How incredibly frustrating is it, when the thing you were excited and over the moon for just a short time ago, you now find yourself completely avoiding? For no apparent reason! This can be a truly baffling experience. Its one thing if its something you loathe — but what if its something you love doing, or a goal that you really want to accomplish? If you’re wondering how to stop procrastinating, you’ll want to read this.
No, you’re not a bad person — or lazy. There are so many other factors at work here. Getting to the bottom of your procrastination is not hard. But you will need to take a look at what’s going on beneath the surface.
I’m here to help you with that! Read on to find out what your specific reason for procrastination is — and how to overcome it so you can actually do what you want.
What Is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often unnecessarily, despite knowing that the delay may lead to negative consequences.
Its basically avoiding or putting off things that you know you need to do — even WANT to do — which in return could effect your emotions, stress levels, and cause disfunction in your life.
The paradox of procrastinating something you genuinely desire to do, can be the most unsettling of all. Its not immediately apparent why you’re avoiding this thing. Yet, there you go again, scrolling social media, talking on the phone with a friend, even doing the dishes — all to avoid this thing that you were so excited to do.
Understanding Your Procrastination
There are sooo many reasons why you might be procrastinating. Not to mention all the unique combinations of reasons. I found a helpful article with a long list of possible reasons here.
However, whatever your unique reason is, it’s completely related to your subconscious programming. That’s why sometimes you don’t even know what your problem is — because its deep in your unconscious mind.
Before the age of 7 or 8, we are highly susceptible to influence from the people in our environment, and this is when we form the beliefs of how we view ourselves related to the world. Yes, there can be experiences after this age that can program our paradigm — such as a teacher who embarrassed you in front of the entire class, or a failed business venture, and so on. But even those experiences you can usually trace back further, to those very early years.
Reasons You Procrastinate
Keeping in mind that your subconscious programming determines what you believe, check out these possible reasons for your procrastination.
While you read through, if any of these resonate, try to consider where they may have stemmed from. Was there a family member who put alot of pressure on you to be perfect? Did something happen that made you afraid of the unknown or of trying new things? Was there a person in your life who demonstrated overwhelm and stress over the things they did?
1. Fear of Failure
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to live up to the expectations of those around you, fear of failure may be your reason for procrastinating.
By procrastinating, you’re able to protect yourself from the embarrassment, judgement, and criticism that you believe would come as a result of you failing in front of the people that matter in your life. Its a way to escape shame.
If this is your reason, here are some possible root causes:
- Expectations from authority figures
- Sibling rivalry and comparison
- Pressure from parents
- Punishment for mistakes
- Lack of encouragement
- Overemphasis on success
- Early academic struggles
Having unrealistic standards for yourself, critical self-evaluation, and the need for flawlessness, can be a sign of perfectionism. Nothing will paralyze you quicker than this one.
Perfectionism usually involves so much self-imposed pressure, that procrastination is a way to cope by delaying the stress and anxiety of doing the thing. This turns into a procrastination loop — the relief that you get from procrastinating is a reinforcement to continue to procrastinate as the pressure builds.
Here’s some possible root causes:
- Parental modeling
- Overemphasis on achievement
- Critical feedback
- Conditional love
- Early academic pressures
- Fear of disappointment
- Sibling dynamics
- Lack of autonomy
3. Avoidance of Bad Feelings
Avoiding bad feelings is a psychological mechanism that’s a main contributor to procrastination. No one wants to feel lousy. Even if you don’t realize that you’re avoiding negative emotions, you very likely are.
The thing we want to do may be something new, or difficult, or require us to show up differently than we’re used to. This immediately causes tension. Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, believes that procrastination is a mood regulation problem, NOT a time management problem.
Here’s some root causes to look for:
- Negative consequences for expressing emotions as a child
- High expectations
- Traumatic experiences
- Parental modeling
- Lack of emotional regulation skills
- Conditional love and approval
4. Pressure from Ourselves and Others
Too much pressure can make anyone want to escape. Its so much easier to do something that’s easy and not important, than to do the thing that we’ve put on a pedestal. Especially when people are counting on us, or we’ve set deadlines for ourselves.
Procrastination is a way to delay stress, such as the fear of letting others down, not meeting expectations, not measuring up to peers, and wanting to maintain a certain image.
