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What is procrastination and how to stop it

Read on, take your first steps towards learning how to stop procrastinating

Read on, take your first steps towards learning how to stop procrastinating

Call it a habit, call it a disease, call it a state of mind or call it a behavioral deficiency. Call it what you want, but you cannot deny the damaging effect of procrastination in your life. Here's a look at what is this deadly word all about, its causes and how you can help yourself and bring this habit to a complete stop.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of putting off tasks that don't seem important, for a later time or date. Psychologists, and psychology in general, often associate procrastination with anxiety or the inability to start the task on hand. It is linked with a variety of behavioral and mental elements that seem to cause and trigger procrastination in daily lives. On the other hand, realists and self proclaimed management gurus, simply term procrastination as the act of being lazy or having a lack of ambition in life. In plain English, procrastination simply means the act of ignoring a task or a decision back to a later time or date.

Causes of procrastination

The causes of procrastination can be mental and physical. In other words, psychological or physiological. There is no direct answer when it comes to digging out the root cause because procrastination itself, is a very individualistic behavior that is governed by individual circumstances.

Mental/Psychological causes of procrastination

1) Laziness / Boredom

One of the most common psychological factors that causes procrastination is the state of feeling lazy and bored. "Oh I don't feel like doing it right now. I'll do it tomorrow" or "I don't feel like studying today. I'll start tomorrow" are lines that many of us may have heard, or even used, at some point in our lives. This is nothing but the act of procrastinating a task for a later date, or in other word, being lazy.

2) Lack of self confidence

The lack of self confidence is a major cause for procrastination because it inhibits people from being confident enough to start a task. The simple feeling and thought of "I don't think I will be able to do this" can lead to procrastination.

3) Anxiety

When an impending task or a decision makes people uneasy, worried or fearful, procrastination is often the result. In other words, it is general human tendency to avoid doing a task if the very thought of it results in anxiety. It is a natural mental reflex to ignore the task until it is absolutely urgent.

4) Lack of ambition

Procrastination is often the result of the lack or urge in a person's mental psyche. Consider a simple example when there is a task of building a piece of machinery. An individual may have the best of tools, the best of resources and the best of teams. But if that individual lacks the ambition and the urge to do it, the entire project may hit a dead end.

5) Lack of motivation

Unlike lack of ambition, there may be cases where people in fact, have the urge and wish to do a task. However they may low on the important psychological aspects of motivation and inspiration. Let's consider the same example used in the above point. Here, the person does have the urge and wish to do the project. But what is missing is the little push and mental boost in the form of motivation or inspiration that is required to get the ball rolling.

Physical/Physiological causes of procrastination

1) Physical tiredness

Physical tiredness, whether it is because of over exertion, lack of sleep or simply too much running around, can often be a major physiological cause of procrastination. An individual may have won the mental battle against, procrastination, but their body may be unable to respond to the needs of the situation due to tiredness.

2) Distractions

Distractions like watching TV, surfing the internet, phone calls, emails, hallway chit chats, gossiping, wandering and many more such distractions can often be some of the key causes of procrastination.

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3) Addictions

Addictions, whether it is to illegal or legal substances can cause procrastination. Too many smoking breaks, too many coffees, too much eating and other such addictions can chop away on vital time in a work or home environment. Illicit addictions such as drugs are also a cause of procrastination because the addiction gets priority over tasks at hand.

4) Physical stress

There may be cases when an individual is overburdened with too many tasks in his/her daily life which is causing physical stress. Also known as burn out, this can happen to the best of us. Procrastination can be one of the results of such a situation.

5) Physical incapacity

Probably one of the most understandable causes of procrastination, there may be cases where a person lacks the physical ability to do a task or take a decision. No, this does not mean physical disability. It simply means that the person lacks the required physical strength and stamina required to finish the task at hand. For example, a swimmer may procrastinate practicing multiple laps of an Olympics sized swimming pool because he/she may yet have to develop the stamina required to lap the pool over and over.

Environmental causes of procrastination

1) Lack of resources

A genuine environmental cause of procrastination may be the lack of resources to engage into a particular task. This applies especially to a work environment where a manager may be unable to take a decision simply because he/she is understaffed.

2) Other tasks receiving higher priorities

Ask any working mother why she keeps procrastinating some of the tasks at hand and she will reply "I have other priorities in life". Why working mothers, all of us including bosses, managers and employees have priorities to deal with that may lead to procrastination.

3) Being refrained from doing a task

This is an extreme situation wherein environmental, personal or professional pressure may be put upon a person and that individual may be forced to procrastinate a certain task.

How to stop procrastinating

Now for the bit we have all been waiting for. Let's find answer to the question, how to stop procrastinating.

