Why Do I Procrastinate? Understanding and Overcoming Your Inner Saboteur


Have you ever found yourself putting off important tasks, even though you know they need to be done? If you’re reading this, chances are you struggle with procrastination. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, about 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators1 .

This article is here to help you understand why you procrastinate and provide you with tools to overcome this common struggle. It’s time to stop letting procrastination hold you back from reaching your full potential.

Introduction to Procrastination

Hey there! Have you ever found yourself putting off important tasks until the very last minute? We've all been there. Procrastination is something that affects many of us at some point in our lives. When you procrastinate, you delay tackling tasks that need to be completed, preferring to put them off until another time. This could be anything from studying for an important exam to completing a work project or even just doing household chores.

Procrastination can be a real challenge, and it's something that many people struggle with. According to Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, around 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. This means that they consistently avoid tasks and constantly struggle to meet deadlines.

But why do we procrastinate? What is it about this behavior that makes it so difficult to overcome? In this article, we're going to delve into the world of procrastination to understand why we do it and how we can overcome it.

Reasons You Might Delay Tasks

You might find yourself procrastinating for various reasons. One common reason is the fear of failure. You may put off a task because you're worried that you won't succeed, or that your work won't be perfect. Psychologist Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl explains that "we give in to feel good, but it only makes us feel better in the short term" .

Another reason for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. When a task seems daunting or complex, it's tempting to delay it. "I often procrastinate on big projects because they seem like too much to handle," says Sarah, a college student. "I end up feeling even more overwhelmed later on."

Social psychologist Dr. Fuschia Sirois suggests that perfectionism can also contribute to procrastination. "Perfectionists procrastinate because they believe that if something is important, they have to do it perfectly," she explains 3 .

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The Brain's Role in Procrastination

Your brain plays a significant role in why you procrastinate. One of the key factors is the concept of "temporal discounting," which means that your brain values immediate rewards more than future ones. Dr. Piers Steel, a leading researcher in the field of motivation and procrastination, explains, "We all value the present more than the future, but the more impulsive among us are particularly apt to 'discount the future too much'".

Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control, may not be as active when you procrastinate. This can lead to less self-regulation, making it harder to resist the temptation of instant gratification. As Dr. Tim Pychyl, an expert in the psychology of procrastination, points out, "Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem. When we procrastinate, we are trying to avoid emotions like boredom or anxiety".

Understanding these neurological processes can help you realize that procrastination is not just a matter of laziness or poor time management. It's a complex interplay of emotions, impulsivity, and cognitive processes within your brain.

In the next section, we will explore how you can use this understanding to break the cycle of procrastination and regain control of your actions.

Breaking the Cycle of Procrastination

Now that you understand why you tend to procrastinate, it's time to break that cycle and start getting things done. It's not too late to turn things around and start being more productive.

One way to break the cycle of procrastination is to set specific and achievable goals for yourself. As author Gary Ryan Blair said, "A goal properly set is halfway reached". By setting clear goals, you give yourself something to work towards, making it less likely that you'll procrastinate.

Another way to stop procrastinating is to break your tasks into smaller, manageable parts. When you look at a huge project, it's easy to get overwhelmed and put it off. Author Karen Lamb once said, "A year from now you may wish you had started today". By breaking your tasks into smaller steps, they become less intimidating, and you'll be more likely to get started.

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Tools to Help You Stop Procrastinating

If you find yourself procrastinating often, don't worry—there are several practical tools you can use to help you break the cycle and get things done.

One effective tool is time management techniques. Setting a timer for a specific task can help you focus and create a sense of urgency. As one productivity expert suggests, "I use the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused. I set a timer for 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break. It really helps me stay on track and avoid procrastination".

Another useful tool is creating a to-do list. Writing down tasks can help you visualize what needs to be done and prioritize your activities. As one successful entrepreneur advises, "I make a to-do list every morning. It helps me stay organized and motivated to tackle my tasks one by one".

Utilizing technology can also be beneficial. There are various apps and software designed to boost productivity and keep you on track. Whether it's a time management app, a task organizer, or a website blocker to prevent distractions, technology can be a helpful ally in your battle against procrastination.

Additionally, seeking an accountability partner can provide the support and motivation you need. Having someone to check in with can help keep you accountable and on track with your goals. As one professional shares, "I have a colleague who I check in with regularly. We hold each other accountable and provide encouragement to stay focused and motivated".

