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How to Stop Procrastination

Updated on May 28, 2012

Procrastination - Definition and Prevalence

Do you procrastinate? Wikipedia states, “Procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.”

Most of us procrastinate, but not all of us are habitual procrastinators. We often drag our feet around on the things that need to be done and struggle to complete it under pressure. Studies show that 20% of the population are chronic procrastinators. Procrastination is considered more as a maladaptive lifestyle than a problem by in and of itself.

Stop Procrastination
Stop Procrastination | Source

Causes of Procrastination

Some psychologists and behavioral scientists suggest that the following reasons could be the cause of such learned behaviour:

  • Having harsh or authoritative parent/s, who are judgmental or critical, could have resulted in the child learning to defer negative feedback.
  • It is the gap between intention and action, wherein the individual does not make a decision to act positively, but instead tries to put things off, by finding excuses to delay what needs to be done. Behavioral scientists consider such inability to act in a timely manner as poor self- regulatory ability. They affirm that it is not just delay.
  • They attribute procrastination to other causes such as of fear of failure or fear of success.

How to Procrastinate

Overcome Procrastination
Overcome Procrastination | Source

Effects of Procrastination

Procrastinating often results in a backlog. This could cause a number of issues at work and relationships, but these are not the only effects of procrastination. Procrastination can do more harm to your body than you may have thought possible. Putting things off to the last minute, often believing that you work well under stress, could result in a rush of adrenaline, which causes your body to wear out quickly. Stress weakens the immune system. It also causes people to worry and lose sleep over it.

Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists are self-critical, thus they tend to be less productive. Behavioral scientists attribute such procrastination to the reason that these people would rather be judged for lack of effort than on their efficiency. They sabotage their own success by delaying or never getting things done.

Common Excuses for Procrastinating

It can wait.

They will be in a better mood later.

There is enough time to complete it.

They are keeping their options open.

They are just being patient and waiting.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

Procrastination could be the result of fear. Some people are so afraid of finishing a task, because this would mean that others would be weighing them on their ability.

People sometimes procrastinate because they are averse to doing certain things. Having to do the tasks that they are averse to, leaves them with a certain feeling of discomfort, making them feel inadequate.

People procrastinate when the reason for doing a task is vague or when there is not enough reason to keep them motivated.

Another reason that psychologists offer is that these people are highly distractible and impulsive. They find different ways of distracting themselves and pushing the task away, even though they know that it has to be done eventually.

Self-deception is another important reason for procrastination.

Do you procrastinate

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Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers excellent techniques to unlearn old and maladaptive behaviours and learn better and purposeful behaviour. Chronic procrastinators could do well by getting professional help. For others who often procrastinate, but are not habitual procrastinators there are a few tips here, which you could use to overcome procrastination.

How to Overcome Procrastination?

  • Make a To-do list. Prioritize from the most important task to the least important. You could probably circle the most difficult one, or the task you are most averse to. Display the list in a prominent place where you can view it many times during the day.
  • It is important to state your intention and commitment to the task. Writing a personal statement of intent can make you more committed to completing the task.
  • Announce your intentions to those around you. Often a public announcement will help you stick to your commitments.
  • Estimate the time it would take you to execute each task. Make a specific timetable of start and finish dates / time for your projects. Ensure that you include details of specific milestones and the time it would take to reach them.
  • Do not ruminate too far ahead into the project. (This could be one of those pitfalls that cause you to delay things.) Just get started.
  • Make sure that each task on your list is meaningful to you; if not, listing why it needs to be done can help you make it meaningful. These reasons would keep you motivated. Lack of motivation is known to be one of the biggest reasons for procrastination.
  • Identify major distractors and cut them out. Examples of common distractors are: checking email, playing games on the internet, smoking or having cups of coffee/tea, hanging around on Facebook etc.
  • Set specific goals. Come up with detailed plans to achieve these goals within specific periods. Follow through on your progress. Breaking your goals down into specific, achievable, short-term goals will make your task seem easy and achievable.

Ways to Stop Procrastinatin

  • Do the most urgent task first. It would be help to take up the task you are averse to next (remember you have circled it) when you are still fresh and full of energy. Getting this out of the way could make the rest of the task seem easy.
  • Reward yourself for achieving important milestones in your project. This keeps your motivation from flagging. Evaluate your performance periodically. If you are falling behind the deadline, find out why and how you are falling back. Make plans to compensate for lost time and complete your job well within the deadline.
  • Decide on a reasonable number of breaks you can take. Stick to these schedules as far as possible. Remember that distractions are time guzzlers and before you know it; your day will be over. For most people procrastination is not a problem of time management but more a problem of judgement.
  • Surround yourself with high achievers. You will find that their company helps you to achieve more than you normally do. Getting a buddy to work alongside you will also help keep your motivation high.
  • Keep a logbook. Make yourself accountable.
  • Do not worry about failures. You should learn from your failures, they help you improve the way you approach tasks. Your aim right now should be to overcome procrastination.
  • Stop the excuses. Do not permit yourself to make excuses. They are your biggest enemies; you need to identify them as such. Shoot them down right away.

