Why Do We Procrastinate and How to Beat it?

Ishita Sharma

March 17, 2021


All of us procrastinate at some point. Procrastination becomes an issue when it becomes a daily habit. Is it just laziness or is there more to procrastination? Read further to get to know more and battle your habit of procrastination. 

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Table of contents:

What is procrastination?

“I am feeling tired, let me do that later.” “I have so much on my plate, let me push this for tomorrow”. 

Do the above statements sound familiar to you? Then this article is for you!
The word “procrastination” is derived from the Latin word pro castinus, which means “for tomorrow”. Procrastination is not a new concept. At some point in life you would have pushed your tasks for tomorrow. That can be due to many factors. Some days you may not feel more motivated enough. Other times, it might be because you don’t want to deal with it and it’s easier to push things to the next day. While procrastinating about something might be helpful to reduce stress and make sound decisions, chronic procrastination has negative effects.

Let’s understand procrastination better. 

Why do we procrastinate?

At first you might say that you are just lazy and have poor time management skills. While your productivity might get affected due to lack of proper time management, procrastination happens more because of other reasons. Here are some reasons why you may be procrastinating:

#1 Stress


You may have a lot of tasks every day from house chores to work pressure. Putting off some tasks for the next day may be helpful to get some free time. This can make you feel less tense. Although it can temporarily be helpful, a continuous pattern of delaying can make things unfavourable for you. 

#2 Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown

Have you ever pushed a conversation for later, even though you knew it was important? Most often, our fear of the unknown; the fear of what will happen in the future may be the reason for procrastinating. 

Worrying about consequences, re-narrating the multiple ways a conversation (or a task) may go, keeps you away from actually using the time to communicate. Fear drives you to avoid doing it because the consequences might be unfavourable (you never know until you try).

#3 Perfection


Yes, the strive for perfection might hold you back. If you delay a task because you haven’t planned everything, or maybe because you don’t know how to start; your need for perfection might play a role. Fear of making mistakes usually makes you procrastinate. The fear keeps you from doing the task because “It’s not that great” and “It doesn’t sound like how I had pictured it”. 

#4 Short-term rewards

Short-term rewards

More often, the task you need to do might benefit you only in the long run. This can be losing weight, getting a promotion or a raise. You are more likely to work on something which will give you short-term happiness and satisfaction than “waste time” on something you might not benefit from right now. That’s why scrolling through social media is more rewarding than working on a project with a deadline. 

#5 Indecisiveness 


Inability to make a decision may keep you from making a choice. Indecisiveness can lead you to linger around with thoughts, but with no solution. 

#6 Mental health issues

Mental health issues

Certain illnesses like depression and disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), may make it difficult for you to complete tasks. 

#7 Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation

Overwhelming emotions like fear, worry and nervousness may be preventing you from pursuing the tasks at hand. 

Which of the reasons are keeping you away from going forward with your task and activities?

Impact of procrastination

Chronic procrastination creates negative effects. It leads you to miss deadlines, reduced performance leading to last-minute panic, receiving negative feedback, and criticism. This can also reduce your motivation in the future to finish tasks on time. Lack of timely decision making can lead to unfavourable outcomes, making things just worse. 

Procrastination brings with itself different emotions like shame and guilt. This makes it difficult to continue pursuing the tasks as those emotions take over you. Sometimes, underlying patterns of irrational thinking like “I should be able to do this perfectly” might cause you to delay the tasks. 

Beating Procrastination

Beating Procrastination

There are many ways to overcome procrastination. Try out different strategies and see which one works for you. 

  • Acknowledge and Accept: The first step towards beating procrastination is to bring it to your awareness that you are indulging in it. Keep a record of the times you prolong any task. 
  • Identify Triggers: Noting your triggers helps you understand the cause of your procrastination. Write your triggers in a note or diary which is accessible for you. 
  • Look Inside: Dive within for answers. Ask yourself, What is making me push this task? Is the reason valid enough? Is there something I am fearful of? Questioning and introspection can help you find the reasons for the delays. 
  • Cut it short: Large and big tasks can be overwhelming. Divide your tasks into smaller bits, which can be done in less than half an hour. Use Pareto technique to prioritize and manage your workload.  
  • Get back to reality: Tomorrow never comes when it’s about completing a long due boring work. Focus on what you can do today. Use a “Under 10 minutes” strategy and see what you can finish within that time. 
  • Make it fun: Use your creative juice and find a way to make your work interesting. Have chores to finish? Make an interesting game out of it. 
  • Accountability: Work best under pressure? Ask someone to hold you accountable to ensure you get the work by the deadline. Ask your friend to follow up on you on the set deadline. You can mutually decide the consequences you will face if you fail to adhere to the timeline to increase the likelihood of task completion. 

Which ones are you going to try today? 

No one wants to procrastinate, but we all end up doing it. Chronic procrastination leads to guilt, lowered self-esteem, and affects your productivity. Procrastination is like throwing your clothes on a chair and later realising the pile is now a mountain. To reduce the mountain, you need to sort out the pile and take things one at a time. The way to beat procrastination is to just do it

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. I have a busy routine which makes it difficult to complete tasks and leads me to procrastinate. How do I overcome this?

A. Hectic routine can lead you to push tasks for the next day. Try seeing how you can break down the task and complete one aspect of it within 10 minutes. This will give you a sense of accomplishment for completing a bit of the tasks.

Q. How do I regulate my emotions which cause me to delay?

A. When something is giving rise to negative emotions, it makes you push the task for ‘later’. Instead of using unhealthy ways of coping with it like emotional eating, surfing social media, try taking breaks, take a short walk outside, etc. This may help you refresh your mind and also calm your emotions.

Q. How do I overcome laziness which makes me procrastinate?

A. Laziness is a common reason we give to ourselves when we procrastinate. Ask yourself: What is it that is making me lazy? Am I tired? Is the task boring? Do I not enjoy doing it and hence I delay it? Working with an expert can help you dive deeper and work on the root of your procrastination. 

About the Author

Ishita Sharma holds a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore. As a counselor, she uses eclectic approaches to provide support and gently guide her clients to their inward journey. According to Ishita, "What matters is how you engage with your NOW". She believes that adopting holistic wellness habits is an essential step for self-growth and leading a content life. She loves to help her clients connect with themselves and appreciate their progress.

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