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Use the STING method to stop procrastinating

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There's been a number of writings on overcoming procrastination, with a tidy summary at Recap: Turning procrastination into action. However, one technique that I hadn't heard of was presented last week during an on-campus seminar ("Developing organization skills to be more effective in the workplace"). It's called the "STING" method of addressing procrastination, and it's an acronym that stands for:

S - Select one task.
T - Time yourself.
I - Ignore everything else.
N - No breaks.
G - Give yourself a reward.

In my case I applied it to a programming task that I've been avoiding for almost two months. I set the timer for one hour (3 x 20 minute increments worked well), quit my email program and browser, and closed my office door. The beauty of it is ... it worked! Friday and today I was able to put in enough hours to get that piece working (using Test-driven development, of course). Actually, it was better than that - I was able to get enough momentum to keep going a while; very satisfying. Oh, the reward? Chocolate! (Lately I've been enjoying Lake Champlain's Small World Chocolates - nothing like their usual chocolate, by the way.)


Surprisingly, the only reference to this I could find on-line was It's All about Mothers and Babies, where they provide a bit more detail:

  • Select one task you've been putting off. Break it down to just one small piece if it's complicated. For instance, if the task is cleaning the kitchen, reorganizing a drawer is just one piece of the larger task.
  • Time yourself. Use a kitchen timer so you don't have to watch the clock and give the task one full hour. Children might need to reduce that time to just 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Ignore everything else that needs to be done.
  • No breaks allowed.
  • Give yourself a reward when the task is completed.

Reader Comments (38)

But I thing I have seen it elsewhere, just don't know where. A year or so ago I was procrastinating a lot, and decided to give it up while writing a nice and long post to my blog... I went blog from blog looking for ideas, tips and suggestions, and more or less found your way (it is a mix of 5*(10+2) where you work for a while, non-stop, and setting a specific mail&browse time) but not exactly as a method per-se, but as a mix of methods.

Anyway, it was an interesting stumble, thanks for sharing. I'll keep a look in your blog.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRBerenguel

oh yeah.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteringrid

STING sounds like a good well thought-out medicine. .will test it later :)

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks for being here, ingrid.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

I'm glad you found something that works, if I understand correctly. Creating a productivity system is personal, and requires adapting as you've done. Thanks for writing, RBerenguel. (P.S. I love the name of your blog :-)

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

:-) Now, having found my blog, maybe you can get some help.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

I love your attitude - test it. Thanks for reading.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

and yes... it works.

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterc-g

I'd like to hear more, clon-gimini.

February 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

This would be a great way to help me finish that hot rod project I've been putting off for the last seven years....
I'll try this method, maybe TOMORROW? or the next day, we'll see what happens.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Great post. This seems somewhat similar to the Pomodoro Technique. I think the key is that in our world of distractions, if you can focus on something completely, chances are you will complete it.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Gillian
hello,I'm from The University of British Columbia in Canada

My thesis cited your post, if that violated your copyright, please send an email to contact me.
October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBernard Staino
very helpful. excellent.
August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pesebre

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