Putting Things Off: Why Do We Procrastinate?

Image showing a woman in black long-sleeve shirt using macbook looking bored

Have you ever put something off, even when you know you should be doing it? Maybe you had your reasons, or you were procrastinating. But why do we procrastinate in the first place?

Reason 1: It’s Too Hard!

This reason is not only something that happens to students, it can happen to anyone. The more uncertain you are of what to do, for how long, and when the more likely you are to procrastinate on it.

Solution: make it smaller! Can you split your bigger task or project into more manageable chunks? If you know when an essay, or blog post, is due can you work backward?

If you know when you need to have your work finished, what milestones can you create along the way? Perhaps you tackle the introduction one day and write one or two body paragraphs the next?

Using smaller steps helps you get started, and as Newton’s first law states: an object in motion stays in motion. This is true when you combat procrastination as well.

If you just start, it’s more likely that you’ll keep at it. This means that you will get your work done in the end. How would you climb a mountain? One step at a time!

Photo of snow covered mountains under blue sky.
Photo by John Bakator on Unsplash

Reason 2: It Takes Too Long!

For some reason, you’ve convinced yourself that whatever task is at hand will take a long time to complete. Unfortunately, the bad news is that it will take you even longer if you never start it in the first place.

Solution: Try using Pomodoro or similar techniques. Time blocking can sometimes be useful. I made a post a while ago about this where I used time blocking together with an Outlook calendar.

As can putting a little bit of stress on yourself, or try turning things more into a game. How much can you do in 10-15 minutes? Perhaps that’s enough to at least get the introduction in place.

Round black and brown analog clock with roman numerals on a black background.
Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash

Reason 3: I Don’t Know Enough (Yet)

And queue analysis paralysis! Since you don’t have all the facts or know the best course of action surely you must research first, right? Well…while this can have some value, the danger is if you get stuck here.

The more you know, the more you’ll realize how much you still know nothing about. This keeps you stuck in research mode, never taking action toward completing your task or reaching that goal of yours.

Solution: just get started! You don’t know what you don’t know, true. But if you go with what you know already, it’s easier to pick up the small things you need along the way. Just do your best to stay away from the rabbit hole that the internet can be sometimes…

Image of a white book with text.
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Reason 4: What if I Fail?

This is a common reason to procrastinate, but we might not always be aware of it. At its core, this has to do with fear. Fear of failing, not being good enough, and so on.

And so, our minds try to help us stay safe. What is the safest way? Avoid doing the thing that makes you feel you’re in danger! Even though the reason (staying safe) can be good, the outcome can be more troublesome for us in the long run.

Solution: …but what if you don’t? Like I said, our mind tries to protect us from the unknown. Situations and places that are all new mean your brain has no point of reference and doesn’t know how to react and respond to the stimuli.

So how do you get past it? Well, try to look at whatever it is that is holding you back logically and rationally, instead of an emotional one.

Try to analyze the situation. What are your thoughts about it? What is going on? The next step is to make at least a small step toward what’s holding you back, it doesn’t have to be big at all.

The goal is to prove to yourself that hey, maybe this will work out. Maybe it’s not as difficult, hard, or horrible as you thought it would be.

Do We Procrastinate on Purpose?

I honestly don’t think we do. Sometimes it just happens, other times you might catch yourself doing it, and perhaps you even know the reason why you avoid doing something.

It can in a way be a way for your brain to try and protect you. Even though the results from procrastinating aren’t all that fulfilling.

Is procrastination an unconscious decision?

Why do you procrastinate? Are you aware of doing this? There are so many good articles and videos on this topic, here are four of them:


Language teacher interested in reading, art, games, and how technology can help out in everyday life.

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