Have you ever found yourself feeling frustrated that you’re not getting enough done? Do you ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?”
Many people have internalized messages about procrastination that make them feel ashamed.
Procrastination doesn’t mean that you are lazy. People procrastinate for many reasons, include as a symptom of mental health issues. If you can gain a better understanding of the reasons for procrastination, then overcoming the problem becomes a lot easier.
Why Do People Procrastinate?
Here are some of the most common reasons that people procrastinate:
- Fear that you will fail
- Fear of success (and the challenges that might come with it)
- Feeling overwhelmed by a daunting task
- Not feeling “good enough” or able to do something
- Not knowing where to begin
- The inner critic takes over and says you can’t do the work
- The task is one you don’t want to do or don’t believe in
- Worries about what others will think
- You don’t want to be uncomfortable doing something challenging
Procrastination can also be a learned behavior. Do your parents or personal role models procrastinate? Next time that you ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?” you might want to dig deeper and ask yourself, “where did I first learn to procrastinate?” If you always feel guilt or shame about procrastinating, ask yourself where those feelings are coming from.
Procrastinators Aren’t Lazy
American society, in particular, floods us with messages about the importance of productivity. Our sense of self-worth can get tied up in what we’ve accomplished. We believe the American ideal that if we try hard enough, we can have anything we want.
When we don’t meet our own expectations, even those that are unrealistic, we may attribute it to laziness. It’s not.
And yet, at some deep level, we often believe that it is. In some cases, this may be related to complex trauma that has left us feeling unworthy and ashamed.
The more ashamed we are, the harder it is to feel like we can do a good job. This can lead to a spiral in which we begin to think, “if I can’t do a good job, then I shouldn’t do it all.” In turn, this can lead to procrastination.
Psychological Causes of Procrastination
There are also other psychological causes for procrastination besides trauma. For example, depression can cause procrastination.
Depression feels heavy. Trying to accomplish even the simplest task might be too much. Therefore, you procrastinate, not because you want to but because you physically and mentally don’t have the capacity to do the job.
Procrastination can be a consequence of almost any mental health symptom. If your mental health is challenging you so much that accomplishing basic tasks is hard, then naturally you’re going to procrastinate harder projects and challenges. You can only handle so much stress.
If your mental health eats away at your self-esteem, then you won’t feel confident in your ability to get the job done. Therefore, you might procrastinate to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that you’re not doing well enough.
Similarly, if your mental health challenges sometimes cause you to struggle with organization and time management, procrastination might simply be a related symptom of your condition.
Link Between Procrastination and Anxiety
People who live with anxiety disorders often struggle with perfectionism. Worrying that you can’t complete something perfectly, you put off starting it at all.
Perfectionism leads to procrastination.
The closer and closer the deadline gets, the more impossible it seems that you’ll be able to do well on the project at hand. Therefore, you get increasingly anxious. It is a negative cycle; the perfectionism of anxiety causes procrastination but then the procrastination causes more anxiety.
Specific types of anxiety can cause their own issues with procrastination. For example, if you struggle with OCD then you may find that you have to complete specific rituals before performing a task. If you “mess up” during the task, you compulsively must start over. This time-consuming behavior can lead to giving up altogether. If you know that this is your common pattern, then it can lead you to procrastinate even getting started.
If you struggle with phobias or social anxiety, then you might begin to avoid the things that trigger you. This can have a link to procrastination as well. For example, you want to avoid getting up and doing a speech in front of your co-workers, because it causes you too much anxiety. Therefore, you put off even writing the speech.
As you get a grip on your anxiety, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming procrastination.
Strategies to Overcome Procrastination
If you want to overcome procrastination, then it helps to figure out the underlying root cause. Ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?” Don’t settle for the simplest answer. Dig deeper.
If you can resolve the mental health issue or fear that’s leading to procrastination, then the habit of procrastinating might go away as well.
In addition to treating the underlying issue, there are strategies that you can utilize to overcome procrastination. Here are a few to try:
- Ask for help. Someone else might see a better way to accomplish the task. Or it might just feel good to let someone compassionate know that you are struggling a little bit.
- Break each task down into the smallest possible components and focus on completing one at a time.
- Build your skills. The more equipped you feel to do the job, the less inclined you’ll be to procrastinate.
- Give yourself more time than you think you will need for any project. However, schedule earlier deadlines into your calendar. For example, if you think a job will take you two weeks to complete, tell the client that you need three weeks. However, mark the project as due in two weeks in your personal calendar.
- Learn to recognize perfectionism. Don’t let a goal of perfection ruin your chance to do a good job.
- Practice positive self-talk and turn negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
- Use meditation, grounding, and centering techniques to reduce anxiety and increase your comfort level with the task.
Do you need help to overcome procrastination? Get a first appointment with us now.