Some possible root causes:
- High parental expectations
- Conditional love and approval
- Early academic pressures
- Fear of disapproval
- Comparisons with siblings or peers
- Emphasis on image
- Lack of emotional support
5. Fear of Uncertainty
Doing something new, with an outcome that is unclear, can be a so incredibly scary! You’ve never done it before, you don’t know if you’re doing it right, you’re not sure if the decisions you’re making are the right ones — its just so much! This one used to cause me procrastinate. 🙄
Its basically overthinking — analysis paralysis. Procrastination is a way to wait until things become more clear, or until someone shows you what to do. But if you’re an adult, you’ll be waiting for a long time. Or, conversely, you’ll be so overwhelmed by all the opinions coming at you from online sources, you’ll be even MORE unclear.
Here’s some root causes:
- Unpredictable childhood
- Overprotective parents
- Strict authoritarian upbringing
- Negative consequences for mistakes
- Lack of exposure to diverse experiences
- Parental modeling of avoidance
- Insufficient support for independence
Questions to Uncover the Root Cause
Keeping the above reasons and their root causes in mind, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get to why you’re procrastinating.
- What am I afraid of in relation to this task?
- What negative consequences do I anticipate if I don’t complete this?
- What emotions arise when I think about doing this thing?
- Do I feel overwhelmed by the scope or complexity of this task?
- What is my internal dialogue or self-talk regarding this?
Try to identify past situations that may be contributing to your avoidance.
- How were mistakes and failures handled in my family environment?
- Was there an open dialogue about feelings, or were certain emotions discouraged or dismissed?
- Did I fear disapproval or rejection if I didn’t meet certain expectations?
- Was I encouraged to take initiative and make decisions for myself, or was I expected to follow strict guidelines?
- Did I develop habits of avoidance or procrastination as a way to manage difficult emotions or situations?
Myths About Procrastination That Aren’t True
Myth #1 : Procrastination is a Sign of Laziness
Reality: Procrastination does not equal laziness. It actually stems from complex psychological factors, such as fear of failure, perfectionism, or emotional challenges, rather than a lack of motivation or effort.
So, even though you’re tempted to be down on yourself, let that go right now. When you’re fully in your worth, you won’t procrastinate on the things you want to do.
Myth #2: Procrastination Reflects a Lack of Discipline
Reality: Procrastination is not necessarily a lack of discipline or willpower. It’s usually linked to emotional regulation, task aversion, or unrealistic expectations, and dealing with these root causes is how you will overcome it.
You can also use a few little mind tricks to get around old behaviors. Read on for those.
Myth #3: Procrastination Equals Incompetence
Reality: Procrastination does not mean you’re incompetent or incapable. Many accomplished people experience procrastination — J. K. Rowling, Mozart, Bill Clinton, and Steve Jobs all either mentioned or were reported to procrastinate, and look at their success.
Incompetence usually won’t stop someone from moving forward on the things they want to do. Actually, if you think that you lack ability, this could be a clear sign that subconscious beliefs are holding you back.
How to Stop Procrastinating
I truly believe that you can overcome any challenges that you encounter on the way to your dreams. The biggest challenge is knowing ourselves. “Know thyself.” Your procrastination is the Universe showing you that you have some areas to uncover and transform before you can move forward.
Here is the solution to your dilemma.
Step 1: Regulate Your Emotions
Procrastination is usually accompanied by a lack of emotional regulation. This could mean your negative emotions are just too much for you to handle, or you never learned how to deal with negative emotions in the first place.
Sometimes, as children, we aren’t allowed to express our emotions. Parental figures wanted us to be good and behave. Perhaps we learned to stuff our emotions, rather than express them in healthy ways — and weren’t taught how to work through them.
Stuffed emotions have to come out at some point. However, many of us are so afraid of our negative emotions, that we’ll distract ourselves with activities that numb that emotional response so we don’t have to feel it — TV, social media, alcohol, unhealthy eating, etc.
Here are some ways you can begin navigating your emotions — and get free to start doing what you really want in your life.
Journaling: Start a journal to write about your emotions, especially when you’re procrastinating. Describe the feelings associated with the tasks, fears and insecurities, noticing any recurring themes. This is a great way to take a step back from being immersed in your emotions, and to look at them from a more objective viewpoint. You’ll realize that facing them really isn’t as scary as it seemed.
