What’s in it for me? Learn why you procrastinate – and how to stop.

While almost everybody procrastinates at some point in their lives, it can be a chronic issue for some. When procrastination becomes a consistent pattern, it can be as frustrating for the procrastinator as it is for those around them.

This Blink to Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen’s Procrastination offers insight into a long misunderstood behavior. Drawing on the psychologists’ personal and professional experience, it explains what procrastination is – and provides tips to beat it.


A Psychologically Complex Issue

While women tend to procrastinate less than men, it can affect everyone, in a range of occupations. Being self-critical and avoiding certain emotions, like fear and doubt, play surprisingly large roles in the behavior.

There are a lot of complex elements involved, which is why an instant change isn’t often possible – you can’t just flip off your procrastination switch. But it is possible to reduce the behavior with time and effort.

It’s also worth mentioning that procrastination doesn’t equate to stupidity. When people procrastinate, they often put off an important task until the last minute. In that scenario, the work might be rushed or turned in late. The resulting consequences can make procrastinators feel bad about themselves and question their abilities – but it’s important to remember that the subpar work is a result of a habit; it doesn’t indicate anything about intelligence.


An Unrealistic Thought Process

Think back to a time you procrastinated – were you dealing with an internal struggle of negative feelings and thoughts? The thoughts you had were likely assumptions rather than absolute truths. Maybe you thought everything you did had to be flawless or it would result in disaster.

This kind of defeatist thinking is usually self-imposed, incorrect, and unfounded – and it often leads to deeper procrastination habits. The sooner you realize that these thoughts are based in emotions like vulnerability and fear, the easier it’ll be to reduce the habit. Procrastinating won’t save you from having to deal with these emotions, but it could makes things worse – you might get stuck in a constant negative cycle.

Many people put things off because they’re worried about possible negative outcomes. But you don’t need to be perfect to live a valuable life and to be important. In fact, nothing is ever truly perfect in an absolute sense. In the same vein, no failure should ever be the end of the world. Humans tend to see things a lot worse than they actually are.

We all experience failure at some point, and that’s OK – good even! Failure and setbacks are actually learning experiences that can help you move forward; they’ll only hold you back if you let them. Your feelings of self-worth shouldn’t boil down to a single task, mistake, conversation, or action. Not doing things perfectly, as well as you wanted to, or even as well as other people hoped you were going to doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

So practice cultivating understanding, patience, self-reflection, and kindness toward yourself. In doing so, it’s possible to move past the negative cycle, improve with each failure, and decrease procrastination.



How you perceive yourself can be a funny thing. In many cases, it has nothing to do with how others perceive you – especially when it comes to the negative thoughts you may have about yourself. Maybe your efforts never seem good enough to you, while others think you’re thriving.

Procrastinators often feel as if the attempt meant nothing. However, trying can mean everything – it’s a success in its own right. What you do to achieve a particular goal is just as big a part of the success as the achievement of the goal itself. So don’t forget to celebrate your successes!

Say a deadline is fast approaching – you need to put together a presentation for a meeting. You procrastinated a bit, but nowhere near as much as you usually do. You worked hard to get it done in time, the presentation was fantastic, and everyone loved it. Your efforts in putting together the presentation and how you fought against your urge to procrastinate were successful.

It’s OK to feel worthy of success, regardless of how big or small that success might seem. As a procrastinator, being on time or early for an appointment is an accomplishment on par with acing a presentation.

Success can be scary though, right? It can make you feel vulnerable or worried about being in the spotlight, or even reignite concerns about failing. All of these thoughts and feelings can manifest themselves as procrastination, which holds you back or delays the success you deserve. And now you’re stuck in a repetitive cycle.

It’s normal to feel scared and concerned about outcomes. The trick is to not let them snowball into overwhelming negativity – which in turn results in procrastination that blocks you from feeling better and achieving success. Don’t let procrastination self-sabotage the triumph you deserve.


The Personal Connection to Procrastination

Procrastination doesn’t just stem from your own innate nature. Your upbringing and personal relationships are connected to why and how you procrastinate.

Say you’re experiencing a conflict with a family member, and you’re putting off confronting the issue. Procrastination, in this case, can seem less painful and easier to deal with than any negative emotions that could arise as a result of facing that conflict.

But the reality is that the feelings we experience aren’t always positive. It’s impossible to avoid all aspects of negativity – and hiding behind procrastination can keep you from experiencing life to the fullest. Relationships with others can offer stimulation, security, and comfort, and working through the unpleasant times will just strengthen your bonds even more.

So it’s important not to let procrastination – and the fears driving it – put your relationships and opportunities in jeopardy. You don’t want to risk losing a great job because you’re always late to client meetings. And you don’t want to not ask someone on a date because you think they’ll say no. After all, that person could be the love of your life!