1) Make a to-do list

A to-do list in the form of sticky notes, diaries, reminders, computer backgrounds or calendars is your best friend when it comes to learning how to stop procrastinating. Update that list regularly and make sure you place it strategically at a place where you are likely to see throughout the day. The mere purpose of this list is to act as a constant reminder of the tasks at hand.

2) Identify and eliminate your distractions

We talked about distractions as one of the major physiological causes of procrastination. What is your distraction? Find it, and work towards eliminating that distraction from the time when you want to focus on work, or simply getting things done. This is one of the most effective way to stop procrastinating and finding more time on a daily basis to achieve what you've woken up to achieve.

3) Now is the best time

If "I wonder what the best time to do this is" is the first thought that comes to your mind when you've given a task, it's time you trained your mind to reply to this thought by saying "Now". The very thought of allocating a suitable time to even the most minuscule of tasks or decisions gives birth the act of procrastination. So remember, the best time to do anything, is now.

4) Cut out the vices or addictions

Do you have vices or addictions like smoking, coffee, drinking, drugs that take up a lot of your time and also weaken your mental stance against procrastination? If you do, you really don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that you need to stop indulging into these vices to stop procrastinating, do you?

5) Set reasonable goals

Unless you consider yourself to be superman or superwoman, setting reasonable goals is a great way to start your fight against procrastination. Goals that seem unachievable may give rise to the thought of "Oh this seems too tough or too hard to accomplish", resulting in the deadly sin we are trying to cure.

6) Ask for help

If you think that procrastination is taking over your life, you can ask a friend, relative or family member to help you out. Ask them to give you a wakeup call every time they see you wandering into procrastination land. A constant reminder from other people can serve as a useful tool and help you stop procrastinating.

7) Punish yourself for procrastinating

Punishing yourself can be as simple as "I'm not going to watch my favorite show because I deliberately procrastinated a task that should have been completed today". The human psyche works wonders when there is the thought of being punished or penalized for a shortcoming. You can stop procrastinating by imposing such penalties on yourself.

8) Perfectionism vs. Procrastination: Don't cross the line

The thought of doing something with perfection, as good as it sounds, may hinder your ability to actually doing it, leading to procrastination. It's because your attitude towards being a perfectionist may render the task at hand more difficult than it should really be. If you are a perfectionist, and want to learn to stop procrastinating, it's better to first learn to let go of the perfectionist attitude where it really doesn't matter.

9) Set your priorities straight and focus

Life is all about setting your priorities right. Mastering the act of allocating a certain level of importance to each task that you are faced with, is not easy. However, with practice and after a few falls, you will soon realize how important this is a tool against inadvertently procrastinating something important. To top this ability off, make sure you focus all your energies to the task on hand rather than worrying about what you've just categorized as a lower priority.

10) Live healthy

We talked about physical stress, tiredness and weakness as causes of procrastination. To beat this, live a healthy lifestyle. Although this sounds too generic, it goes a long way in helping you to stop procrastinating. Start by getting ample rest, which means 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Then move on to figuring out a healthy diet for yourself and for your family. No, this is not about being a health freak or having a toned body. Don't start counting the calories to the last kj and don't sweat it out if you've had a big night out and an early next morning, once in a while. Just live and feel healthy.


princesswithapen (author) on January 04, 2012:


Dirty dishes, haha! Thanks for your words of appreciation and a comment that brought a smile to the face.


JANINAMARIE from New York on December 31, 2011:

This is truly one of the best articles on procrastination I have every read! It all rings so the distractions....I really should get to those dirty dishes...

princesswithapen (author) on November 01, 2011:

Hi dua

Firstly, I'm glad you could relate to what has been written. And the fact that you have acknowledge this in your routine means you've won half the battle.

A task list is a great place to start. Make a to-do list for yourself and keep ticking things off as you finish them. Stick to your deadlines. Over time, you will be on top of things and won't need the task list at all.

Beating procrastination is not an overnight process. It is a tough journey which will only make your a stronger person. You are already poised well to win this battle because you seem to be adamant and willing to kick the habit. Good luck and I'm glad you found this article helpful!

Thanks for reading and commenting.


princesswithapen (author) on November 01, 2011:

Hi Sunshine625

It's great that you always plan ahead and that's the way it should be. You are a lucky woman to have a strong mindset and I'm sure we all can take inspiration from your line "....the brain never rests!"

I wish there was a button to vote up your comment.


princesswithapen (author) on November 01, 2011:


Your comment brings a smile to the face, Denise!

Humor in hindsight, should we say?


dua on November 01, 2011:

fab article..

iam a 9th class student..!!:) n i have found that all the syptoms which u have mentioned regarding procrastination article totally resembles me!!i really need someones help to overcome from dis habit iam always trying to do work on time but despite of that result is always coming bad..

now what should i do???:(

should i prepare a list of tasks for everyday??

plzzzz help me.. i need help..

