What’s your relationship with procrastination like? Are you constantly fighting it, or does it have the upper hand? If your to-do list is seemingly never-ending and you often find that you’re running behind in projects and tasks, it might be time to reevaluate your approach to procrastination.

You are not alone

In this article, you’ll learn more about why you procrastinate, how to tell when you are procrastinating, and what you can do to overcome it.

Procrastination isn’t just a symptom; it’s a condition. It tends to develop over time and can also lead to other issues. If you procrastinate, you may want to stop and ask yourself what exactly important tasks you are putting off and if it is even worth it.

If you accept that procrastination is more than just a bad habit, you can begin to deal with it and develop more effective ways to manage your time.

The biggest key to conquering procrastination is realizing what you are doing when you procrastinate.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is a phenomenon that refers to the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often without reason. And sometimes results in negative feelings towards yourself over the lack of control you seem to have to complete difficult tasks.

It can take many forms, including putting off large projects until the last minute, avoiding a difficult task by engaging in unimportant activities or delaying making a decision due to fear or indecisiveness.

Procrastination can have a negative impact on both your personal life and your professional life. Professionally, it can lead to missed deadlines, lower quality work, increased stress and anxiety, and a sense of guilt or frustration.

Why do people procrastinate?

The reasons behind procrastination can vary from person to person. Some people may procrastinate because they lack motivation, while others may have a fear of failure or a fear of success. Others may simply need to do a boring task or find it uninteresting, which leads them to put it off until later.

Plus, many people procrastinate because they have a tendency to underestimate the time and effort required to complete a task.

Overcoming procrastination

Overcoming procrastination requires an understanding of the reasons behind it. Then you can develop strategies to address them. Some effective strategies include setting realistic goals, breaking them into smaller tasks, more manageable parts, creating a schedule or to-do list, using positive self-talk, and seeking support from friends or colleagues.

Types of procrastination

You might be surprised to learn that there are different types of procrastination. While it is generally defined as the act of delaying or postponing tasks, the reasons why people procrastinate can vary. Here are some common types of procrastination:

1. Perfectionist procrastination

This occurs when you are afraid of not meeting their own high standards, so you delay starting a task until you feel fully prepared. You may spend too much time planning or research and never actually begin the task.

2. Crisis procrastination

This type of procrastination occurs when you thrive on the pressure of a deadline and only begin a task when the deadline is looming. This can create unnecessary stress and anxiety.

3. Avoidance procrastination

This occurs when you delay starting a task because it is unpleasant, boring, or overwhelming. You may engage in other activities instead of the task to avoid dealing with it.

4. Decisional procrastination

This type of procrastination occurs when you have difficulty making decisions, so you delay making them as long as possible. You may research and analyze options without ever actually committing to a decision.

5. Distraction procrastination

This occurs when you are easily distracted by other activities or stimuli, such as social media, TV, or household chores. You may feel like you are being productive but are really just avoiding the task at hand.

But these types of procrastination are not mutually exclusive, and you may experience multiple types at different times. Understanding the type of procrastination you tend to engage in can help you develop strategies to overcome it and become more productive.

How to tell if you are procrastinating

Procrastination can be a sneaky habit, and sometimes it can be hard to recognize when you are doing it. However, there are several signs that can indicate that you are procrastinating. Here are some of the most common signs:

You are easily distracted

One of the hallmarks of procrastination is finding yourself easily distracted by other things, such as social media, TV, or chores (also known as procrasti-cleaning). These might provide you with immediate rewards like a hit of dopamine. And you might feel like you are doing something productive, but in reality, you’re just avoiding the specific task you need to be working on.

You keep putting things off

If you find yourself repeatedly pushing back deadlines or telling yourself that you will do something “later,” it’s a sign that you might be procrastinating. You might be tempted to delay a big task because you don’t feel like doing it, or because you are unsure of how to approach it.

You feel guilty or anxious

Procrastination often comes with a sense of guilt or anxiety. You know that you should be doing something, but you can’t seem to bring yourself to start. This can lead to negative self-talk, feelings of shame, and increased stress levels.

You underestimate the time required

Another common sign of procrastination is underestimating the amount of time required to complete a task. You might tell yourself that you will just take a few minutes to get started, but then find yourself still working on the task hours later.