Everyone has doubts; don’t let yours hold you back.


Realities and Perception of Time

No discussion about procrastination would be complete without an element typically associated with the habit: time, or more specifically, time management.

Think about all the occasions you were late getting somewhere or were late doing something. Do you remember how it affected you and the other people involved?

Take a moment to think of time. Are you picturing numbers and dates? This is known as objective time. But there’s also subjective time, which is your perception of how time passes. Subjective time isn’t as cut-and-dry; it varies from one person to the next. Ideally, there should be a balance between the two – but that’s not so easy for people who procrastinate.

While this can be frustrating for the procrastinator, it also tends to affect those around them. Since each person has their own view of time, it’s not uncommon for those with vastly different interpretations to clash. Cultural differences can also play a part. In one country, being late may be seen as rude, while in another, it’s practically expected. In some cases, coming to a compromise could work – but that’s not always an option, especially in the business world.

Interestingly, while people tend to continually view actual numbers and dates in the same way, a person’s subjective time evolves over the course of their life. It doesn’t always line up with what’s expected or anticipated at a particular stage. But the older you get, the clearer the effects of certain procrastinated decisions can be.

The good news is, there’s still time to make positive changes and reduce your procrastination tendencies.


The Psychological Aspects of Procrastination

There are lots of psychological factors that can impact a person’s procrastination behavior. Certain conditions, like ADHD, depression, and low self-esteem, often make it flare up. So do stress and a lack of quality sleep. When you sort out things on a medical level, it may lead to positive changes with your procrastination.

We mentioned earlier that dealing with procrastination can be easier than dealing with feelings and emotions. But you have to battle these feelings if you want to challenge procrastination. You can’t avoid them or hide from them – but you can do daily work to make positive changes.

Everyone has unique life experiences that influence their current procrastination habits, so try to find coping techniques that help you manage your particular ways of thinking. One general piece of advice is to stay grounded in the present. Memories and feelings from the past aren’t always kind – so let them go. The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it’ll be to stop procrastinating.


Taming Procrastination

We all know it’s not easy to break long-standing habits. Just ask a carnivore who’s trying to stop eating meat – or a night owl who is trying to become an early bird. But building a sustainable new habit can be done, almost painlessly, through baby steps. Going from procrastinator to someone who faces things head-on is no exception. You might not even see the tiny shifts you’re making, but tackling one small goal at a time will lead to big results.

The first trick is to take note of when the familiar feelings and thoughts you associate with procrastination start to creep in. How and when do you procrastinate? What do you procrastinate on? Pinpointing these details may help you understand why you’re procrastinating.

Therapy and mindfulness exercises can both help you become more self-aware and recognize when in the day you’re most productive. For instance, maybe you know you’re energized and optimistic first thing in the morning, so that’s when you should tackle essential tasks. Following a plan that works for you and your specific situation is key – as is persevering through setbacks, no matter how frustrating and disappointing they may seem. Remember, everything is temporary.

Set yourself up for success by outlining goals and establishing a plan you can follow. And don’t diminish your efforts – you’re not failing just because the effort you made might not be as significant as you wanted it to be. Trying to do everything at once will lead to overwhelm and inaction. You know what to do: start small, and reward your little victories. It’s a process that takes time, energy, and effort – but with each success, you’re one step closer to being happier, healthier … and earlier.


Relationships with Procrastinators

Maybe you know a procrastinator and are trying to figure out why they do what they do. You may also be trying to learn how to better compromise with this person. Their procrastination is undoubtedly disappointing and frustrating – but it’s not as simple as telling the person to do better.

Certain things, like nagging or doing what you asked the procrastinator to do, may actually result in more harm than good. On the flip side, being open to collaboration, providing clear communication, rewarding positive steps, and listening to the person express their feelings can all help – a lot! Make sure you also tell the procrastinator in your life how much you appreciate them and their efforts, and what you like about them.

A lot of good can come from being compassionate and trying to understand things from their perspective. But as you start making changes in your relationship, remember that the procrastinator has a role too. You both need to be willing to accept and work with each other to find a solution.

If you’re not getting any buy-in, you may need to reconsider the relationship. It’s not a decision to make lightly – but if the relationship is negatively affecting your well-being and isn’t improving, it might be your best option.


Final Summary

Reducing procrastination isn’t an easy journey, but it’s one worth taking for you and those around you. Embarking on this journey doesn’t mean you’ll fix your procrastination issues overnight – that’s not possible. But putting in small, consistent efforts will ultimately help you reach your goal.

Are you procrastinating on something right now? Stop listening to this Blink, and take one small step toward getting it done! Your future self will thank you.