Procrastination is like a lawn of grass.
You may think that the grass is gone after you mow the lawn. But a few weeks down, they’ll grow right back.
If you want to completely remove them, you’ll have to make sure that you remove the roots.
The scene is not much different in case of your procrastination.
Unless and until you start addressing the root causes, your procrastination will remain intact. Procrastination is not completely bad if you know the ways to procrastinate productively.
This post will help you identify the emotional roots behind why people procrastinate and suggest you actionable tips to tackle them.
Psychologically speaking, procrastination mainly occurs due to the feeling of vulnerability.
When you are afraid of being insecure, you procrastinate.
We’ll discuss this further in detail. But before that let me answer a doubt you might have in your mind.
Is Procrastination a Problem?
Yes, procrastination may create significant problems in a person’s life. A majority of these problems can be labelled into two main categories:
1. Internal Consequences
This consists of the majority of emotional problems people undergo due to their procrastination.
They might not show any signs of their emotional problems externally. On the outside people may consider them as highly successful.
But on the inside, however, they will be suffering emotionally because of not achieving things they think they would’ve if they didn’t procrastinate.
2. External Consequences
People also suffer from external set backs due to their prolonged procrastination.
This may range anywhere from getting a small fee penalty to losing close relationships just because they procrastinated.
Fears Behind Why You Procrasinate
When I asked a few students, “Why do you procrastinate?”, their answers had a common theme in them.
“I don’t want to be imperfect.”
“I don’t want to risk it and fail miserably.”
“What if I can’t do it right, I don’t think it’s still worth doing.”
“What if people won’t like me if I showed them who I really am?”
Now what do you think do all these answers have in common?
They all have some sort of fear in them. Let’s try to break that down.
1. Fear of Failure (Of Being Imperfect)
Fear of failure or being imperfect is one of the major reasons so as to why people procrastinate.
Some people believe that what they produce is a direct reflection of their abilities.
And they use their level of abilities to calculate how worthwhile of a person they are.
So indirectly they are indicating that they’re only worth as much as their performance. This sense of self-worth affects their emotional satisfaction a lot.
What we said above can be translated to the following equation.
Performance = Abilities = Self- Worth
This makes them procrastinate on their tasks because the less time they focus on their tasks, the more likely that they’re going to under perform.
Then they’ll have a reason to say why they couldn’t perform well.
“I didn’t have enough time.”
You introduce procrastination into the equation and that makes you comfortable and less vulnerable.
2. Fear of Success
It’s easy to identify the desire for success than the fear of it.
Procrastinators can actually be afraid of the perils of success. It may sound odd, but have you been in a situation where you were so over appreciated for something that it made you reluctant to try it again because of anxiety?
The common reasons why procrastinators avoid success can be categorised into three:
1. Success demands great efforts
People procrastinate on committing to a single goal just because they’re afraid of the consistent efforts they’ll have to contribute in order to maintain their success.
2. Achieving success might hurt someone
Your success may cause someone to feel bad about themselves because of the little amount of output they produce compared to yours.
This thought can cause you to hide your success in front of others.
The fear of being criticized also comes under this category.
3. Feeling that you don’t deserve success
Procrastinators often find in them a basic fault which they assume makes them less worthy of success.
This is often just a constructive idea rather than a fact.
3. Fear of not being in control
Ever delayed working on your assignments till the day before submission?
Procrastinating in such a situation can make you feel like you’re in control and there are no rules restricting your actions.
This fear is therefore a battle, a battle for control. Let’s try to break this further.
Breaking the rules
It is hard to play by the rules. Sometimes people may get so restrained by the rules and regulations set by someone that they delay a task subconsciously and feel satisfied for doing that.
Crushing the hierarchy
If there’s a hierarchy of positions and you’re not at the top, you’ll procrastinate due to the helplessness you feel because of someone’s authority over you.
Procrastination can help you restore your confidence by making you feel like a rebel who has the power to stand up against your superior.
Overcoming the intrusion of privacy
Procrastination can also arise when you feel like someone is intruding into your privacy.
While working on this post, a call centre representative of a famous organization contacted me requesting to become an affiliate of their company.
Although I loved the idea of working with them, the fact that I was working on this post made me say no to guy.
But his persuasion made me say yes in the end. However, I recently noticed that I haven’t completed the process which I had to, in order to become an affiliate.
Instead, I procrastinated. It is most likely because of the person’s intrusion.
Sometimes a simple request can make you feel like your privacy is being intruded.
4. Fear of Separation
People may become too much dependant on others that they fear to make decisions on their own.
For example, students who were too much supported during their high school years would find it difficult to handle college life on their own.
This is because they’ll have to rely on themselves during college and make independant decisions which they might feel like an overwhelming task.
