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Last Updated on March 2, 2021

Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How to Tackle Them

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Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How to Tackle Them

Procrastination is the antithesis of productivity, yet you’ve likely found yourself asking, “Why do I procrastinate?” more than once in life. Procrastination is a habit, and one that many people don’t even realize they’re engaging in.

However, it’s possible to learn how to overcome procrastination once we know why people procrastinate.

Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It can make time management useless. This often appears at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

This article dives into the different types of procrastinators, and if you’re looking for a quick solution to overcome procrastination, don’t miss the free Fast-Track Class – No More Procrastination. Join this intensive session for free here.

So why do people procrastinate and self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 main reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own life and learn how to tackle the source.

1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

If you put off a task long enough, then you don’t have to face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things “just right” may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

How to Tackle It

Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

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For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confidently, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

Imagine your boss telling you how impressive your presentation was. Think about how it would feel and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Simply put in your best effort and realize that’s all you can do. This will help you stop asking, “Why do I procrastinate?”

2. The Dreamer’s Lack of Action

This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal-setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

How to Tackle It

Once you have your idea, write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

To help you do just that, there’s The Dreamers’ Guide To Taking Actions And Reaching Your Goals. With this free guide, you can design your action plan effectively and achieve your goals. Grab your free guide here.

For example, if you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering to different ideas.

3. The Overwhelmed Avoider

This is one of the most common answers to the question “Why do I procrastinate?”: the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether, choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

The search then starts for a more enjoyable task, and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

How to Tackle It

Break the challenge down into smaller tasks, and tackle each one individually.

For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles.

Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help, or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

If you’re asking, “Why do I procrastinate?” it may be that you either have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another, or spending too much time deciding what to do.

This often happens to people who like to multitask or have a variety of things to do all the time. Things can get mixed up, and prioritization can become an issue.

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How to Tackle It

It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task, and make a list in order of importance.

For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with “urgent” emails from colleagues, but you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

If you’re not great at prioritization, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix[1], which helps to organize tasks based on their importance and urgency:

Why do I procrastinate? Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize.

    5. The Distraction-Prone

    Another common answer to “Why do I procrastinate?” is simply distraction.

    Research has shown that our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time, and it looks for something else. Throw in a bunch of chatty colleagues or the desire to mindlessly check social media, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    It’s also important to note that our attention spans depend largely on the task and on our individual brain. Dr. Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, explained, “How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”[2].

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    How to Tackle It

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting things done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focused, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Final Thoughts

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    And that’s ok! Most people ask “Why do I procrastinate?” and most are likely to find answers here. Fortunately, that means there are specific steps you can take to overcome procrastination and be more productive. Get started today!

    More Tips on Overcoming Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    10 Most Effective Apps to Help You Beat Procrastination

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    10 Most Effective Apps to Help You Beat Procrastination

    You sit down at your desk, open your computer, and set out to work on an urgent project. Just, hold on—one more Twitter notification to check before you really get started. If you don’t have a stop procrastinating app, you’ve just entered the procrastination rabbit hole.

    Three hours later, you find yourself scrolling through Pinterest, color-coordinating bridesmaids’ dresses and butterfly-themed table decorations, even though you’re not getting married. Oops.

    Procrastination. It is a scourge most of us struggle with—a hurdle on the way to leading a productive, fulfilling life. Especially now that many of us are confined to makeshift home offices by Covid lockdowns, we struggle to keep distractions at bay[1].

    But how can you stop putting off important tasks? How can you really silence that pesky inner voice of distraction?

    Fortunately, modern technology offers many apps to help you in your battle. Choose your stop procrastination app from the list below to keep you on track and eliminate distractions.

    1. Focus@Will

      Based on neuroscience research, Focus@Will uses music to boost concentration and get you into a productivity flow. You can choose between different channels, ranging from Baroque piano and ambient music to Electro Bach and the funky beats of Alpha Chill.

      According to research, the app can extend your focus periods by 200-400%. It also offers a timer function and productivity tracker. A channel recommender helps you pick the right music for your needs, depending on your personality type, the kind of task you’re dealing with, and whether you’re struggling with mental health issues such as ADHD.

      Focus@Will is available for both Android and iOS and as a web app. Subscriptions start at $69 annually.

      Get the app!

      2. Focus To-Do

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        As a great stop procrastination app, Focus To-Do combines the Pomodoro technique with to-do list features. In case you haven’t come across it before, Pomodoro is one of the most effective productivity techniques. It’s built around 25-minute work sessions interspersed with 5-minute breaks.

        Focus To-Do allows you to define tasks, including subtasks and recurring tasks, and assign deadlines. You can then work through the items on your list one-by-one using the Pomodoro technique.

        The app is available on all major platforms, including smartwatches. Your tasks will be synchronized across devices. The basic app is free, and premium plans start at $2.99 per month, with a lifetime license option priced at $8.99.

