Procrastination: Why We Do It And How Can We Stop?

Procrastination: Why We Do It And How Can We Stop?

The term 'procrastinating' is a term many of us are familiar with. Procrastination occurs when you delay and put off tasks until the last minute or past their deadline (Cherry, 2022). We all procrastinate occasionally, even when it comes to mundane tasks such as tidying up the bedroom or sorting through old files. Often, procrastination occurs when we face bigger tasks that require more time, energy and commitment, as these tasks put us at more risk of failing. Although most procrastinate at some point or another, it usually does not interfere with a person's quality of life. If you constantly procrastinate and regret it, you could be caught in a negative cycle.

Delaying tasks, whether at home or in the workplace, can lead to self-criticism. However, it is crucial to understand that procrastination may indicate a deeper underlying issue rather than a personal fault. It is essential to acknowledge that procrastination is driven by various factors, and there are methods to overcome it.

What causes procrastination?

Procrastination is often dismissed as mere laziness or poor time management skills. However, it could be a type of avoidance that signals a deeper issue that's hindering our ability to complete tasks. It is crucial to examine what we're avoiding and why we're doing so.

Do note that some people may struggle with procrastination due to reasons that are out of their control. For example, procrastination is a common behaviour in people who are neurodivergent or have ADHD. Hence, the reasons below are not exhaustive and may not apply to people who are neurodivergent.

1. Fear and anxiety

One of the most common reasons for procrastinating is out of fear and anxiety. For example, we might delay vital medical tests due to our fear of receiving a poor diagnosis. The more anxiety we face when it comes to a task, the more likely we put it off until later. This increases our stress levels, and in some cases like putting off medical tests, it can also affect our physical health.

We may also procrastinate important work tasks due to the fear of underperforming, which may result in unwanted harsh criticism. In these situations, it may be helpful to keep in mind the things to remember when dealing with anxiety at work.

2. Distraction

Distractions can hinder our ability to concentrate on a task in our surroundings. The temptation of social media, for instance, can lure us away from unpleasant duties like paying bills, which many of us can identify with.

3. Lack of confidence in your abilities

When individuals lack confidence in their abilities to complete a task, they often tend to shy away from it. This serves as a protective measure for their self-esteem, as it allows them to attribute any failure to not having given their best effort. In situations where one's self-efficacy is low, there is a higher probability of either not initiating a task or not following through with it.

How does procrastination affect us?

Only when procrastination turns into a persistent habit and starts to negatively affect a person's daily life does it become a severe problem. At this point, it is not merely a question of lacking good time management skills; rather, it becomes an integral part of their lifestyle.

For example, they may frequently miss bill payments, leave significant projects until the last minute, delay gift shopping until the day before a birthday, and even file their income tax returns late.

Unfortunately, such procrastination can seriously harm various aspects of a person's life, including their mental health, social and professional life, as well as their financial stability.

Strategies to overcome procrastination

There are several strategies you can try to combat procrastination and start getting things done on time. Here are some exercises you can try:

1. Break down tasks

It is easier and more manageable to accomplish a complex task when it is broken down into smaller, intermediate steps. Establish mini-deadlines for these steps so they seem less intimidating and more attainable.

2. Reduce distraction

Identify your biggest distractions and put them away, whether it is social media or TV shows, adjust your working environment to reduce as many distractions as possible. For example, you can put your phone away or do your work at a conducive time and place (Chang, 2021).

3. Recognise the warning signs

Be mindful of any inclinations to procrastinate and make a conscious effort to avoid them. When thoughts of procrastination arise, make a deliberate attempt to work on your task at hand for a few minutes.

4. Reward yourself for completing tasks

Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment and treat yourself to something enjoyable when you complete a task on your to-do list within the allotted time. This will motivate you to complete even the smallest of tasks. For example, you can buy yourself a cup of coffee after completing a certain work task as a form of reward.


Procrastination is a common issue faced by many individuals, and it can lead to negative consequences that affect various aspects of their lives. However, it is essential to understand that procrastination is not merely a personal flaw but can signal a deeper underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Seeking adult counselling in Singapore can help individuals identify and overcome the root causes of procrastination. Couple therapy can also be helpful for individuals struggling with procrastination if the underlying issue involves a relationship dynamic.

Moreover, adopting strategies such as breaking down tasks, reducing distractions, recognising warning signs and rewarding oneself for completing tasks can help individuals combat procrastination and lead a more productive and fulfilling life.


Cherry, K. (2022). What Is Procrastination?

McLean Hospital. (2022). Why you put things off until the last minute. The Real Reason You're Procrastinating

Chang, J. (2021). How to Stop Procrastinating.