Why You Procrastinate and How to Stop…Right Now

Procrastination is a learned behavior, not an innate survival skill. It’s also a way that people sabotage our own success.

Why do people procrastinate?

A frequent motivator is anxiety triggered by fear: of failure, of success, or of being judged by others. Negative self-talk in those moments, about how bad the outcome might be, convinces us any action will turn out badly, so we become frozen in inaction. 

Indecisiveness can itself lead to procrastination. We stall for time hoping someone else will take charge. When no one does and we take whatever spur-of-the-moment action is possible, we still benefit from inaction because, by waiting until the last minute, we’ve skipped all the thinking, analyzing and choosing. We have an excuse if things go badly: it’s not our fault because we “had to” make a quick, last-minute decision. Some procrastinators get hooked on the risk-taking thrill of making last-minute decisions.

Anxiety can be kept under control by procrastinating for a limited amount of time – like hitting the “pause” button. Ending the brief pause by taking action brings welcome relief.

Another frequent cause is perfectionism; if they’re not sure the outcome will be “perfect,” people put off taking action hoping a better solution will emerge.

See any tactics you’re familiar with?

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The underlying origin of procrastinating behavior is usually one of two things:

-> Someone in your past made all your decisions for you so, you never got to practice…

and/or…

-> Someone has criticized decisions you’ve made, and now you feel insecure about making any decision.

So, how to break the procrastination habit and develop a strong “bias for action” in future decisions?

1) Break tasks down into small doable steps.

2) Create a time limit per step and insert it in your calendar.

3) Notice discouraging thoughts that come up when you’re ready to take a step. Remember who first told you those thoughts, and argue back. Take charge and assertively tell the old narrator to “shut up.”

4) Notice how your body reacts to anxiety. Take deep breaths to relax the body.

5) Ask other people for opinions when you’re stumped by a decision. Do a pros/cons comparison to choose from the options that turn up.

6) There’s no such thing as perfection. Make a choice and let it be. Enjoy the sense of satisfaction that it’s done.

7) Journal why you are avoiding doing something you have to do.

8) List the repercussions of procrastinating vs. not procrastinating. Which seems better?

9) Get an accountability partner or coach for help working through whatever you’ve been avoiding.

10) Envision what the task being done will look and feel like.

The Bottom Line:

A) Perfection isn’t attainable. Focus on getting it done.

B) No decision is wrong. If it feels wrong, learn the lesson. Change it up next time.

C) Listen to your gut. When your inner critic shouts, it’s hard to hear your inner wisdom. Take a moment to breathe and meditate…you will know what to do.


Susan Greif  (www.ArtMendsHearts.com)  is a Creative Transformational Expert and Healing Arts Professional who uses the expressive, creative and healing arts to help women and children find emotional freedom from anxieties that kept them feeling paralyzed, panicked and in pain. Her clients learn how to let go of anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, relationship issues, eating disorders and learning disabilities.

Susan Greif (www.ArtMendsHearts.com) is a Creative Transformational Expert and Healing Arts Professional who uses the expressive, creative and healing arts to help women and children find emotional freedom from anxieties that kept them feeling paralyzed, panicked and in pain. Her clients learn how to let go of anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, relationship issues, eating disorders and learning disabilities.


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