Procrastination – What Might Be Causing It And How To Overcome It

How to get over procrastination

Ahhhh procrastination.  I’m yet to meet someone who hasn’t procrastinated at some point in their lives.  It’s a fairly normal response to tasks we find mundane. 

However, it can be an indication of more than simple avoidance or a lack of time management skills.  Sometimes we procrastinate as a way to keep ourselves safe.

Safe from what you might wonder?  Safe from failing, being judged, being rejected, disappointing others, not getting a task exactly right, and even safe from success. 

I’ll explain by way of example:  You have a conversation with your boss about the company implementing a workplace wellness program.  She loves the idea and asks you to submit a proposal.  Weeks go by and you don’t quite understand why, but you just can’t seem to complete the document for her perusal.  Here are some possible fears that may be underlying your avoidance of completing the task:

How to stop avoiding tasks

You’ve been dreaming about this wellness program for ages.  You know the benefits it will bring and if your proposal is unsuccessful you’ll be hugely disappointed.  You’ll also feel like you’ve let your colleagues down.

If your proposal gets approved you’re going to have to deliver on what you’ve promised.  Eek!  You’ll have to find the right service providers and get your colleagues signed up.  You’re worried that you may not have the time or capacity for all this extra work.

Of course, as anyone who has ever procrastinated for an unreasonably long time knows, putting off tasks we need to do leads to nothing but stress.  The job at hand sits at the back of our mind taking up mental space and ultimately causes us to feel anxious.  The more anxious we feel, the less likely we are to do the task! 

The irony is that when we do finally get around to doing the dreaded activity, it’s usually so much easier than we imagined and we wonder why we put it off in the first place!  Oh and the relief…. the relief is sweet.

Okay so we understand procrastination is a protective mechanism.  We get that avoidance causes unnecessary mind clutter and stress.  So what can we do about it?


 1.  Identify the fear behind the procrastination.  Enquiry of this kind can take practice, but once you’ve built your muscle of self-awareness it will only take a few minutes to pinpoint what’s underlying your avoidance.

2.  Think about how completing the task will serve you.  What will the benefits be and how will you feel (relieved, proud of yourself, etc.)?

3.  Start small, but start!  Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin doing the task.  You might find when your timer goes off you’re happy to continue.  Or you may have to set a timer for 10 minutes across several days or weeks.  The end result will be the same – the job at hand will get done!

What success feels like

Understanding what lies behind your procrastination will help you move beyond it.  Connecting to the rewarding feelings that will come when the activity is complete can be a brilliant motivator!  However, action will still be required.  If this is the part where you come unstuck, consider asking a friend or family member to be your accountability buddy.  This works well if you both have a project you want to complete.  The two of you can set up a weekly time to check in with one another’s progress, offer encouragement and hold each other answerable to the commitments you’ve made.

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