lifestyle, financial and health topics by national news outlets like CNBC, Newsweek’s The Street and 

In Canada, the government reports that the typical full-time employee logs more than 36 hours in the office per week, or approximately 10 percent of their entire year. Workers spend an additional 110 hours per year just commuting. At the same time, Intuit’s notes that the typical employee wastes more than two hours at work per day procrastinating on activities like social media.

Your work time is valuable. My work time is valuable. When we squander our time, we squander “the stuff life is made of” (Benjamin Franklin – maybe; it’s hard to fact check quotations that show up on the Internet). Yet, it’s all easier said than done. As both a full-time in-office editor and a freelance writer, I know from experience that it can be hard to break through those mental blocks, procrastination temptations and “off days” that plague both freelancers and office workers alike.

But there’s hope.

First, set clearly defined goals for yourself. Weak, vague ideals will only create weak, vague actions, and not knowing what to do or how to do it makes it hard to break out of your rut. Define exactly what you need to do today. Get as specific as possible. For bigger work tasks that seem unmanageable, break the task into smaller steps and know exactly which steps you need to do this afternoon.

Second, before you even start any project or task, tell yourself that it’s okay not to be perfect. Procrastination is one cousin removed from perfectionism. Perfectionism often leads to procrastination because we’re afraid of getting something wrong. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart to the best of your abilities, but give yourself grace to start and finish a project and let it go.

Third, stop multitasking. You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating if you’re anything like me. Numerous research studies warn that when you multitask, you may feel like you’re getting a lot done when in reality your brain is far too distracted to do any one thing excellently. Turn off the email alerts. Flip your smart phone to airplane mode. Close all those browser tabs. Stop spreading your mental energy too thinly, and instead hone it in on one specific goal or task.

Fourth, create a reward. After completing one of your tasks, let yourself relax. Take a break and grab some coffee. Allow yourself to read a couple news stories. Go for a walk around the office. Taking a break isn’t just a reward to keep you motivated, but it also gives your brain a mental breath so you can return to your tasks with that much more energy.

And finally, calculate your opportunity costs. This is slightly more appropriate for freelancers, because every hour spent procrastinating is money out of your pocket – quite literally. With some fine-tuning, it could also apply to salary workers, too. Ask yourself what you’re losing by procrastinating. How much money have you “spent” by not earning it? This is one of the biggest motivating procrastination-busters for me because it puts real monetary value on all the hours I waste.

The 24 hours in a day are far too valuable to waste on procrastination. Get your work done so you can have the financial stability you crave and the free time to enjoy it.

Joshua Duvauchelle is the managing editor for a Canadian nonprofit and a freelance writer. When he’s not writing, he loves running, live music and exploring Vancouver’s restaurant scene. You can find him on his blog or @joshduv.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. I hadn’t thought about calculating opportunity costs and figuring out how much I’m not making when I’m procrastinating on freelance work. I’m thinking I could make it into a big sign, kinda like the US Debt Clock.

    As far as the “typical employee wastes more than two hours at work per day procrastinating” thing, no comment on that :)

    • Krystal Yee says:

      When I read Josh’s post, that part really got me thinking too. I can get easily distracted by stuff on the internet if I’m not that interested in my work. What he said is so true, and now that’s a huge motivation for me to actually stay on task and utilize my time more effectively.

      • Josh says:

        Absolutely. “Do I want to pay $40 to read the NY Times right now?” That sort of question usually helps me to stay focused on the task at hand(usually…haha).

        • Mike Holman says:

          Good article – like everyone, I struggle with staying on task when there are interesting emails/twitters/anything etc to tend to.

          I also really like the opportunity cost idea.

          No, I don’t want to pay $40 to read the NY Times!

  2. Money Rabbit says:

    The idea of opportunity costs really spoke to me. Thanks, Josh. I am completely guilty of procrastinating, or reading the news online. In fact, I’m writing this while I’m waiting for a document to load at work. Great post; very well written and put together!

  3. Diedra B says:

    just chiming in about the opportunity costs. . .when I get hit in the pocket, that’s when it really hurts! Now I know I’m doing it to myself.

  4. I understand this concept… but what’s life without a little “opportunity cost?” The time that you spent a few hours just lounging with a good book, or the time you go on a really nice vacation without check your email – yes those are the times you could be working to make money, but at some point, you have to figure out how to strike that balance between working to live and living to work.

    • Josh says:

      Absolutely. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take a break from work to create areas of peace, creativity and pure joy in your life. However, I wouldn’t count those times as “costs” but rather benefits. When it comes to opportunity costs, I’m alluding more to the idea of times where we’re reading/browsing/doing things that waste time when we should be productive. By cutting down on how much time you waste in the middle of work, you free yourself to have even more time to do REAL relaxation.

  5. Kay says:

    goals broken into smaller easily achievable steps (as in what can be completed this afternoon), giving myself permission to not be perfect (I have a quote on my desk – “I give myself permission to write a lousy first draft”) and treating yourself after the goal is completed – all appeals to me.

    I knew all of this individually but putting them together creates an aha moment. And I get that this concept can be applied almost everywhere..

    Thanks Josh!

  6. I get really peeved when I see colleagues looking at facebook online while I’m busting my ass on the computer and working without breaks.

    I’m like the work-procrastinator nazi lol…… but I don’t let on that I’m peeved.. though if I were a manager I wouldn’t be happy.

    That being said, sometimes I text really quickly at work if I have people texting me.

    I agree that our work time is our work time and we should be doing work stuff. I think generation Y is really guilty of the multi-tasking business…

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Agreed. I’m definitely guilty of texting while at work if someone sends me a message, and sometimes sneaking onto my personal Twitter and Facebook when I’m updating the company’s social media accounts. But I also don’t take coffee or smoke breaks like some of my other co-workers, and I don’t spend a lot of time chatting with other people while at work either. So I feel like it all evens out. For the most part, anyway.

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