5. Fear of Intimacy
Anxiety is another major reason behind your procrastination.
While people with the fear of separation tries to be close with their relations, people with the fear of intimacy try to stay away from them.
They find having a distance between relationships much more comfortable.
They like to be in their comfort zones and therefore have a hard time shifting between jobs and relationships.
These 5 fears are the root causes why you procrastinate
Eliminating them can be hard but it is not certainly impossible.
While procrastination is a good way to feel instant gratification and has benefits of its own, in the long run, its effects can be quite devastating.
Try to spot these fears when you’re procrastinating and stop them slow and steady.
If you have any doubts please let me know through the comments.
. and how to overcome them, starting today.
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
Procrastination refers to the voluntary postponement of an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment (Steel, 2007). When a person procrastinates, they pass the buck to their future self. Although some procrastinators claim that they work best under pressure, perhaps they also need the rush of a last-minute deadline to get started.
The costs of procrastination are often considerable. Evidence suggests that the habit of leaving things until the last minute generally results in low-quality work performance and reduced well-being (Tice and Baumeister, 1997). For example, students who routinely procrastinate consistently get lower grades (Ariely & Wertenbroch, 2002). Procrastinators also tend to postpone getting appropriate medical treatments and diagnostic tests (Sirois and Pychyl, 2013).
Why, when so little good comes of procrastinating, do we do it so much? Here are five reasons:
1. Absence of structure.
The lack of imposed direction that’s become common in the workplace might contribute to the increase in procrastination. The collapse of the delay between impulse and decision inevitably favors impulse (e.g., checking Facebook instead of doing work); our easy online access makes urges easy to gratify. One solution to this is to design your environment in a way that makes your desired goal more likely to happen. For example, if you tend to check your email or Facebook too often, make it difficult for yourself to connect to the Internet.
2. Unpleasant tasks.
The most significant predictor of procrastination is a task that’s considered unpleasant, boring, or uninteresting (e.g., Christmas shopping, laundry, or exercise). How can you complete your unpleasant tasks on time? One strategy is to divide and conquer. Shift your focus from the ultimate goal to a series of easy to complete, intermediate tasks (Andreou and White, 2010). Another strategy is to form an if-then plan to automate goal striving—e.g., if I turn on the computer, I will first work on my assignment for 45 minutes (Gollwitzer, 2004).
Another important factor is the timing of the reward and punishment—meaning that the point of choice and the associated consequences are separated in time. A gap like this produces internal conflict between future and present interests. Procrastination occurs when present efforts are highly noticeable in comparison with future ones, leading individuals to postpone tasks without anticipating that when it comes time to do them, the required action will be delayed yet again (Ainslie, 2001). A smoker who wants to quit can spend many years having “one last cigarette.” The solution is to find a way to make long-term goals feel more like short-term rewards. For example, the painful moment of getting into a cold swimming pool can overpower the delayed benefits of doing morning laps. To overcome that resistance, you need to associate the activity with the positive mood effect of exercise.
Avoidance is a well-known form of coping with anxiety. Procrastinators may postpone getting started because of a fear of failure. Evidence indicates that procrastination is associated with high levels of stress (Sirois, 2007). To relieve stress, procrastinators shift their focus away from the future toward more immediate rewards in order to avoid high-priority, yet challenging tasks. Finding ways to reduce stress can strengthen an individual’s capacity to reduce procrastination (Sirois and Pychyl, 2013).
When difficulties arise, people with weak self-confidence easily develop doubts about their ability to accomplish the task at hand, while those with strong beliefs are more likely to continue their efforts. When low self-confidence causes people to avoid activities, they miss opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills (Ericsson, 2016). For example, a college student with a low sense of confidence for math may avoid enrollment in upper-level math courses. The decision not to enroll deprives the student of valuable skills development experiences. In contrast, goal attainment may raise feelings of self-confidence, which can result in a person setting even more challenging goals.
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
Ainslie, G. (2001). Breakdown of Will. Cambridge University Press.
Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002). Procrastination, deadlines, and performance: Self-control by precommitment. Psychological Science, 13, 219–224.
Andreou, Chrisoula & White, Mark D. (ed.), 2012. The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination. Oxford University Press.
Ericsson A., Pool R. (2016) Peak: Secret from the new science of expertise. An Eamon Dolan Book. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Gollowitzer, Peter M., et al., (2004). Planning and the implementation of goals. In Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. Guilford Press.
Sirois, F., & Pychyl, T. (2013). Procrastination and the Priority of Short-Term Mood Regulation: Consequences for Future Self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(2), 115-127.
Procrastination Essential Reads
6 Ways to Combat Procrastination for Adults With ADHD
Why We Procrastinate
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65–94.
Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). Longitudinal study of procrastination, performance, stress, and health: the costs and benefits of dawdling. Psychological Science, 8 (6), 454–458.
New research explores the role of the brain in the tendency to put things off.
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
You’d like to be on time, but no matter how hard you try, you’re never less than five minutes late. You’ve promised to meet a friend for coffee, but to your dismay, you realize there’s no way you’ll get there within anywhere near that five-minute average. How are you going to explain your lateness this time?
Well, you can come up with all sorts of reasons, from traffic to an unexpected phone call or the need to answer an emergency email. However, this particular episode of lateness relates to a larger problem you have with procrastination. Deadlines come up at work or in your home life, but they don’t seem real until the actual date or time is upon you.
Psychology tries to explain procrastination through a variety of theories. From the psychodynamic point of view, your constant stalling is due to a neurotic and self-defeating need to fail. Being late and missing most deadlines ensures that you will be regarded as unreliable, almost guaranteeing failure at work and in relationships.
Being overly narcissistic can be another source of procrastination. You love waiting until the last minute so you can make a grand entrance as everyone else is left waiting and wondering where you are.
It’s also possible, though, that your brain is wired to make lateness an inherent part of your psychological makeup. According to a new study by Shunmin Zhang and colleagues (2019) of Southwest University, Chongqing, China, “It is generally accepted that procrastination is a voluntary but irrational delay of intended courses of action.” The authors summarize contemporary personality theories, which place the blame not on neurotic needs but on the personality traits of low self-control and high impulsivity. However, the Chinese research team believes that there are cognitive explanations of procrastination that are just as, if not more, valuable in understanding the causes of procrastination.
To understand the brain’s role in procrastination, Zhang et al. begin by describing the contrasting explanation of two cognitive approaches. The emotion-regulation perspective, as the term implies, proposes that people procrastinate when they let their short-term goal of putting off something they don’t want to do outweigh the long-term benefits of getting the task accomplished. In other words, “the benefits of avoiding task-induced aversiveness trump the benefits of the delayed rewards the task can yield.”
Conversely, motivation-based theory regards procrastination as due to an increase in motivation to act as the deadline looms. This theory, referred to as “temporal discounting,” proposes that “the further away an event is temporally, the less impact it has.” You don’t see that deadline of three weeks away as something to worry about, and only act when the weeks dwindle to days or even hours. As compelling as these cognitive approaches may seem on their own, though, the authors believe both motivation and emotion form part of the procrastination picture.
The Chinese authors believe, instead, that these psychological theories together can provide the answers in one “temporal decision model.” Whether you act now or in the future depends on whether the motivation to act outweighs the motivation to avoid. Here’s where your brain steps in to explain your constant lateness. The emotional aversiveness piece of procrastination comes from the activity of the parahippocampus (involved in memory), which remembers how aversive the task was in the past (i.e., you really don’t like that friend you were supposed to meet for coffee). Indeed, Zhang et al. maintain that this tiny piece of brain tissue provides “one of the most solid neural underpinnings underlying trait procrastination.”
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
This is because the parahippocampus additionally communicates with other neighboring brain regions in the limbic system. In procrastinators, this whole region works together to amplify an event’s aversiveness. In people who don’t procrastinate the brain sends out fewer emotional alarms about the upcoming and potentially unpleasant task.
Next, the temporal discounting piece in procrastination kicks in, leading procrastinators to feel less motivated to get started on an event that seems far away. Zhang et al. cite research showing that procrastinators may have less neural tissue in the prefrontal area of the brain (involved in planning and impulse control), making it more difficult for them to self-regulate their use of time. Without the ability to self-regulate, you’ll find it more difficult to pace yourself as you try to achieve a goal within the allotted time limits. Chronic procrastinators can only think of is how boring, frustrating, or unfulfilling the task will be until the inevitable comes along and they have no choice but to tackle it. Again, returning to the meeting with your friend, you may have started with plenty of time to get there at the appointed hour, but as the clock ticked down, you became more reluctant to get yourself organized enough to actually get out the door.
Procrastination Essential Reads
6 Ways to Combat Procrastination for Adults With ADHD
Why We Procrastinate
Although you might be tempted to use the temporal decision theory as an excuse for your lateness, or even to attribute your chronic lateness to insufficient gray matter, there are other ways to interpret this neuroscience-based explanation. If you know you’re a procrastinator, you don’t have to give in to the faulty brain waves you’re receiving. Recognize the need to learn from your experiences and put into your memory bank the problems procrastination has caused you. Conversely, realizing that you tend to emphasize the negative aspects of tasks that you know must be completed, try to frame them in a more positive light. The basic premises of cognitive behavioral therapy can also be of use. Give yourself some basic rewards for getting things done on time, replacing your negative with positive associations.
