How To Defeat Procrastination with an Anti-Procrastination Sheet



“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” — Andrew Jackson

How can you train yourself to stop procrastinating and start taking action?

You can use the Anti-procrastination Sheet to challenge your assumptions and get feedback on activities where you tend to procrastinate.

Test Your Negative Expectations and Assumptions

This is the same technique that professional therapists use.  You can use the technique for any activity that you’ve been avoiding because you think it will be difficult and unrewarding.

You use it to test your negative assumptions and find out how accurate or off-base your negative expectations really are.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns writes about The Anti-procrastination Sheet technique.

Steps to Create an Anti-Procrastination Sheet

According to Burns, the key steps for creating an Anti-procrastination Sheet are as follows:

  • Step 1 – Create the Anti-procrastination Sheet.
  • Step 2 – List your tasks.
  • Step 3 – List your predicted difficulty and predicted satisfaction.
  • Step 4 – List your actual difficulty and actual satisfaction.

1. Create the Anti-procrastination Sheet.

According to Burns, to create the Anti-procrastination sheet:

  1. Draw five lines down a piece of paper. This will divide the sheet into 6 columns.
  2. Label the columns: Date, Activity, Predicted Difficulty (0-100%), Predicted Satisfaction (0-100%), Actual Difficulty (0-100%), Actual Satisfaction (0-100%) See the example below.

2. List your tasks.

According to Burns, in the Activity column, break the activity down into small steps (chunk it up.)

3. List your predicted difficulty and predicted satisfaction.

According to Burns, write your predictions down using a 0- to- 100 percent scale, how difficult and rewarding each step would be.

4. List your actual difficulty and actual satisfaction.

According to Burns, after completing each step, write down how difficult and rewarding it actually was.

Example Anti-procrastination Sheet

Burns includes an example of an Anti-procrastination Sheet:

Date Steps Predicted Difficulty(0-100%) Predicted Satisfaction(0-100%) Actual Difficulty(0-100%) Actual Satisfaction(0-100%)
6/10/99 1. Outline letter. 90 10 10 60
2. Write rough draft 90 10 10 75
3. Type up final draft. 75 10 5 80
4. Address the envelope and mail the letter. 50 5 0 95

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  1. It was positively surprising to see the differences between perceived and actual difficulty/satisfaction. I thought some tasks yesterday were dreadful and they bring 0% satisfaction. But the actual difficulty was so much lower than the predicted. Even better, the actual satisfaction was 100%. The difference this exercise can make is that big. 100% difference!? No kidding.

    I also noticed that it had become fun to see how wrong I am about myself. What a strange satisfaction!

    • Well put, and beautiful insight.

      It’s amazing how often we are wrong about what will make us happy, where we really spend our time, how good we are at something, etc.

      That said, that’s the opportunity.

      We can use this extreme insight about ourselves to get better and better at both predicting what works for us, and actually doing it.

      It’s how we know and master thyself.

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