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on November 01, 2011:

Luckily I've never been much of a procrastinator ... I'm always planning ahead, that's worse at times since the brain never rests! Oh wait, do many of to-do lists sitting around collecting dust count?! :) GREAT hub!!! Voted UP!!

@Denise LOL

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 01, 2011:

Hi princesswithapen: you misread my humor. I obviously have already read the article when I left the comment that I would read it later. My poor attempt at humor poking fun at being a procrastinator. LOL

princesswithapen (author) on October 30, 2011:

Hi Denise

We all have our battles, whether big or small with procrastination. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you like this hub when you get around to reading it.


Denise Handlon from North Carolina on October 26, 2011:

Hi Princesswithapen-welcome to Hubpages. I have a long standing procrastination problem myself in certain areas of my life so, the title of your hub caught my eye and the list of 'causes' and 'to do's' intrigued me.

I'll read your article later...

princesswithapen (author) on October 19, 2011:


You're right. Not enough stress can be laid on the importance of doing things 'now' when it comes to dealing with procrastination. The key is to look past all the 'what ifs' and 'whats a better time' questions and simply start doing things. I'm glad you liked these tips!


Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on October 19, 2011:

Excellent tips! All of them are helpful, but I've found that the 'now is the best time' approach is best. Even to-do lists can be reshuffled, but if one just DOES something right away, there's no escape!

princesswithapen (author) on October 15, 2011:

Hi Eiddwen

Thanks for leaving your feedback and I'm glad you liked this hub!

Thanks for stopping by, much appreciated.


princesswithapen (author) on October 15, 2011:

Hi Peanutritious

Procrastination can definitely be overcome. In fact, most successful people will tell you that they were the biggest procrastinators until they realized the ugly side of this habit. I hope this helps and you too, can soon say goodbye to this habit.


Eiddwen from Wales on October 15, 2011:

A great hub and so very cleverly written.

Thank you for sharing an d here's to sharing many more.

Take care and have a great day.


Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on October 15, 2011:

Excellent hub! This is me all over. I plan to do so many things then a week later, none of them have been done! I like the practical style of this hub. It makes you feel that procrastination can be overcome. Here's hoping!

princesswithapen (author) on October 14, 2011:

Hi randomcreative

I'm glad you liked the hub. It is always easier to relate to a certain point if it is broken down and explained in a crisp manner.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


princesswithapen (author) on October 14, 2011:


Your compliments make me feel very humble. I reckon you should still write a hub about it because I'm sure the community can benefit from a hub about procrastination from a coaches' point of view. I too, believe that procrastination in all forms can be damaging to the overall performance and success of any individual. Whether it is at work, home or personal growth and development. The very thought of "I'll do it later" is a killer. Many great ideas can be snubbed and forgotten because of procrastinating. And I think every writer and blogger must avoid putting off writing about an idea. I have a small sticky note which says "If you feel like writing it, now is the time to write it. For all you know, it may be the next viral blog on the internet!"

Thanks for your awesome comment, Husky.


princesswithapen (author) on October 14, 2011:


The anxiety and anticipation of a confrontation is a major put off. In a perfect world everyone would be understanding and do their jobs well. A great way to deal with such a situation is to just go out there and deal with it. Because once we figure out how to deal with the stress of a confronting situation, it won't feel like stress. It will just be another thing we've to deal with.


Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 14, 2011:

Great topic for a hub! I love the way you broke everything down.

Husky1970 on October 14, 2011:

Well, I have been meaning to write a hub on procrastination for some time now. Just never got around to it. Must have been the result of several of the reasons you have so eloquently listed in this hub.

I have never, ever heard of a single thing about procrastination that is good. However, I do believe that there is a first time for everything. The one positive that came from me procrastinating and never getting around to writing a hub about procrastination is that princesswithapen wrote one first. Of course, hers is thorough, extremely useful, right on target, and just plain awesome. Mine would have paled in comparison. Now the whole hubpages community can gain from your words of advice.

I will now promise not to procrastinate tonight and will write a very short hub about Oreos and Nutter Butters.

Great hub. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

FloraBreenRobison on October 14, 2011:

I find I'm *most likely* to procrastinate when the task is a stressful one-such as confronting someone about an issue that needs to be confronted but will likely end in an argument or trying to figure out how to pay my bills on a limited budget. etc.

princesswithapen (author) on October 14, 2011:


You are definitely not alone. After laziness, anxiety of doing a task is often one of the common causes of procrastination. Thankfully, you have the best help you can get, to give you a tap on the shoulder to bring you back to reality. I'm glad you could relate to these points.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


kimberly Crocker from Southern New Hampshire on October 14, 2011:

i am the queen of procrastination, i feel like most of the issues pertaining to procrastination is mostly my mental ability to get over the anxiety of a particular task. My mother is very good at giving me a much needed " slap back in to reality " point of view! Very relatable, and helpful article!

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