To sum up, chronic procrastination may have its roots in many sources. By knowing the brain structures potentially underlying the inability to look a deadline in the eye, you don’t have to suffer a lifetime of lateness.
LinkedIn and Facebook Image: totojang1977/Shutterstock
Zhang, S., Liu, P., & Feng, T. (2019). To do it now or later: The cognitive mechanisms and neural substrates underlying procrastination. WIREs Cognitive Science, 10(4), 1–20. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1492
When you know the reasons for procrastination, you will be able to better handle the problem itself.
You will soon be equipped with all you need to move forward with the tasks you want.
Yes, I know, procrastination is human. It’s something we all have in common. Well, from now on, that was something we all had in common. We are going to get out of the chains of procrastination and into the mindset of action and results.
That’s my promise to you, just keep reading.
“Do or do not do. There is no try.”
Top 5 Reasons For Procrastination
There is a whole bunch of answers to the question “why do we procrastinate?” . Let us go through some of them together to make sure we tackle this problem from the bottom.
1. Fear Of Failure
Because of the fear we sometimes have of failing at something, it can seem better to not try at all. At least then we haven’t failed. This is a really smart way for the mind to fool itself.
The trick used here is based on an erroneous definition of failure. Failure is not about missing the goal with an inch, it’s about not taking any action at all. Moving in the direction you want is the first sign of success.
2. Lack Of Self-Control
It’s so easy to make fantastic plans for great results. But when it comes to execution of those plans, we might fall short . One could say that we don’t have enough self-control to make it happen. There’s always some other activity or task that comes in between. So often is this the cause of postponing what you should do.
Well, that’s just how life is. Even though you really want the thing you planned for, when it comes down to it, other things get prioritized higher. This is one of the reasons for procrastination that is real difficult to handle. In the end, it’s a question of real motivation.
3. Feeling Overwhelmed
When a task is so big you have a hard time to wrap your head around it, there’s a risk that you go into a stuck state. Simply because you don’t know where and how to start.
Breaking what you want into achievable chunks and milestones is the first step towards beating procrastination in this case. The second step is to keep tackling one thing at a time. It’s OK if you don’t know exactly how it will turn out. Taking solid action in the right direction (actually, just a vaguely similar direction is good enough) will surely get you moving and into some momentum.
If you hide long enough, the problem might just go away itself or someone else might deal with it. That would spare you the effort of doing this boring task yourself.
Well, this seldom happens. However, it did happen recently too me. a broken light bulb needed to be replaced in my car, but after a week or so of procrastination, it was suddenly working again. probably won’t happen too often though 😉
Best method is just to take the first step and from there it’s always much easier.
5. Reason Number 5.
I could go on and on with causes of procrastination, but instead of listing them all, let’s just jump straight to the root cause.
The One And Only Reason For Procrastination
So whichever of those above that fits your situation, do not worry. You don’t actually have to tackle the problem on that level. There’s something deeper that will make you stop procrastinating much faster.
The real and only reason for procrastination is simple:
It’s pure lack of motivation.
In this instant.
Yes, I bet that whatever task it is that you procrastinate is very important to you and that you really want to get this thing done (even if your only motivation is being told so by your boss and you don’t want to be fired). But let me tell you.
. wanting something and being motivated to take action is unfortunately not the same thing.
The fantastic thing though is that you can move pretty quickly between wanting something to taking action towards that objective.
From stuck to doing.
If we look through the 4 reasons for procrastination listed above, you will see what I mean when I say that lack of motivation is the root cause of procrastination.
- Fear of failure – if you’re motivated, you face your fears
- Lack of self-control – if you’re motivated, you prioritize better
- Feeling overwhelmed – if you’re motivated, you break it down and take the first step
- Denial – If you’re motivated, you step up and do it
And the amazing this is this: You are already taking action right now by reading this page. This means that you have the motivation within you to kill procrastination.
So simply remember to use it to create the life you want, instead of postponing everything until later.
Thanks for reading! By Matthew M. McEwan
The roots of procrastination are more complex than you might guess.
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
A growing understanding has emerged that procrastination is underpinned by emotional issues. The gist of this argument is generally that people who procrastinate have poor distress tolerance. When faced with a task that stirs their negative emotions, they freeze and retreat rather than work through their feelings to pave a way forward. While this is part of what causes procrastination, the causes are more multifaceted. Let’s look at six diverse roots of procrastination.
1. Decision fatigue.
If you need to make decisions constantly, you might find that you put off very small ones. For instance, I’ve been wanting to buy a heart rate monitor for the gym. I picked the one I want to get, but as I was about to add it to my cart, I realized I needed to choose between the two sizes offered. At that point, I hit a brick wall of decision fatigue and haven’t gone back to the purchase in over a week.