Mindfulness Exercises: Do some mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These will help you get out of your head and into the present moment. Mindfulness is fantastic practice for observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Learning to let them be without needing to change them or be attached to them. You’ll find that your anxiety will lessen and your clarity will increase.
Mindful Task Engagement: If you’ve trained yourself to expect instant gratification, and avoid tasks that make you feel bored or frustrated, learning how to do tasks mindfully can increase your ability to tolerate discomfort. Practice honing your focus intently on what you’re doing — similar to focusing on your breath in meditation — all the way to it’s completion. Over time, this will bring you satisfaction and excitement, because you’ll begin to notice your skills increase as you gain progress toward your goal — similar to playing a video game.
Positive Reframing: Cognitive restructuring or positive reframing is a powerful way to transform your negative emotions into positive ones. You’re perception determines how you experience your emotions. Try writing your emotions down, being completely honest with what you feel and why you feel it. Then, reframe your perspective into a slightly more positive one. If you’re frustrated because you just can’t seem to do anything right, try writing “I actually do some things right. I care for my body every day. I’m a dependable employee who shows up to work on time.” Go on a positive tangent, putting things in a different light, and see how much better you feel.
Step 2: Dealing with the Root of the Problem — Reprogramming
As I mentioned earlier, the root of your procrastination is most likely a belief that is held in your subconscious mind. Hopefully, using the questions and list of root causes above, you were able to get to your root cause.
I wrote an interesting post with some techniques to reprogram your subconscious, but I will include a list here as well.
The information provided here is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. If you have a history of trauma or if your emotions are significantly impacting your daily life and functioning, it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional or therapist before attempting any of the techniques mentioned.
Visualization: When you completely relax your body and mind, entering into a theta brain wave frequency, your conscious mind is quiet and your subconscious is open to suggestion. Binaural beats are also helpful. This is the state you want to be in to visualize and reprogram what your subconscious believes is true. You can go back to the moments when a belief was implanted, either by your parents, or something that happened which has caused your current blocks. Reimagine it in a way where you receive the support you need, or you handle the situation differently. Maybe you enter the scene and give encouragement to the younger you. Whatever you needed back then, give it to yourself now. By practicing this visualization — it usually takes a few sessions — you will feel yourself change as you release those old beliefs. Its amazing how well this works!
Hypnosis: Hypnosis sessions, which are similar to the self-hypnosis you conduct when you visualize, is a powerful way to access the subconscious mind. You can go to a hypnotherapist, or you can listen for free on YouTube — Michael Sealey is my favorite. I have also recently joined a manifesting community called To Be Magnetic, and they have “Deep Imaginings” for reprogramming inner child, shadow, finding clarity, getting out of a rut, and more. Find some hypnosis videos that you resonate with and reprogramming your old beliefs will be a breeze.
Journaling and Scripting: Writing has been shown in numerous studies to be an effective way to create new neural pathways in your brain, especially when writing descriptive stories — which is what scripting is all about. To use scripting to reprogram your subconscious, you write a story with you in the first person. This story could be a scene of something you want to manifest, but it can also be a past situation that you want to reprogram so you can be free of its hold over your life. Be as descriptive as possible, and your subconscious mind will do the rest.
Positive Associations: Pair positive emotions and feelings with the desired action. Change how you are perceiving your tasks. Reword little subtleties: instead of thinking “I have to finish this”, change it to “I’m excited and can’t wait to do this”. I learned that changing my language from “I have to” to “I get to” greatly improved my energy around the tasks in my life. I felt gratitude and appreciation instead of dread and drudgery. Subtle shifts in perspective can completely change how you do a thing — and even influence IF you do it to begin with!
Choose Empowering Influences: Surround yourself with positive people, who will support you, encourage you, and give you honest and kind feedback. Try to limit your exposure to negative energy. Negative influences can reinforce your limiting beliefs, making it harder to reprogram the subconscious. We become who we surround ourselves with. Choose wisely.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): NLP techniques, such as anchoring or reframing, can be used to interrupt old patterns and introduce new, positive beliefs into the subconscious. I’ve received this programming from a therapist, but I haven’t been trained in it. You can perform this type of therapy on yourself, but you would want to learn from a professional to ensure that you’re doing it correctly. There are numerous success stories for NLP, and some research has also shown its effectiveness on improving quality of life.
