Overcoming procrastination

Procrastination and self-discipline problems are very common. All of us procrastinate from time to time, but for some people the problem is more serious: stopping them in their track completely and preventing them from moving forward. When this happens it can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression and self-esteem problems, disrupting life and careers. The effects of procrastination can be far reaching. The damage to the individual and companies can be serious. It is estimated that 20% of people suffer from chronic procrastination.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying doing something until later even though it is in our best interest to do it now. People procrastinate in many different areas of their lives such us health, administration, gaining further qualifications and sometimes in honouring commitment to others.


Procrastination can be an avoidant behaviour usually associated with Anxiety. Anxiety is an unhealthy emotional response to perceived threat or danger. The threat or risk can be; negative judgement, imperfection, boredom, uncertainty etc. At the heart of anxiety is an unhealthy belief or attitude about the perceived threat or danger. Procrastination can be an attempt to avoid such threats, even though it is an unhelpful strategy for solving the problem. For example, we can become anxious about experiencing discomfort. Procrastination, in this instance, is unhelpful strategy to avoid discomfort.

Procrastination that is based on anxiety is the most common form of procrastination.

However, some people procrastinate not because they are anxious about something such as not completing a task perfectly, but because waiting until the last minute provides a rush of energy. Some students, for example, wait until a few days before examination before starting their revision. They wait until they feel the adrenaline. Interestingly, such a person usually believes that the quality of their work and their productivity is better because of it. You will often hear ‘I wait until the end but I always deliver’.

There are also quite a few sub-conscious reasons for procrastinating. For example, overcommitting yourself to doing many things because you find it difficult to say no or waiting until you gain interest and attention from others before starting a task.

The solution to controlling and overcoming procrastination is to recognise when and why you do i.e. identifying the self sabotaging beliefs that provoke it and then committing to taking corrective action.

Some triggers of procrastination include:

  • Waiting for the “right” mood or the “right” time to tackle the important task at hand
  • Fear of failure or success
  • Fear of negative judgement
  • Fear of making the wrong decision
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Perfectionism
  • Being overwhelmed
  • Low boredom threshold

Helpful tips

  • Take immediate action
  • Accept tension and discomfort as natural
  • Accept uncertainty and risk
  • Develop a high frustration tolerance philosophy
  • Give up your excuses
  • Do one task at a time – do not jump from one task to another
  • Tolerate an imperfect environment
  • Manage your excesses – alcohol, overeating, recreational drugs
  • Keep your eye on your goal and remember what’s in it for you in achieving it
  • Make your environment work for you – tidy it up, remove distractions
  • Look for solutions when facing problem
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Develop a work schedule and allocate time rather than time to finish a task
  • Break a task into chunks
  • Start with committing yourself to spending 5 minutes on the task and go on from there
  • Do the unpleasant task first
  • Imagine yourself doing the task
  • If you feel like procrastinating, it is your cue to force yourself to do the task

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