        Get the app!

        3. RescueTime

          RescueTime boasts a rare 5.0 “outstanding” score by PCMag and is one of the most widely-used productivity tools popular with freelancers, designers, and developers[2]. It automatically tracks the time you spend on various websites and applications, and classifies them into categories. Using this information, you can analyze where and when you are productive and what the major threats to your productivity are.

          More importantly, RescueTime allows you to summarily block out distractions, which is excellent for Pomodoro sessions. You can also set goals, such as spending less time on your emails or social media, and RescueTime will automatically assist you in reaching them.

          The app is available on all major platforms and offers a free lite version, and its premium plans start at $6.50/month (billed annually). It also integrates with a variety of other productivity tools, such as calendar apps and Slack.

          Get the app!

          4. Forest

            As a gamified stop procrastinating app, Forest is a great way to motivate yourself to stay focused. Each time you start a focus session, you plant a tree in the app. While you work, it will grow on your screen. However, if you leave the app during the session, your tree dies off.

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            The goal is to motivate you to not use your phone, removing a significant source of distraction.

            By completing your focus sessions, you can grow an entire forest over time. This isn’t just visually appealing, but an uplifting representation of how much work you’ve managed to get done. Your forest has a real-life impact as well. The larger you grow it, the more “coins” you can earn in the app. And using those, the app team plants actual trees.

            Forest is available on iOS, Android, and as a Firefox extension. It’s $1.99, with optional in-app purchases.

            Get the app!

            5. Rocket 135

              For those overwhelmed by to-do lists, Rocket 135 allows you to prioritize your tasks. Rather than having to face multiple stressful, anxiety-inducing tasks per day, you pick one important project, three of medium importance, and five of low importance to complete.

              This app lets you customize basic list types, archive tasks, assign them to themes, and collaborate with other users. It synchronizes across devices and offers a limited free version. The premium version is available at $2.50 monthly or $25 annually.

              Get the app!

              6. CARROT To-Do

                Like Forest, CARROT To-Do is an iOS app that turns productivity into a game to beat procrastination.

                You can set yourself a simple to-do list and get rewarded with “fortune cookies” and several hundred unique rewards for completed tasks. But beware! Fail to complete your tasks, and you will lose your rewards or be leveled down. A unique feature of CARROT’s is that it is branded as having a personality, with an attitude to match. “I am your new taskmaster,” it declares.

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                The app comes at a one-time cost of $2.99, with some in-app purchases for different themes and icons.

                Get the app!

                7. Freedom

                  If gamification isn’t your style, Freedom is a stop procrastinating app that offers a somewhat harsher approach to battling procrastination. It will block distracting apps and websites—synced across all your devices. It’s even possible to shut the internet out entirely if you have to focus on an offline project.

                  The app can be downloaded for Mac and Windows, or installed as an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. iOS and Android apps are also available. Premium plans start at $2.42/month (billed annually).

                  Get the app!

                  8. Momentum

                    With an aesthetic approach to productivity, Momentum is sure to keep you focused. This browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge combines beautiful nature wallpapers, a distraction-free time display, inspirational quotes, and a prioritized to-do list.

                    In the free version of the app, you can set yourself daily priorities and other tasks. The premium option, at $3.33/month, also includes a Pomodoro timer and syncs with popular task managers.

                    Momentum is perfect for arriving at work after a stressful commute, or for creating an atmospheric setting in your (home) office.

                    Get the app!

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                    9. Take a Five

                      Breaks are essential. Unfortunately, they are also procrastination pitfalls. A quick five-minute breather can only too easily turn into an hour wasted on Facebook.

                      This stop procrastinating app, Take a Five, helps you avoid that. You set a timer for however long you want your break to be and open a tab. Once your time is up, the app will automatically close this tab and remind you to go back to work. No more going down scrolling rabbit holes.

                      Take a Five is available for free as a web app.

                      Get the app!

                      10. Mindly

                        If a single look at your growing, deadline-laden to-do list sends you into a cold sweat, Mindly is the solution for you. This app helps you organize the deadlines, lists, and reminders cluttering your mind in a three-dimensional manner.

                        You can create an infinite number of circles that connect related ideas and projects. Each circle can be color-coded, tagged with summaries, and annotated with emojis. Harnessing the power of associations, you can keep your inner universe organized.

                        Mindly syncs across devices. It offers a limited free version for Android and iOS that can be upgraded to premium for a one-time $6.99. Furthermore, a desktop app is available for Mac at $29.99.

                        Get the app!

                        Final Thoughts

                        Procrastination, once started, is hard to stop, but these apps can help you get back to being productive and completing all of those to-do lists you’ve been avoiding. Find which one works for you and get started with it today.

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                        More Tips on Stopping Procrastination

                        Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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