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Procrastination - Why Do We Procrastinate and 3 Ways to Stop Doing It

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Whenever it comes to discussing action steps with my clients as they work on achieving their goals it's essential that they commit wholeheartedly to writing these steps down. When I ask them what might prevent them from actually completing these action steps there's a moment of silence. The forehead frowns, and the initial denial, “No, I will get these action steps done” comes before there's a hesitant “Well, maybe not ….”.

A bit more prodding and two things normally come out – lack of time and procrastination.

What is procrastination and why do we procrastinate even when we really want to achieve something? Why do we hold ourselves back?

What is Procrastination?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, procrastination is the act of putting off something intentionally and habitually. In other words, putting off something that needs to be done. So, if you find yourself deliberately delaying something or postponing a task or commitment beyond the deadline, you're procrastinating.

It could be the avoidance, delaying, or postponing unnecessarily of doing something. This explains why we feel embarrassed about admitting to procrastinating – we know we're avoiding doing something out of our own free will!

Do you find yourself:

  • Spending endless hours on Facebook when you should be completing that boring report for the next staff meeting?

  • Agreeing to meet your friend for coffee just to avoid doing the housework?

  • Shopping online when you could be planning your marketing strategy for your business?

  • Watching TV instead of finishing your autobiography?

  • Scrolling through your Whatsapp messages and even starting up a conversation with someone just to avoid getting your action steps done for your goal?

These are all examples of procrastination and we're all guilty of this behavior. Especially when we're trying to avoid a task that frightens us or bores us to death but has to be done.

Some people go as far as describing this delaying tactic as putting off something out of carelessness or laziness. But is this really the case?

Why Do You Procrastinate?

So, does it all come down to self-control or not? This brings me to my next question, “What limiting belief are you holding onto that makes you procrastinate?” A limiting belief is a thought you carry that doesn't serve you in any positive way.

So, now we start to unpack what drives us to procrastinate.

  • Is it a fear of failure?

  • A fear of success (believe it or not, but many people fear being successful because of the unknowns it could bring with it)?

  • Fear of being embarrassed?

  • Fear of being ashamed?

  • Fear of being ridiculed?

As you explore deeper, consider the thoughts you have about yourself when you procrastinate – do you feel you're not worthy of achieving your goal or whatever it is you're procrastinating? Do you think you're not good enough to put yourself out there?

What Can You Do to Manage Procrastination? 3 Ways to Tackle the Delay

1. Make a List of Your Uniqueness

If your low self-esteem is the problem here, take a step back and allow yourself to write up a list of all the wonderful things about YOU. I promise you'll have loads of special and unique things about yourself that you can write down.

  • Describe all these wonderful things about yourself, tap into the feelings that come from thinking about your strengths and positive traits – visualize, really feel into these feelings.

  • Now, imagine yourself using all your strengths and positive traits to push you beyond procrastination and imagine how good you will feel accomplishing the goal.

Discover your own potential by making a list of all the achievements you've had in your life.

  • It can be the day you got your learner's/driver's license.

  • Getting a college certificate/diploma/degree.

  • How about the day you learned to make a really good curry or painted a picture you were pleased with?

  • Maybe it was a project proposal you wrote and submitted and then your company was awarded the tender.

These are all huge achievements and they should make you feel good. As you make a list of all your achievements, tap into the feelings you had when you made these achievements. Somewhere, somehow in your life you have accomplished many things and forgotten about them.

Tap into them again and remember them. Draw on those feelings. Now, visualize yourself achieving the next task that you're procrastinating on, and let those feelings of achievement give you the courage to move beyond procrastination.

2. Imagine the Pain

It's always a good idea to imagine the “pain” you'll experience if you let procrastination get the better of you. I do this with my clients all the time, “Imagine what it will feel like if you don’t achieve your goal”. The look and horror on their faces at the thought of not actually achieving the exciting, thrilling goal they've written down confirm the “pain” they'll feel if they don’t get their goal.

I ask them to describe their feelings if they continue to procrastinate – disappointment, frustration, no confidence, low self-esteem, sadness, self-disgust, loneliness. The list goes on. I ask them, “Do you want to continue feeling these things?” and their shudders are enough to tell me (and them) that they don't want to continue going down the painful path of procrastination.

3. What Can You Do In Advance to Avoid Procrastination?

The next question I ask is, “What can be done in advance to make sure these things don’t stop you from doing your action steps?”. The answers range from drawing up a list of tasks to do, prioritizing the tasks, and better time management.

I have many clients who are brave enough to say, "I'll just do it!". This statement alone will empower you to move beyond the fears that drive you to procrastinate.

Final Thoughts

Procrastination is driven by limiting beliefs that we don't need in our lives. It serves no purpose beyond delaying our dreams to reach a vision we've set for ourselves.

Procrastination shows that we're being careless or lazy about our life and what we deserve for ourselves. To postpone or delay needlessly slows down and often stops us from feeling pleasure. Instead, we're giving ourselves permission to be disrespectful to our SELF and our TRUTH.

So, whenever you find yourself procrastinating, do yourself a favor and step back. Be honest with yourself, do the simple exercises above, and then move on beyond, knowing that you do deserve the very best for your SELF.

This post was updated on April 12, 2023.

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