2. Difficulty with planning and sequencing.
On a neuro-cognitive level, some folks aren’t good at planning out multi-step processes. This difficulty is especially prominent in people who have ADHD, but there are plenty of folks who don’t have ADHD, and who are otherwise very smart, for whom breaking up a complex task into a series of steps isn’t a strength. For some people taking a birdseye perspective on a task, seeing the steps, and seeing a place to start is obvious. For others, it’s not.
3. Relationship-related procrastination.
Procrastination tends to cause relationship stress, especially when couples are more established, are making life decisions together, and are reliant on each other for important tasks like filing taxes.
If one person in a relationship tends to procrastinate, there will often be a tug-of-war involving nagging, resentment, stress, and both individuals feeling unsupported in completing tasks involving shared responsibility. The more pressured the procrastinator feels, the more they may dig their heels in and refuse to do anything that’s asked of them.
While it’s obvious how a procrastination tug-of-war can lead to arguments, a less obvious, but at least as important, consequence is that this tug-of-war can lead to an erosion of relationship closeness. For instance, if whenever the couple spends time alone together the resented to-do’s get raised, it’s a disincentive for spending time together.
All this can create a vicious circle of higher negative feelings and lower positive feelings (such as lower emotional trust) in the relationship.
4. Depression-related procrastination
I wrote a previous post about how depression and procrastination are linked. In short, when people are depressed they’ll tend to procrastinate over all types of tasks, whether they’re simple or complex, fun or tedious. People with depression often experience a lot of rumination (negatively-toned overthinking), and they often lose confidence in their capacity to be reliable friends, partners, coworkers, etc.
5. Anxiety-related procrastination.
When people are putting off tasks due to the negative emotions raised by the task, anxiety is often part of the picture. Even when, on the surface, a person doesn’t want to do a task because it’s boring, boring is often code for hard (e.g., kids who find math ‘boring’ often really mean it’s hard).
- What Is Procrastination?
- Find a therapist near me
Another link is that performance-anxiety often leads to a person taking a perfectionistic approach to a task, which then makes the task unnecessarily daunting. This article outlines other links between anxiety and procrastination.
6. Creativity-related procrastination.
Many types of creative work (very broadly defined) benefit from people taking some time away from the project and looking at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes you can achieve a state of having fresh eyes with simply a night of sleep. Other times it can be useful to have a couple of months pass before you revisit a project. Taking significant time away from a project can be both procrastination and creatively useful. Often there isn’t a clear distinction. You might both feel the nagging feeling that’s the hallmark of procrastination and creatively benefit from the break.
When people do creative work, they don’t do it in a mental vacuum. Part of the creator’s lens is determined by what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in their life at the time. Life experiences, including mundane ones, can lead to drawing on different analogies, etc. This contributes to why seeing a project with fresh eyes can be useful.
You just found out that your child has big project… and it’s due tomorrow!
Why do students put off a big project until the last minute? Despite what some parents might believe, it’s not because your child is lazy, just doesn’t want to do the work, or because he or she has a bad work ethic.
Kids often put more value on what is happening today than what will happen tomorrow. This can make working on homework and assignments something they push off until they absolutely have to. Pair that with the fact that many students’ dislike the idea of doing schoolwork at home, and you have the perfect recipe for a procrastination problem.
So, what can parents do to help?
Learn more about the causes and effects of procrastination, and tips for how you can help your child avoid procrastinating so he or she can become a better, self-motivated learner.
Why Do Students Procrastinate?
Students often procrastinate because they don’t see how a project is relevant or important to them, don’t understand the material, or just don’t know how to get started. When you boil it down, procrastination is a combination of motivation, confidence, and comprehension issues.
As a parent, it can be frustrating to struggle with your child not completing his or her homework and assignments. It can leave many parents feeling as though their child is lazy or simply doesn’t care about school.
However, much of the time procrastination has very little to do with laziness or a lack of caring. In many cases, there are deeper issues that lead students to develop a procrastination problem.
Causes of procrastination among students include:
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-confidence
- Fear of failure
- Lack of understanding
- Trouble concentrating
- Low energy levels
- Poor organization skills
Effects Of Procrastination On Students & Schoolwork
Procrastination can have a negative effect on students’ schoolwork, grades, and even their overall health. Students who procrastinate experience higher levels of frustration, guilt, stress, and anxiety—in some cases leading to serious issues like low self-esteem and depression.
The effects of procrastination can have an even bigger impact on high school students. Once students reach high school and start receiving more take-home assignments and larger projects, students who procrastinate until the last minute tend to receive lower grades than their peers.
This can create a cycle of bad grades and low self-confidence that can be difficult for students to overcome. At a time when marks start to impact the post-secondary opportunities for students, this can lead to a lot of extra stress and frustration.
How Can Students Learn To Avoid Procrastinating?
