A New Self-Talk Strategy for Procrastination

self-talk, woman with speech bubble, procrastination

I love to share really helpful insights, don’t you? Here’s a tip that you may find truly helpful, especially during hectic times. I have found it to be a great new addition to my repertoire of help-myself strategies.

This approach to procrastination uses a type of focused “self-talk” that might well motivate you to do certain tasks that you resist doing.

Fascinated by an easy “trick” that was suggested by Suzanne Rosato, a friend of mine who uses a somewhat similar strategy, I immediately tried it and have found the approach be easy, fun, and surprisingly effective.

The method rests on changing in a very specific way your inner “self talk,” that dim but persistent voice in our heads that chatters to us almost constantly. It can sometimes try to boss us around outrageously. It frequently tells us in an effort to be helpful, “Don’t forget that you have to do (whatever task may be looming). The self-talk is an attempt to be helpful – of course – but actually it can often serve to bring our spirits down and our resistance up!  In fact, it can often make us put off doing a task much longer, the exact opposite of its intended effect.

This kind of self-talk can readily stir up healthy opposition in you in no time flat and, understandably, you will NOT want to do the task! Most of us resent being bossed around, even by ourselves!

So, instead of listening to your familiar “orders” from your self-talk, this new  way of talking to yourself will make your inner voice say to you, “Oh, (insert your first name) you get to do (the task at hand) today!” This can have the effect of creating in you a sense of anticipation, instead of dread and resistance. You may begin to feel a sense of excitement, as I often do, to have the opportunity to do the task and be curious to discover how it will feel to do it. As a result, this new kind of self-talk can abruptly interrupt a vicious cycle of procrastination. Changing your self-talk in this new way can take the wind out of its old commanding “sails,” and the procrastination habit will no longer have its familiar ammunition.

In fact, a recent study from Michigan State University found that engaging in third-person self-talk, rather than first person self-talk, is helpful for controlling stressful emotions.

Related – Break Free of Procrastination: 8-Day Course

Soon after using this method, you may find yourself, as I have, no longer procrastinating on many tasks you would have previously dragged your feet on, and you may actually begin to enjoy the tasks more because you view them as “opportunities.” When a task is complete, it can feel as though you have received a reward, much like one that might be presented to a child when its parent says:

“Now that you’ve finished (whatever the task was) and have gotten that out of the way, you get to watch your favorite TV show!”

The words “you get” are likely to recall a memory of receiving a reward in your mind. We all know the value of rewards in motivating adults, as well as children, and pets, and with this new kind of self-talk you will be using one of the most powerful means of motivating known – the expectation of a reward!

Since my clients have adopted this simple change in the wording of their self-talk, many of them find that it often makes them look forward to doing a task at hand instead of using negative energy to fight it.

This does not always work, of course, because some tasks are so daunting that they may require a modification of this strategy but in general, these people claim that their work seems “easier to get done” and is more gratifying. NO MORE BEING OUTRAGEOUSLY BOSSED – BY THEMSELVES!

When I recently tried this method, it worked so well that I have adopted it permanently as a way of reminding myself of things that need to get done. It can be fun trying to figure out how to create self-talk about a necessary task that will make me think about it an “anticipatory” way. I like solving puzzles and this presents a new one to solve each time!

It’s working so well, in fact, that I unhesitatingly recommend that you try it. Here are the steps to follow.

Changing Your Self-Talk Instructions


First, listen closely to your present self-talk. This is something many people seldom do for good reason. Self-talk is often muffled and unclear, it is seemingly half “said,” and half “thought,” and is frequently too low in volume to be heard. It may take a bit of practice to determine what your self-talk is saying about getting started on tasks, but with a little persistence you can do it and it will be well worth the effort.

When you feel ready to try this method out, I suggest you intentionally repeat in your mind the phrase you want to eliminate from your vocabulary when conversing with yourself (to the extent you can comfortably do this, of course). You can do so by intentionally saying to yourself, in a commanding tone, “Remember, I have to (do whatever the task is).” Use a firm tone of voice and see how saying this makes you feel and what counter-thoughts it may evoke.

Then, intentionally, say to yourself, “Remember, I get to (do whatever the task is). And NOTICE the difference between these two ways of talking to yourself. If you do this regularly, all you have to do is watch what happens.

By re-framing necessary tasks as rewards, you might very well find yourself breaking a cycle of procrastination! On occasion, you may get only the “relief of having that annoying task out of the way” and while the latter may not work as easily for a truly obnoxious task, most of the time, it should work excellently.

If this strategy does work for you, then use it liberally. One thing is certain – you will have plenty of chances to practice this during any day and with any given task.

Share your feedback!

If you take to this method, as others have, I hope you will bookmark this page and return to reply to this post about how you’re doing with it. Please ask any questions about the method or share any additions to this approach that you may have devised.

With your feedback, I believe we can together devise new ways of combating a natural tendency to resist what might subjectively feel as being “bossed around and forced to do things” by your own self-talk!


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Do the following words sound familiar to you?



  • The tendency to put things off to a later time may be a practical decision in a given instance but it is a compulsion at those times when you know it’s not in your best interest to postpone – but you DO that nevertheless.
  • More than 35% of people find that they have little or no control over whether or not 

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