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Why do we procrastinate and how do we overcome it?

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

Do you struggle with staying on task and completing your to-do list? Do you find that your days are full of things to be done and you never enjoy doing them? Do you ever feel like there’s never enough time in a day for anything?

If the answer to all these questions was yes, then you are a procrastinator and you can’t stop doing it.

Procrastination is a normal part of human behavior, especially when it comes to tackling tasks we don’t like doing or tasks that require self-discipline. Even so, procrastination can hurt our lives, because it steals our attention and saps our enthusiasm. It can also cause us stress and anxiety. That is why in this article we will try to uncover reasons for procrastination, some of its negative impacts on our physical and psychological well-being and how to effectively overcome it.


Research on procrastination

Some extensive research has been made on the topic especially between (1990-2020) in an attempt to understand it better leading to some interesting findings.

A 1991 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that procrastination is linked to self-handicapping, a strategy some people employ to alleviate feelings of guilt and anxiety. Self-handicapping involves setting yourself up for failure so that you can avoid feeling bad about yourself if you don’t succeed. We tend to reinforce the idea that we are incompetent and the road to success requires hard work that we aren’t designed to accomplish, and by putting off work we avoid all the burdens.

More interestingly, a 2002 study in Psychological Bulletin suggested that procrastination is strongly associated with low consciousness and self-discipline, you are more likely to procrastinate if you lack self-awareness and regulation. Research has also found that procrastination is linked to negative traits such as neuroticism and low self-esteem. If you have these traits, you’re more likely to procrastinate because it makes you feel good at the moment.

This was also supported by 2013 research by Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois who found that procrastination is more of the act of short-term mood repair rather than worry about the long-term consequences. This is true because when we procrastinate we have a sense of urgency in delaying our tasks but rarely think of the long-term outcomes of our actions or they are rather of very little importance to us at that moment.

While procrastination can be a frustrating problem there’s a lot of work being done to understand it better, and researchers are making some great progress.


Reasons for procrastination

Most of the reasons for procrastination have to do with more or less the following factors:

  • Social pressures

We can often feel social pressure to do certain things, like have a specific job or lifestyle. This can cause us to feel pressure to fit in and can make us feel as if we’re missing out if we don’t meet those expectations.

  • We want instant gratification

If we want to feel happy and excited about the task ahead of us, we want to be able to reap the benefits of that satisfaction as soon as possible. This is an example of the “more is better” mindset. We want to feel excited about the task, so we don’t want to be patient and take it slow. We want to get everything done as quickly as possible, so when a task involves a constant mental or physical effort the more likely we will put it off.

  • We’re worried about failure

We don’t want to fail at our tasks, so we’re often worried about doing a bad job. This is a huge reason why we procrastinate. It’s also worth noting that anxiety can cause us to worry about failing when we’re supposed to be feeling confident. This is a tricky combination and one that needs to be avoided.

  • Fear of stress

We also don’t want to experience stress, because we associate it with being pressured and pressured tasks. We want to avoid that, so we often procrastinate.

  • We don’t know how

When we don’t know how something is supposed to work, like new software, or if we don’t know how to do a task, like how to write an essay or solve a math problem, we can feel overwhelmed. This is especially true for tasks that feel too big or too small for us. The thought of doing something that is beyond our reach makes us feel inadequate, on the other, hand a task that is too easy feels negligible and unnecessary therefore justifies the act of procrastination.


What happens if we don't stop procrastination?

If you don’t stop procrastinating, you’ll find it harder to reach your goals. You may also experience a negative impact on your physical and mental health, your relationships, and your career.

When you don’t stop procrastinating, it can cause your self-confidence to decrease, which could leave you feeling embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, or resentful. It can also cause you to feel resentful toward others, which can harm your relationships. Additionally, it can lead to depression, which can cause you to withdraw from others.

Additionally, procrastination may result in some severe physical problems like chronic illnesses, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

If you don’t stop procrastinating, you’ll likely miss out on opportunities that could advance your career. It could also prevent you from pursuing your passions, which could leave you feeling unfulfilled.


Solutions to overcome procrastination

Some of the most effective remedies for procrastination involve being aware of your surrounding and being mindful of the reasons leading you to it, so in short your should be strategic in dealing with the problem to better address it. The following solutions have proven to be effective in overcoming procrastination.

  • Schedule your time

Procrastination often happens when we have too much to do all at once, which can be avoided by scheduling our time. We can use a calendar or software to schedule our time, but this is a good start. By allocating a task to a period of time taking we are being more strategic and effective in tackling our tasks.

  • Make it a priority

We often procrastinate because we feel like there’s too much to do and we don’t know where to start. Procrastination can often be traced back to feeling overwhelmed, which can be avoided by keeping our priorities in mind

  • Break down the task

If we don’t know how to complete a task, we’re often prone to procrastinating. This is especially true when we’re trying to do something we’ve never done before, like learn a new skill or accomplish a hard task. Breaking down the task at hand into smaller chunks makes it easier to tackle and creates an enjoyable process.

  • Be patient

When we procrastinate, we want to get everything done as quickly as possible. This is natural, but it can be avoided by resisting the urge and being patient. This can be a tough thing to do when we feel impatient, but it’s worth it. -

  • Avoid social media distraction

We often procrastinate when we’re on our devices because we feel as if we have too much to do. This can be avoided by steering clear of social media sites and apps while we have tasks we need to complete. Simple acts like putting your phone in another room or turning it off release you from the urge of the constant urge to check your social media and divert your attention to the task at hand.


Procrastination is a normal part of human behavior, but one that can be overcome with the right strategies. If you struggle with procrastination, you can use the tips provided in this article to help you prevent procrastination in the future.

Overall, it’s important to know that it is possible to overcome procrastination and get back on track with your life. Procrastination is a challenge that can be overcome with the right strategies.


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