How can you help your child beat the temptation to procrastinate? Check out these tips and find out how students can stop procrastinating and start being more productive.
Break the project into smaller tasks
Big projects can be overwhelming at the outset. Help your child break the project down into manageable parts such as research, writing, and editing. Then, he or she can tackle each task step by step until the project is done. This will also help your child develop and practice his or her project planning and time management skills.
Make the project meaningful to him or her
Finding ways to make a project meaningful and relevant for students helps them connect it to their interests and gives them motivation to get started. Relate the project to something your child is interested in or a real-world scenario; this can help make homework and assignments less like work and a bit more interesting.
Build up your child’s confidence
Some children procrastinate because they are afraid to fail or think they can’t live up to expectations. Boosting your child’s confidence by pointing out his or her efforts and past achievements can help your child develop a more positive attitude toward his or her work, making it easier to get started.
Create a dedicated study space
Without a proper study space, children can become distracted by everything going on around them—something that can quickly lead to a procrastination situation. To avoid this, create a dedicated quiet space where your child can sit down and do his or her work each day. Make sure this space has all the materials your child will need, including pencils, paper, and erasers.
Eat healthy and get lots of sleep
Healthy eating and sleeping habits can help increase the amount of energy your child has as well as his or her brainpower and focus—things your child needs to perform his or her best in school. Get your child into a regular sleep routine, sticking to a set bedtime each night. Help your child pack his or her lunch each day, picking healthy options like fruits and yogurt as midday snacks (these work great as after school study snacks, too!)
Set clear goals
Fear of failure and perfectionism are major causes of procrastination, and can be difficult for many students to get over. Helping your child set clear and realistic goals will help him or her manage expectations and track his or her progress. Let your child know that sometimes it is okay to fail, and treat it as a lesson for next time.
Make a project plan and stick to it
Create a schedule with your child, setting dedicated blocks of “homework time” he or she uses to work on schoolwork each day. When bigger projects are assigned, sit down with your child as early as possible and make a project plan of attack he or she can follow. Set mini project due dates or milestones your child can aim for. This will help break down the assignment, making big projects seem more manageable.
Develop good study skills
Help your child improve his or her study skills by focusing on the learning process—not just his or her grades. Getting a good grade is the goal, but it is good study skills that will help your child achieve it. Encourage active thinking and critical problem-solving skills by talking through any challenges your child is facing with their homework or assignments and working out a solution together.
Helping students improve their learning skills and develop motivation for their work are the keys to helping students complete homework and assignments on time, reduce school stress, and put an end to procrastination for good. If your child still needs an extra boost, our study skills program can help!
A little while ago, my co-founder and I started to understand what causes us to procrastinate. I want to share what we’ve learned.
For us, the main cause of procrastination is lack of clarity on what needs to be done.
It’s tricky, because sometimes you might feel like you know what needs to be done. But your next steps are too high-level. You’re holding too much in your head at a time – and it’s stressful. You don’t know precisely where to start.
People used to think procrastination was a sign of poor time management and laziness. Now, psychologists understand that “procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time.”  When the task we’re putting off isn’t clearly defined, it seems too difficult. It makes us “feel bad”. And so “to make ourselves feel better in the moment, we start doing something else.”
The best way to address this is to start breaking things down. This will make the task easier, and so there won’t be an emotional burden with getting started.
Start by jotting down a list of everything you can think of that’s related to your task. In this brain-dump – let ideas flow freely. Don’t cut yourself off to try to write better. And don’t make your list in your head! Write it down. 
Once you jot down your first list, scan through what you’ve written. Is there anything that’s not specific and actionable? If so, zoom in and do another brain-dump on that task. Repeat until you only have very specific items.
When you’re done, you’ll have a very simple next task to do. You won’t be intimidated anymore and you’ll be able to get started without pressure.
So, the next time you see yourself procrastinating. Ask yourself – “How completely do I understand the next task I need to do?”
 See how creator Adam Stanton uses checklists to tackle big creative problems: https://www.wired.com/story/adam-savage-lists-more-lists-power-checkboxes/
Totally agree: if I’m not sure I have all the information I need to work on a task, it’s more difficult to tackle it, especially if like me you’re a natural procrastinator 😉
I found out another cause for intense procrastination is the lack of a goal: if I don’t know why I have to work or something, what purpose it serves, it’s going to be difficult for me to go on. In his book Smart, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg proposes a solution to this problem.
By defining SMART goals, the productivity on a task can be drastically boosted. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and associated with a Timeline. But although these goals can help you accomplish tasks, they can be quite artificial. You can get stuck by defining easy goals without accomplishing a lot in the end.