Acting in a timely manner enables you to stay on top of things. Take help if you have to, but the decision to overcome procrastination has to be yours. So go on, get started.


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    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      6 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      The chapter on procrastination in the book WHAT'S YOUR SABOTAGE has these additional points: * Some procrastinators are "action junkies." They thrive on crisis situations and looming deadlines. The solution for them is to get more action in their lives. * Some procrastinators are "Because I don't want to" rebels. Solution: Find constructive, active ways to rebel (The Bill of Rights has some suggestions.) so you don't have to use passive-aggressive procrastination. * Some procrastinators are perfectionists. The prescription for them is to do their best but do it, because a job not done is imperfect, and they'll survive the humiliation of doing whatever less than perfectly. * And some procrastinators are waiting till they feel good about the task. The remedy for them is to acknowledge and accept whatever not so good feeling they have and then to just do the task anyway if it does need doing.

      I have an enneagram 9 pattern of procrastination.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Denise, Thank you:) Yeah, I have seen and read some of your public announcements.. and how they have kept you on track...and the buddy one works so well for me:) I just need small reminders and encouragements and I am on my way.. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent tips here, Sofs. I have to say that the 'announcing to the public' tip is one that I intentionally use and it is very effective. It also helps to do what I have done the past several years: have a 'goal' buddy or someone you are accountable to when you need to finish a project on time.

      Voted up/useful/interesting.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Judi Bee, Thanks for the votes and the comment. I appreciate this greatly. Thanks for taking the time. Have a lovely day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      AliciaC, LOL I can understand you liking the second photo.. :) Thanks for that crisp comment. God Bless!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      CyclingFitness, Thanks for pointing it out the problem in the title.. I noticed it a few hours after it was published and corrected it. I appreciate the comment.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      twinstimes2, Thanks for the read and the comment. I appreciate this very much. Have a wonderful day.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      teaches12345, Thanks for mentioning the video. I chose it just to lighten up the hub... I do appreciate the comment and the vote.. Thank you. God Bless!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      kennynext, Some of us do need these reminders from time to time. I am glad it helped. Have a lovely day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      mwilliams66, Thank you, I appreciate that comment. Have a great day.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Great practical advice and loved the photos too. Very useful.

      Voted up etc.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting, informative and well written hub, sofs - and I love the second photo!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Great hub, to the point whilst being in detail. Daft question but shouldn't there be a space between overcomeProcrastination?

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Great bullet points, sofs! Well written, informative hub! Up and informative!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I enjoyed the read on this hub, what a great topic and so well covered. Your point, It is the gap between intention and action, hits the nail on the head. This gap is the point at which we need to make the jump to "just do it". Loved the video with its bit of humor. Voted way up!

    • kennynext profile image


      6 years ago from Everywhere

      very well wrote and great advice fo all of us

    • mwilliams66 profile image


      6 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      Wow, you hit the nail on the head. Your article is well thought out and very insightful. Voting up.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Prassana, Good to see you after a long time.. I wonder... if that was true 20% of the population would not identify themselves as procrastinators. Thanks for sharing your views. Have a great day!

    • prasonline profile image

      Prasanna Marlin 

      6 years ago from Sri lanka

      Hi Soft,

      After long time

      My idea is that humans have an uncanny ability to understand Overcome Procrastination

      Great hub,voting up

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      learner365, I like that name :) Thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment. Have a great day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Highvoltagewriter.. Thank you for the comment and the bookmark. I appreciate this very much. Have a wonderful day :)

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Klarawieck, Thank you for being the first to comment. I am glad that this did serve as a reminder ... and some of us need it more often.. Have a great day and weekend. :) God Bless!

    • learner365 profile image

      Saadia A 

      6 years ago

      You have excellently covered the issue of procrastination through your this Hub.I really think that all the tips which you have provided are very much helpful especially identifying the major distracting things .

      Great hub,voting up and useful !!!

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 

      6 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Great article and I have bookmarked it and I will reread it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Sophie, you've got another winner here! I need to do my to-do list and get some things done this weekend. My problem is that I get distracted by EVERYTHING! I swear I'm so ADD it's not even funny! Great article! Congrats!


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