Get Real About Procrastination

Procrastination is very closely connected to your emotional well-being because in avoiding a task, you are also avoiding unpleasant tasks or feelings. It’s a coping mechanism that can sometimes go awry.

Labeling these feelings and knowing why you are procrastinating can be helpful in overcoming it. While your reasons for procrastination can vary, there are some general emotional triggers that contribute to most instances of procrastination. Read on below and see which seem familiar to you. Once you identify how and why you procrastinate, you can learn some helpful strategies for preventing and tackling procrastination.

I am not sure how or where to begin.

In these instances, you feel overwhelmed by a task. You may not be sure how to complete it, or perceive you don’t have the skillset to complete it, so you put it off. In doing so, not only are you avoiding the task, you are also avoiding the feeling of being overwhelmed.


I am not sure I can succeed.

If you tell yourself this, you may feel afraid to fail. Failing because you didn’t try can seem easier than failing when you did try. Putting off a task makes it easier to blame a bad outcome on the lack of time versus the lack of trying.

Alternatively, you may feel afraid it won’t be perfect. If you have high expectations for the outcome, it may cause you to delay a task because you are worried that the outcome may not be “perfect”.


I am just not into it.

This summarizes procrastination when you feel disengaged, disinterested, tired, or unmotivated. You may find a task or subject boring, and your lack of interest and enthusiasm is getting in the way of completing it. Procrastinating allows you to avoid the unpleasant feelings of doing something that does not interest you.


It’s easy, I only need ____ amount of time/I can just do it later.

If you find you are telling yourself this, you mayfeel (over) confident about a task or your abilities. Delaying allows you to enjoy something more pleasant for the time being. While this may not always be a bad thing, if you underestimate how much time you need or the skill set needed, you may find your avoidance causes more stress.


You can’t make me do it.

Have you ever procrastinated on something that another person asked you to do? That’s because you may feel coerced into a task that you did not volunteer for. Therefore, you put it off as a way to rebel.

Strategies to Manage Tasks that Don’t Bring You Joy

Since avoiding emotions is likely at the root of procrastination, learning to label and regulate your negative emotions can be helpful in preventing it. In addition, the following may be helpful in managing tasks that don’t bring you joy.

  • Write down your goals and identify how this task relates to your long- or short-term goals.
  • Break down larger tasks into smaller chunks and set deadlines for these pieces. This may help make an overwhelming task seem surmountable and hold you more accountable.
  • Imagine what it will feel like when you have completed the task. That sense of accomplishment and satisfaction can counteract the negative feelings you may associate with a task.
  • (re)Define success. Ensure that your expectations of success are realistic and attainable. This can help mitigate perfectionism and fear of failure.
  • Try the “Five Minute” rule. Working on a  task that disinterests you for five minutes can often be  enough time to get you invested in order to see something through to completion.
  • Reward yourself for completion. Having something to look forward to when you are through can be very motivating.

Procrastination can become part of a vicious stress cycle. Simply put, if you are experiencing stress and not managing it well, you may start to have negative feelings towards schoolwork and assignments. If you avoid these feelings by procrastinating, you may create more stress for yourself because now you have a shorter time frame to complete an assignment or project. That can cause you to perform worse on a project, leading to more stress and negative emotions—and more procrastination. Therefore, having a routine for managing stress can protect you from the pitfalls of procrastination.