Four Reasons Why We Procrastinate

by Henrik Edberg

4 Reasons Why We Fall Into the Trap of Procrastination
Image by szlea (license).

Note: This is a guest post by David B. Bohl of SlowdownFAST.

The biggest obstacle to success and fulfillment for most people seems to be procrastination. Likewise, a major component of effective time management is avoiding procrastination.

Avoiding procrastination is also crucial if we hope to realize our dreams. This must be a conscious effort, because procrastination is so easy to engage in, yet so difficult to overcome. We must keep our goals in mind and maintain our desire to reach those goals, so that the temptation to put off our responsibilities until later does not eclipse our desire to succeed.

There are many reasons why we procrastinate – and we all do it. Procrastination, though, means sure death to reaching your goals.

1. Fear of Failure.

Many people put off doing things because they are afraid of failing. If they only speak of their hopes and dreams, but make no firm effort towards achieving their goal, they cannot fail.

If, however, people take action towards reaching their goals yet fail to realize them, they fear they will be seen by others as failures.

Even if a goal is not reached, the act of trying is reward in itself. Great learning is derived from experience, which can only be attained through action. Also, most people recognize a valiant effort and applaud it regardless of the outcome. The act of trying is an act of bravery. The act of avoidance is paramount to cowardice. Do not fall into the trap of using fear as a reason to procrastinate.

2. Feeling Overwhelmed.

Many times we look at a goal and feel that there is too much that needs to be done in order to accomplish it. The sense of being overwhelmed paralyzes us, preventing us from taking even the first step towards achieving our goal.

For every goal you have in life, break it down into individual parts. Determine what actions each individual part needs in order to be successful. If looking at the big picture makes you feel overwhelmed, look at the tiny steps along the way instead. Tackle them one by one, without worrying about the next one. Forge ahead with each individual victory, and before you know it you will have found success.

3. Human Nature.

We naturally tend to avoid that which causes us hardship or pain, and gravitate towards that which is easy or gives us pleasure. In order to avoid procrastination due to the unappealing or difficult nature of a task, commit to complete the most unpleasant jobs first. Dive in with a can-do attitude, and realize that the sooner you start and the harder you work, the sooner it will be over. Tackling the most difficult responsibilities first paves the way for smoother sailing down the road.

4. Perspective.

If we view a task as being difficult, then that is exactly what it will be for us. Rather than dreading a given assignment, view it as an opportunity to excel. If you are being asked to complete a research assignment, view it as the chance to gain new knowledge and expand your mental boundaries. By diving into a project with enthusiasm, deriving it wherever it can be found, you can turn a chore into pleasure. Try changing your perspective and see if it helps fan the flames of enthusiasm.

There has been much talk throughout history about the destructive nature of procrastination. One of the best ways to view it is that we do not know what fate tomorrow will bring us, so we are best off experiencing everything we can today.

Another irony of procrastination is that so many of us complain about not having enough time, yet spend so much time sitting idly, dreading the work that awaits us. If we just dug our hands in and got started, there likely would be more time found in the day, and we would accomplish a great deal more.

If you find you are having difficulty achieving your goals, take a look at the steps you must take to achieve success and ask yourself if you have fallen into the dark pit of procrastination. Examine what your own reasons for procrastinating are, then vow to yourself that you will not let it kill off your hopes and dreams.

David B. Bohl writes about living your vision at his own blog: SlowdownFAST. If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, or read one of his most popular articles, Conflicting Desires: Knowing That We Have Enough vs. Always Wanting to Better Ourselves.

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{ 18 comments }

Waladex June 3, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I would personnally add “because the task we are supposed to do is just boring !”. Right now, I would need to study for my exams, but reading my feed and discovering new blogs is soooo much more interesting !

John Leonard June 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm

I would have read the whole article, but I was afraid of failing to understand it… :)

I suffer greatly from procrastination, and these tips are a step toward fixing the problem, so thanks very much! I have read an awful lot of content about how to stop procrastination but the hardest part is just STARTING TO DO SOMETHING other than putting stuff off. that, for me, is the hardest part. I’m great at coming up with excuses to not do work, rather than just get on and do it.
Thanks!

Glen Allsopp June 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Another big reason in my opinion is because people are caught in wanting to do something else so much that they just don’t bother.

Great guest post :)

Harmonic Wealth Fan! June 3, 2008 at 8:54 pm

TOTALLY! This completely reminds me of something a friend just shared with me. She had recently read Harmonic Wealth by James Ray and showed me a section because she thought it reminded her of me. That is how it all began. (lol!)

James Ray said, “If your not growing, you’re dying.” Six simple words that I really needed to hear. I guess it was because I was complaining to my friend that I just wasn’t feeling stimulated enough. It wasn’t as if I was doing anything “bad” in my life, so I was not sure why I was not feeling right. After learning this idea, I realized that “staying at even par” is not enough. That bad feeling was because by not growing, I was staying in the same place, just plodding along towards my death in a way. Doing nothing has negative consequences. But if I was to start growing, I would be moving my life forward, expanding it into something much more exciting! That’s what living is all about.

