To Procrastinate Or Not To Procrastinate? How To Stop Putting Off Things You Need To Be Doing

This wonderful 5 syllable word rolls of the tongue and is something that lots of us do on a regular basis and many of us probably aren’t aware we are doing it even though it can be quite detrimental to our lives. In this article from Becoming Aware, we look at the actual definition of the word, signs and examples that show that you are guilty of procrastinating, why you do it, the results it brings and how you can actually change your mindset.

What Is Procrastination?

The Cambridge English dictionary defines the word as, “to keep delaying something that must be done” and adds that this is “often because it is unpleasant or boring”. The Oxford Dictionaries describe it as, “the action of delaying or postponing something.” So it is the avoidance of doing a task that often needs to be completed by a certain deadline and it can be the “habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences”.

All in all it is a complex problem with as many as 1 in 5 people being chronic procrastinators. Often, it’s hardworking very capable people who just can’t get things done in time and can’t work out why this is. And as with many things, once you understand it, there’s a good chance that you can overcome it.

Signs You Are Procrastinating

· Fill your day doing insignificant tasks that are low priority

· Skip doing things you know are on a deadline until the very last minute

· Leave things on your “To Do” list that you know are important

· Start something that is high priority and then get distracted with something else

· Make excuses to put things off including, “don’t want to”, “can’t be bothered”, “too tired” or “it’s too scary”

· Waiting for the “right time” to get something done

· Fill your time with unimportant things for other people rather than getting on with your important tasks

· Avoid speaking or replying to people you need to contact

Why Do You Procrastinate?

Procrastination is about freezing. Perhaps it’s because you don’t know what to do, you don’t want to do it, or you are scared of or fear failure or possibly success. Your body freezes and you end up doing nothing. You just put off what you need to do and keep putting it off.

The Reasons For Procrastination

The reasons are manifold.

• The task may be unpleasant or boring resulting in resistance to it, so this may lead you to put it off to later or another day

• Self-sabotage – you know something will improve and make your life better and that’s scary

• There can be a fear of success, as much as failure with being successful putting you out of your comfort zone so it should be avoided at all costs, even if it what you consciously want

• Not being organised and therefore not prioritising with it being far easier to do the quick, simple tasks and put the more difficult and time-consuming thing off

• Perfectionists are often great procrastinators, as it’s better to put off doing something if you’re not sure how to do, or feel you don’t have the skill set for, rather than do it in an imperfect way

• You don’t find it easy to make decisions, and rather than deciding now, it’s far easier to put off doing something

• Procrastination has just become a habit

Results Of Procrastinating

We often fear the things that push us out of our comfort zones, whether they are positive or negative and it’s so much easier to put tasks off or avoid them altogether than facing up to them and dealing with them. The problem with this is that the more you procrastinate and the longer you leave doing something, the more likely you are to feel negative emotions and have all the pressure of getting it done. Fear and avoidance ultimately lead to stress, anxiety, worry, and even guilt. The closer you get to your deadline, the more these emotions are heightened until you either do it at the last minute with all the stress of the lack of time or miss the deadline completely and lose out on a possible opportunity.

The more you procrastinate, the more it becomes a habit and your automatic response. As soon as something comes in, whether it be a task, a message or an invite that pushes you out of your comfort zone, you go straight to avoidance without even thinking about it.

Habitual behaviour only changes when you stop practicing it.

How To Stop Procrastination

There are lots of things to do and you could use some of the following strategies:

· Create “To Do” lists in priority order

· Commit to doing the most difficult task first

· Break down tasks into small chunks

· Have someone you are accountable to (friend or colleague) – you will find that you are much more likely to do it

· Move the deadline forward in your mind

· Minimise your distractions

· See the task as fun or an exciting challenge

· Look at what it would mean to you to actually get it done

· Make a “Completed” list, so you can see what you have achieved

· See a therapist to break the pattern and free you from the habit


You must realise that you always have a choice. Make your decision about choosing to do something rather than “having to” or “should”. You will start to realise that it feels much better to do something because you have “chosen to”, instead of “having to” do it because your back is against the wall.

But remember, if you havechosen not to do something, that’s perfectly acceptable and OK but make that choice consciously and enjoy the time without beating yourself up about it.

What To Do Next

If you believe procrastination is having a negative effect on your life, you may need to seek the help of a professional. Karen Hoad from Becoming Aware, based in Eastbourne with clients in East Sussex is a qualified and experienced Emotional Healing & Wellbeing Practitioner and has helped many people break their procrastination mindset. Call Karen on 07766 427966 for a chat or email