Step 3: Building Self-Worth
When it comes to manifesting and seeing real change in your life, building your self-worth is the catalyst. Whatever you feel worthy of, is what you will achieve.
Numerous well-known individuals ought to have possessed the LOWEST self-worth. Albert Einstein was told that he was terrible at math, yet he chose to believe in himself, and became a famous scientist. Helen Keller was blind and deaf, someone who seemingly would have no confidence, yet she knew she had something to give to the world — and her impact was profound. Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Jordan, Elon Musk, and so many others accomplished amazing things because they believed they were worthy.
Here are ways to build your self-worth so you can do the things you want in life.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend. When facing challenges or mistakes, acknowledge your feelings, and encourage yourself. You’re learning, and this is part of the process.
- Positive Affirmations in the Mirror: Create and repeat positive affirmations while looking at your reflection in the mirror. This practice is so powerful! There’s something magical about looking into your eyes — with love, kind words, and a smile — that quickly builds your confidence and worth.
- Celebrate Achievements, Big and Small: Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. This could be completing a task, reaching a goal, or overcoming a challenge. Build yourself up!
- Challenge Negative Self-Talk: Pay attention to negative thoughts and challenge them with more balanced and positive perspectives. Replace self-critical thoughts with affirming and encouraging statements.
- Create a Strengths List: Identify and list your strengths, skills, and positive qualities. Reflect on how these strengths have contributed to your achievements and success.
- Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Build a supportive network of friends, family, and mentors who uplift and encourage you. Positive relationships will have a profound impact on your self-worth.
- Set Boundaries: This one is HUGE, and is the quickest way to manifest what you want. Establish healthy boundaries in relationships and commitments. Respect your own limits regardless of what someone will think of you. When you respect yourself, others will begin to respect you as well.
Step 4: Now, Some Strategy
You’ve discovered the root causes for your procrastination, learned to regulate your emotions, reprogrammed your subconscious, and built up your self worth. Now, lets get down to ACTION.
Here are some strategies that you can use to keep yourself on track as you accomplish the things you want.
- Set Clear Goals: Define clear and specific goals. Break larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Clarity about what needs to be done in what order, provides a roadmap for action.
- Create a To-Do List: Make a daily or weekly to-do list. Prioritize tasks based on importance and deadlines. A structured list helps organize your thoughts and actions.
- Use a Timer or Pomodoro Technique: Break your work into focused intervals, typically 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break (Pomodoro technique). This can help maintain focus and reduce the feeling of overwhelm. There’s even a Pomodoro app you can download that will tell you when to take your break.
- Identify and Address Procrastination Triggers: Understand the specific triggers that lead to procrastination for you. It could be fear of failure, perfectionism, or instant gratification. Once identified, be aware when they crop up, and engage in subconscious reprogramming to overwrite these behaviors.
- Start with Small Tasks: Begin with smaller, more manageable tasks. Completing these tasks builds momentum and boosts confidence, making it easier to tackle larger, more challenging ones.
- Trick Your Mind: If you find that you’re about to procrastinate, tell yourself that you’re only going to work on your task for 5 minutes and be done. This will trick yourself into getting started, which will inevitably keep you in the momentum.
- Set Realistic Deadlines: Establish realistic deadlines for tasks. Avoid setting overly ambitious timelines that may contribute to stress and procrastination. Make this as stress-free as possible, so you can enjoy the process.
- Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Divide larger tasks into smaller, actionable steps. This makes the overall task more approachable and less overwhelming.
- Use Positive Reinforcement: Reward yourself for completing tasks. Positive reinforcement can create a positive association with productivity and motivate you to tackle future tasks.
- Seek Accountability: Share your goals with a friend, family member, or colleague. Having someone hold you accountable can provide motivation and encouragement.
Get to Doing What You Love
Procrastination doesn’t feel good, and keeps us from living the life we really want to. Its important to never ignore when you’re not feeling right, and to notice if certain patterns continue occurring in your life. This is the Universe trying to get your attention.
Also, ask yourself if this thing is really what you want to be doing. A good rule of thumb: If its not a hell yes, then its a hell no!
You’ll know if your procrastination is due to fear — or because its really not something your true self wants to be doing.
Follow your heart, and enjoy the journey! 💖