This is why Duhigg introduces the notion of stretch goals. They are goals in the long term, such as “I want to run a marathon”, “I want to write a book about improving as a developer” or “I want to finish this project”. Stretch goals define a clear purpose, what you truly want to achieve. It’s when you want to associate them with a concrete plan that SMART goals become useful. You can then define several SMART goals, each one representing a step towards your stretch goal.
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Very well said – I’m going to check out that book!
You can get stuck by defining easy goals. This is why Duhigg introduces the notion of stretch goals
This makes a lot of sense. Personally, my goals range quite a bit in size/complexity. I have some stretch goals that span 1 week, some 1 month, some 10 years. But I the same principles apply.
New research from Stockholm University has confirmed that procrastination isn’t just a time-management issue. In this study, researchers found that emotional reasons are often a trigger for procrastination, and some people claim they purposely leave things to the last minute because they work better under stress, but that only feeds into their stress.
This all underscores what I’ve known for years: What we think has a profound effect on what we do—even whether or not we put things off. Negative emotions are caused by negative thoughts that derail your ability to get things done, because faced with the thing you should do (clean the garage, write the proposal, apply for the job), you are so daunted or intimidated or tired that you’ll revert instead to tasks that you want to do—the feel-good activities (check Facebook, watch TV, lie down)—assuming you’ll feel better later to tackle the hard thing. Except this doesn’t happen. You feel worse after having put it off!
And this is also why all the time-management techniques in the world haven’t done the most chronic procrastinators any good: Because the pain of doing the thing seems greater than doing, well, almost anything else. You know what does help? Shifting your thinking, and therefore your mood, so that you are less likely to put off the things you need to do—which is what we teach people at meQuilibrium.
Here’s how to start redirecting your energy from mood-fixing, goal-derailing activities and get yourself back on track.
1. Get to the Root Cause
First, you have to understand and identify what you’re trying to do and what is holding you back. What feelings crop up when you attempt to write the proposal or have a difficult conversation? What do you fear could happen if you actually do it? What’s the worst-case scenario? For many, if not most, anxiety is to blame. The anxiety of botching the job or not getting it done leads us to put it off until, ironically, we can’t get it done well or done at all.
2. Reward Instead of Avoid
If your mood plummets at the prospect of taking action, your tendency, as Carleton University psychology professor Timothy Pychyl says in a recent Wall Street Journal article, is to heal your mood first. This is how you end up in the Facebook vortex. Instead, tell yourself that doing something, anything, will yield a reward—later. Think of it as procrastinating the fun stuff.
3. Watch for Icebergs
You have a whole bunch of ideas about how the world works and should work that have gradually formed in your head, beginning when you were very young—but you’re barely aware of them, since they’re sunk below the surface of your consciousness. We call them iceberg beliefs, and they can be a problem, because you’re likely unaware of how they’re affecting your thinking. One example of an iceberg belief at play with procrastination is, “I should get everything perfect” (sound familiar?). This need to have things a certain way before you take any action will stunt your progress and keep you stuck. How do you know you’re dealing with an iceberg? The signs include words like “I should” or “I must” zipping through your mind.
4. Change Your Thinking
The way you perceive a situation will determine how you respond to it—and ultimately, what you do. What happens to many of us is that we get stuck in thinking traps, or ways of thinking that leave us no way out or forward.
If you think, “This project is too hard, I’ll never get it done,” you may be a magnifier and minimizer, making the more challenging aspects of a job way worse while minimizing the benefits, both of which kill your motivation. Instead, say, “This is a challenge but it’s doable, and the rewards of even getting started are well worth it.”
If you think, “I could never do this on my own,” or, “I’m just never good at this kind of thing,” you’re likely a personalizer or over-generalizer, which points to low self-esteem. Because you don’t believe you are capable of doing it, and you tell yourself that, well, you believe it, and your fear becomes your reality. Instead, say, “What I’m attempting to do wouldn’t be easy for anyone. Who better than me to take it on? Who else but me is even willing to take it on?”
If you think, “Nothing ever works out for me,” or “I don’t have what it takes to get this done,” then you have a self-defeating explanatory style. You see situations as unchangeable, and if you believe that, well, you can see why you wouldn’t bother attempting to do anything. Instead, say, “Every project, no matter how big, has a beginning, and this is it.” Find one part of the project you know you’re good at and start there.
5. Reframe It
The pain of doing a tough thing now pales in comparison to the pain of regret later if you didn’t even try. Ask yourself, what do you stand to lose by not doing it? How will your life, your career, your relationships suffer as a result of inaction? Remind yourself that it’s not just about how hard this or that task is—it’s about putting real effort into a thing you care about. And I promise you, there’s no better reward than that.
So next time you find yourself putting off a major task, find the root of the problem, shift your thinking, and reframe the obstacle. You’ll find yourself checking things off your to-do list, and enjoying down time much more.