Procrastination: Causes and Antidotes Chart

Procrastination is a learned behavior involving self-regulation skills, emotions, attitudes, as well as other factors we may be unaware of. While everyone procrastinates, chronic procrastination can cause a number of complications. It can result in reduced productivity, failure to reach one’s potential, and feelings of shame, worthlessness, and despair.

There can even be health consequences to procrastination. Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink and college students who procrastinate show evidence of compromised immune systems such as more colds, flu, gastrointestinal problems, and insomnia.

In addition, procrastination can damage relationships. When we procrastinate, we often shift responsibilities onto others, who in turn become resentful of us. Procrastination can undermine teamwork and keep others from accomplishing their own goals.  Its no wonder that procrastination causes frustration and headaches for so many of us.

The following is a handy chart showing some of the common causes of procrastination as well as their antidotes. The causes of procrastination vary among individuals and tasks and overcoming it requires getting at the heart of these reasons.

Cause Antidote
Following Someone Else’s Goals Instead of Your Own

People rarely are inspired to work diligently for a cause that has little meaning for them.

  • Find your own reasons and motivations for working on a task
  • Learn to say no to and let go of tasks that do not serve you well
Being Overwhelmed by the Size or Difficulty of a Task

The task may be too large, too time consuming, or too difficult for you to accomplish by a given deadline.

  • Break tasks down
  • Delegate
  • Ask for help
Poor Time Management

You may be overly optimistic about how much you can accomplish in a given amount of time.  You have difficulty prioritizing tasks.

  • Always give yourself more time than you think you need
  • Track tasks so you make better estimates
  • Prioritize tasks based on time sensitivity and urgency
Arousal or Fear as a Motivator

You wait until the last minute for the euphoric rush.  Fear motivates you.

Remind yourself of the longer term costs of relying on this strategy:

  • Your work may not be your best
  • Chronic stress can cause health problems
  • You are taking a gamble and may lose
Decisional Procrastination

Difficulty making a decision can paralyze you. Not making a decision can be a way of avoiding making a “mistake”.

  • Make a pros and cons list
  • Consult with trusted others
  • Give yourself permission to make the “wrong” choice
Low Self-Confidence

You fear failure, the unknown, or even success.  You are afraid people will expect too much of you in the future if you succeed.  You would rather have others think you don’t care rather than see you as a “failure”.

  • Identify and challenge unrealistic thoughts
  • Be courageous and confront your fears
  • Seek out the training or resources you need to feel more qualified
Too Many Obligations, Over-Commitment

You are overextended and don’t have much down time available.  You put things off just to cope with day-to-day pressures and experiences.

  • Be realistic about how much you can take on and learn to say no
  • Cultivate a reasonable work-life balance
  • Make time in your schedule to recharge

You feel you can’t say no or express your displeasure, so you procrastinate.

Learn to be more assertive and express yourself directly

You can’t do it perfectly so you see no use in starting.  You dread all the work you are going to have to do to make it perfect.

  • See the value in trying
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes
  • Focus more on the process and less on the product

If you or someone you love is having trouble with procrastination, consulting a mental health professional may help. You can find mental health professionals in your area through online therapist locators such as those hosted by the American Psychological Association, Psychology Today, Network Therapy and GoodTherapy.  For help in the Kansas City metro area, take a look at our local resource list.

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