Finally, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion can aid in overcoming procrastination. Being mindful of your thoughts and emotions can help you identify the root causes of your procrastination. Additionally, being kind to yourself and acknowledging that everyone struggles with procrastination at times can alleviate the self-imposed pressure, making it easier to get started on tasks.

By incorporating these tools into your daily routine, you can empower yourself to overcome procrastination and achieve your goals.

Building New Habits to Beat Procrastination

Now that you understand the reasons behind your procrastination, it's time to build new habits to overcome it. Remember, breaking old habits and forming new ones takes time and patience. Here are some practical steps to help you beat procrastination and get things done:

  1. Set Clear Goals: When you have a clear goal in mind, it's easier to focus and stay motivated. Break down your tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and set specific deadlines for each one. As author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish."

  2. Prioritize Tasks: As you make your to-do list, prioritize your tasks based on importance and urgency. This can help you stay organized and tackle the most important tasks first. Psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson advises, "Treat yourself as if you were someone that you are responsible for helping."

  3. Use Time Management Techniques: Experiment with different time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique or time blocking, to help you stay focused and productive. Productivity expert Brian Tracy suggests, "Eat that frog! Start with the biggest, most important task first."

  4. Create a Productive Environment: Designate a specific workspace where you can concentrate and minimize distractions. Consider the wise words of author Stephen King, who said, "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."

  5. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself when you slip up. Instead of being self-critical, acknowledge the setback, learn from it, and then refocus on your goals. As author Tara Brach advises, "The boundary to what you can accept is the boundary to your freedom."

A great deal of perseverance is required as you journey from procrastination to productivity. As you work on building new habits, remember that you are not alone in this. Many others have been where you are, and they have successfully overcome their procrastination. Keep pushing through, and you will see the results.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you find that your procrastination is significantly impacting your daily life, causing distress, or hindering your ability to meet your responsibilities, it may be time to seek professional help. You don't have to struggle alone, and there are professionals who can support you in understanding and overcoming your procrastination tendencies.

According to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a leading expert in the study of procrastination, "Procrastination is not just a time management problem, it's an emotion regulation problem." If you find that your procrastination is deeply rooted in emotional issues, seeking help from a therapist or counselor can provide you with valuable support and strategies to address the underlying causes.

When it comes to seeking professional help, it's important to remember that you are not alone. As clinical psychologist Dr. Linda Sapadin emphasizes, "Seeking professional help doesn’t mean that you’re weak or flawed; it means that you’re courageous and smart enough to realize that you can’t do it all on your own."

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your procrastination habits and find it difficult to make positive changes on your own, reaching out to a professional can be a crucial step towards reclaiming control over your life and achieving your goals.


Remember, overcoming procrastination is a journey, not a quick fix. It's about understanding yourself and your habits and making positive changes. As you work on beating procrastination, be patient and kind to yourself.

In the words of motivational speaker Les Brown, "You don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great."

By learning about the brain's role in procrastination and using tools and techniques to help you stop delaying tasks, you are already taking the first step toward a more productive and fulfilling life. Keep applying what you've learned, and don't be afraid to seek professional help if you need it.

Remember, as author Jim Rohn said, "Either you run the day, or the day runs you." It's up to you to take control of your time and your life by overcoming procrastination.

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1Piers Steel, "The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure" (2007)
2Joseph Ferrari, Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done (2010)
3Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, Solving the Procrastination Puzzle (2013)
4Fuschia Sirois, "Procrastination and Stress: Exploring the Role of Perfectionism," Journal of Research in Personality (2014)
5Piers Steel, The Procrastination Equation (2010)
6Tim Pychyl, Solving the Procrastination Puzzle (2013)
7Gary Ryan Blair, Everything Counts: 52 Remarkable Ways to Inspire Excellence and Drive Results (2005)
8Karen Lamb, The Productive Academic Writer (2015)
9Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy (2016)
10Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (2007)
11Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (2015)
12Jay Shetty, Think Like a Monk (2020)
13Ferrari, Joseph R. (2010). Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done. Wiley.
14Sapadin, Linda. (2002). It's About Time! The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them. Penguin.
15Les Brown, Live Your Dreams: Say Yes to Life (1992)
16Jim Rohn, The Art of Exceptional Living (1993)