After I finished reading Harmonic Wealth, I realized I needed to commit myself to a lifetime of learning – it did not end when I threw my graduation cap in the air. Check it out for yourself… (Link) By the way, the Spanish classes I singed up for are going great :)

Here’s the link to the website where I bought the book: harmonicwealth.com/read

Marc and Angel Hack Life June 3, 2008 at 9:31 pm

Great article!

For me, procrastination boils down to one primary evil: distractions! Distractions are my productivity killer.

Also, your first point on the fear of failure is spot on. Getting over this fear, however, is much easier said than done.

The Masked Millionaire June 4, 2008 at 12:29 am

I think that you are right. Especially when it comes down to reason #2.

I always find it helpful to break down all tasks that need to be accomplished into their very smallest components. That way no one thing seems too large to tackle.

Well thought out article. I liked it a lot.

Live From Las Vegas
The Masked Millionaire

Loraleigh Vance June 4, 2008 at 2:43 am

Yup, you’re absolutely right.

Those reasons are exactly why I put off doing things all the time – like writing a blog.

But once I overcame them and, for example, started my blog up, I felt so empowered!

I’ve actually been known to say “What took me so long!”

Great post!

Trey June 4, 2008 at 9:24 am

That was one of the best things I have ever read. I have been going through this for so long that I wonder if I need professional help. I know what is best for me and I am great at giving others advice, but when faced with what I should do and what would waste more time, I purposely avoid responsibility. I really wish I could get a handle on this because I know of many opportunities that may have passed me by. It is definitely some kind of fear. Maybe success will make me lonely? Maybe I am afraid of turning into a robot, maybe I the future scares me and I feel that I should secure myself rather than dive into uncharted territory. I can come up with these things all day. In the end I wish I was more brave, better organized, and more optimistic about the future.

Thank you for your article and a forum to to vent and explore my reasoning.

-Trey

Rick June 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I find the fear of failure a strong harbinger of doom. Especially when a new project is being undertaken. It doesn’t matter how much planning goes into the venture. A fear of failure keeps the project on the ground. It can be a very hard obstacle to overcome.

Matt @ Face Your Fork June 4, 2008 at 8:48 pm

I found one of the reasons I procrastinate (in fact, the top reason I procrastinate!) is not having a good enough reason to do a task. If I think something is outright inane to do, why would I want to waste my time on it?

I have pretty good self-discipline to do what I need to get done every day, but I notice when I start putting off specific tasks, it’s my mind’s way of telling me “this might not be exactly what you need to be doing, why not take another look at it?” :P

Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. June 5, 2008 at 5:40 am

I found myself engaging in deep procrastination in starting a new endeavor once. I realized after a while that it was because my heart wasn’t in it. Once I gave myself permission to drop that endeavor and find one I could enjoy, I proceeded with great enthusiasm and gratification.

Sometimes procrastination indicates you’re headed in the wrong direction.

Shanel Yang June 5, 2008 at 8:28 am

Great post! Trey and Rick – I feel for you. Your comments remind me a lot of the terrible feelings I used to have before I finally overcame my own debilitating procrastination issues that began when I was in junior high school and lasted all the way through college—until I absolutely had to put a stop to it to survive law school. I wrote about how I did it in my article “Get a Handle on Procrastination” and my summary of the great self help book “Eat That Frog!” on my blog ShanelYang.com – Easy Steps to Success. The trick is to understand why you procrastinate, to calm your fears by addressing them head on, execute a plan for completion, then get on with it almost before the fears have a chance to overwhelm you. The cool thing is that, once you start doing this, the amazing sense of relief and accomplishment is so addictively habit-forming that you’ll actually want to jump right to the next big task!

Thomas June 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Feeling Overwhelmed – i can absolutely relate to this. I had a phase in my life where I had big goals (still have) but all was just too much. It is hard to set the focus on which goals to concentrate because you want them all.

Once I realised this I started breaking the goals down still leaving big goals out there, but have them in chewable junks. Get those small succeesses happening and you reach the big ones by default.

mighty morgan June 5, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Procrastination happens to be the biggest defect within my character that I deal with on a daily basis. I have found that it goes much deeper then fear of failure, human nature or feeling overwhelmed…for me it goes much further back to a place in time where I developed the idea that I did not want to be noticed or recognized at any costs….I wanted no recognition good or bad because I felt unworthy of being noticed. This idea has warped itself through the years, causing much self inflicted pain. My solution..stay focused, focused, focused and then get even more focused, distractions come from many different places and often beg me to live out the old ideas and beliefs that anything I do is not worthy of recognition…it’s a process of understanding where these traits spring from and the applying the best methods to overcome them :)

Ivy June 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Do you think ‘a fear of success’ could also be up there…?

Ann at One Bag Nation June 6, 2008 at 6:39 am

I just wrote a post about procrastination today, a terrible habit that has plagued me for as long as I can remember.

What I’m learning is that the “putting off” of whatever is unpleasant, boring, tedious, etc. gives sweet – but brief – relief, and the anxiety and guilt of the “undone” come back with a vengeance.

I really enjoyed The NOW Habit by Neil Fiore; it has helped me make some progress.

kidpieces June 17, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Great post! I’ll print this up and put on my studying wall LOL!

amar June 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

its a good article,it impressed me a lot

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