You struggle to make decisions

Indecisiveness can be a sign of procrastination, especially if you find yourself spending a long time thinking about a decision without actually making a choice. This can lead to analysis paralysis and make it harder to move forward.

You can tell that you’re procrastinating if you do some of the following things:

  • You make sure to fill your day with tasks that aren’t important things.
  • You spend time reading the same emails several times a day with no decision on how to act on them.
  • You’re also procrastinating if you begin an urgent task but then wander off to grab a cup of coffee. In that situation, you know it’s procrastination when you never get back to finish it.
  • Continuously check social media when it’s only been five minutes since you last checked (guilty!)

How to reduce procrastination

Just Start

A sure way to procrastinate is to spend too much time deciding whether or not to take action. Instead of debating, take action and get the work finished. You’ll only regret not doing it if you let it slide.

Even if it’s small, take the first step toward what you want to get done. It doesn’t have to be the most significant step you’ve ever taken – just get the ball rolling, and you’ll gain momentum.

If you need to clean your house, start with something as simple as the 2-minute rule. Do anything and everything you can in 2-minutes or less.

Build Willpower

You should avoid assuming that willpower is the answer. The temptation to procrastinate can come from within you, but it’s also the result of your environment.

I know I don’t feel productive in a cluttered environment. And my mind will often wander when I have a messy work desk, even though I’ve sat down to work.

I ask myself, What do I need to achieve my goals? Then make a list of the steps I need to take to achieve those goals. Sometimes it includes spending ten minutes tidying up. Other times I can sit down with a fresh cup of coffee and get started.

Once you’ve figured out the steps, get started. Taking those steps one step at a time. One step leads to another, and another, and soon you’re moving in the direction of your goals.

And many people assume that willpower is enough. But willpower is like fuel to a car. And once your willpower runs out, it’s challenging to find the motivation to start back up again. That’s why it’s so important to think about your goals and plan the steps you need to take to achieve those goals.

Make a plan

It’s also a good idea to plan. Planning can reduce the need for willpower. Using willpower to get new tasks done is already challenging, so planning can make it easier. Just as you have to eradicate procrastination to be more productive, many factors contribute to your success.

A better plan of action can help you beat the negative emotions that often come with not achieving your desired outcome or facing setbacks.

  • do a small task first thing to give you instant gratification
  • do a large task first (eat that frog)
  • make a list for the next day
  • break a big project into small steps
  • create a morning routine

Your future self will thank you for trying to beat your chronic procrastination.

Build in breaks

Working for long stretches of time might have worked while you were in school

Build in break time when you are creating your daily task list. And ensure you take a break when you complete tasks

The best way to build breaks into your day is to use the pomodoro technique. Break your day into 25-minute stretches with a short break of five minutes in the end. Repeat a further three times before taking a longer break of about 30 minutes.

It’s also important to actually take a break. Sitting at your workspace or in your normal work environment to eat your lunch or read a book is not what I mean by a break.

  • eat meals in the kitchen, outside or in another room that you don’t work in
  • go for a walk outside
  • do some eye exercises or stretches if you work at a computer
  • call a friend or family member

Is procrastination just a lack of motivation?

Procrastination is not just a lack of motivation. While motivation certainly plays a role in procrastination, there are often other underlying factors at play.

For example, you may be highly motivated to complete a task, but you still find themselves procrastinating. This can happen when unpleasant tasks are overwhelming or unclear, and you do not know where to start. In this case, it’s not that you lack motivation, but rather that you lack a clear plan of action.

Similarly, you may be procrastinating because you fear failure or success. This fear can lead to avoidance behaviour and procrastination, even if you are otherwise highly motivated to achieve your goals.

Another reason why procrastination is not just a lack of motivation is that it can be a habit and a bad one at that. Over time, you can become accustomed to putting things off and delaying tasks, even if you know it’s not the best course of action. In these cases, breaking the habit of procrastination requires more than just motivation—it requires a conscious effort to change your behaviour.

Understanding the underlying reasons behind procrastination can help you develop strategies to overcome it and become more productive.

Also, remember that there’s no shame in asking for help. Many people procrastinate simply because they’re afraid to ask for help. Talk to your friends, family, or coworkers if you need help and get the help you need to finish the task.

Procrastination is a common behaviour that can have negative effects on your life. However, with awareness and effort, it is possible to overcome your procrastination habits and become more productive and successful in all areas of life.


* indicates required