Mark Ellwood’s Brainy Blog of Fascinating Facts and Timely Tips

Be Accountable and Stop Procrastinating

All, Time Tips

It is so easy to put something off that doesn’t matter. Or at least, you think it doesn’t matter. Maybe not today. But someday it will. That aching toothache you think might just go away. The overdue taxes that maybe they won’t check up on.

All of these catch up some day. That’s when the trouble really begins.

So you need to avoid procrastination in order to prevent these negative consequences. One way to do it involves adding accountability. You need to be accountable to yourself. You can do this by writing your tasks on a to-do list. When you include items that you have been putting off, you begin to create accountability. As you do your work during the day, you glance at your to-do list and see that outstanding item. You have committed to doing it. So the time to do it is now.

At the end of the day, review your to-do list. Did you meet all of the goals that you set for the day? Did you get all the tasks done that you said you would? If not, what got in the way? An external factor that was unavoidable? Or your own procrastination? The temptation is to re-write the task on tomorrow’s to-do list. After all, you’ll get to it then. But that’s the problem. You don’t get to it. So there is a danger in repeating tasks on successive to-do lists. If your own disinterest caused you to put it off, writing it down yet again won’t change things. Instead, write down a small part of the task that you could very easily do. For instance, you need to clean up your basement. You haven’t yet. However, you could certainly go down there and list all of the boxes you need to go through. And if doing your taxes is too daunting, how about simply gathering up all of your tax receipts and putting them into a pile? It’s a start.

There is another even more powerful way to build accountability. And that is being accountable to someone else.

Take a task you have been procrastinating on. Break it into small pieces and choose the first step. Then make a deadline. When are you going to accomplish it? And what will it look like when you finish? You can’t just say, “Work on a project…” Instead, you need to say, “Complete the research from three sources required for the project…”

Now, here is the all important accountability step. Let someone else know what you plan to do. And ask them to check up on you. It could be a spouse, partner, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, work buddy – anyone. It’s helpful, but not necessary that they have a stake in the task. If you need to do a household repair, then telling your spouse is a good idea, because your spouse will benefit from the task being done.

So stop procrastinating. Build accountability. Find a buddy and get stuff done.

Your time is worth it.

Mark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 


  1. I have found that procrastination is one of my top weakness. Like you said, I wrote down a to-do-list every morning or day before. Then I ticked each task when I complete it. It gave me great success and I think it can change my mind. Thanks mark.

  2. I am practicing following simple rule to stop procrastination.

    I create a smart to-do-list. When I do the list, I add things I might avoid . I don’t include ones I’ll do anyway. For example I checked email every day(what ever happens), but I may hesitate to prepare office project document. So office project document is at the top of my to-do-list while checking emails is nowhere.

  3. I really appreciate Mark’s effort on productivity improvement.

    Yes. Procrastination is a real big problem. I am doing software programming and procrastination is a common issue with programmers.

    When I get a project, it seems impossible to deliver when I think it as a whole project. So I break down the project to smaller programs. For example ‘creating a login form’. Then I assign each task to my to-do-list. I don’t care about whole project but make sure the small task is done at the correct time and date. Finally, I get complete project with lesser stress.

    You can try that guys.

  4. This is a great advice. It is what I needed to do now. Often times we focus on whole project and find it frustrated and too much to do. But doing a tiny piece of it for several minutes is much better and encouraging.

  5. Thanks Ellwood,

    Please keep up the good work.

  6. Hitting the hardest task first is the way to success. We procrastinate difficult task but probably it may the most important task of all. If we can start from the difficult task rest will follow automatically.

  7. I generally practice a rule called “2 minutes rule”. It’s a great way to overcome procrastination. It’s a process of starting a new task or starting a new habit. For example ‘start daily exercises” .

    You may have a goal for a healthy life. You may be thinking to start exercising, But unfortunately you postpone it. So if you can start spending 2-minutes to start the exercising, it will continue for half and hour. So the moral here is to start doing something. Give a start.

  8. When I am going to do something big I make sure to tell everyone I care. In this way I feel committed to get it done. Most of the time I tell my husband and he is asking the progress, so I need to give him a positive answer. I think having a buddy is the best way to stop procrastination.

  9. I am trying to reduce my weight and I post the loss/gain on my blog. It helps me keep me accountable.

  10. My best buddy is my wife. I speak about my goals with her. I am planning to do a home modification middle of next year. For that, I need to save some money every month. Also I need do more work to earn extra income. So my wife is reminding me about my goal. It keeps me motivated and I try my best to perform daily activities effectively.

  11. If you want to find a perfect accountability buddy, remember that the relationship has to be mutually beneficial. The buddy should share in your journey and honestly wants to see you succeed. Your success is their success. Your mother, girlfriend, wife, sisters or brothers are prefect match for the purpose.

  12. One way to find accountable buddy is offering to be someone else’s accountabilibuddy. You can find a friend and encourage him with his goals and he will in return encourage you.

    I had a great buddy when I was doing my high school exams. I had a great buddy who has always encouraged me with my studies. I in return encouraged and helped him.

    He both got good results. Without a buddy it may not possible.

  13. Thanks Mark.

    When I do my first to-do-list I added tasks like “Need to meditate”. But later I found it less productive. Sometimes I spend an hour but it’s less than 20 minutes for other days. So later I started to add as “Meditate 1 hour”. It has given me better results.

    Also I used to add tasks as ‘online marketing 1 hour’. Later found it less effective and started to add as “Send 5 emails to potential clients”, “submit 10 ads to classified site”. That worked.

  14. Agree with Mark & Pinto. You need to have specific tasks. There should be clear, realistic and achievable tasks and definite time frame.

  15. Still can’t help but procrastinate because I know procrastinating will turn that 1hr into 6hrs. It’s a stupid paradox

  16. I procrastinate a lot. Once I had a literature project where I need to write 2 long essays. We were given 2 weeks for the project. But I started doing it the night before and stayed up all night until 7.00 am and my college starts 8.30am. That day I started to hate procrastination.

  17. I love this blog and love your writing spirit too!

    I experienced that planning without a time-line won’t bring expected results. So proper daily planning schedule can be ;

    8.00am -8.30am starting work, checking emails, replying

    8.30am -9.30am meeting with sales staff

    9.30am -10.00am break

    10.00am-12.200 Visiting Sam

  18. I break down each task and organize them in a schedule. It goes correctly. My schedule gets postponed and I create fresh one it goes to same dead-end. When deadline is approaching I am in bug trouble. I still looking for a way to procrastinate procrastination.

  19. Procrastination is the thief of time. It’s the enemy of success. Here are few of my tips to eliminate procrastination.

    -Create a to-do-list

    -When you complete each task put a “tick” mark, so you get great feeling about the stuff you already done.

    -If necessary put time frame for each task.

    -After 4 hours re-arrange the to-do-list again.

    -Use the notebook instead of computer application

    -Start with hard tasks

    -If you haven’t got time to complete some important tasks during the day, put the pending task on the top of to-do-list of next day.

  20. Accountable to yourself is the ideal way to stop procrastination. You can find accountable buddies but that is temporary. It’s not realistic for life long targets. So you can be your accountable buddy and it will help you to achieve long term targets.

  21. Every night I summaries everything I have done for the day and plan the stuff for the next day. Then I strongly command myself and promise to follow my to-do-list. It gives me massive motivation to follow the plan.

  22. Daily to-do-list is not working for me. I tried it a lot but failed. Now I am daily-to-do list mixed with hourly plan. At the end of every hour, I plan the next step for the next hour and do that task. It is more productive.

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