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  • Writer's picturepaulaholahan

Reasons for procrastinating and how to overcome it

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Abraham Lincoln

Do you ever put off what you can do today, tomorrow? I know I do, for example I had put off creating a schedule of all the blogs I am going to write this year. I have a lovely board in my office to write things on and it's been on my to do list for ages, but finally I did it a couple of weeks ago. We all have our reasons for doing it.

It can be easier to do things when we have deadlines, although some people like to leave things to the last minute. It can be a bit trickier when we don't have those deadlines for example, those DIY jobs that have been put off; transitioning careers; dealing with personal and professional relationships.

So what is procrastination?

‘Procrastination is putting off until tomorrow what our better judgement tells us ought to be done now, thereby incurring unwanted consequences through such dilatory behaviour.’ (Neenan, 2012, p13 as cited in Edgerton S & O’Riordan S, 2020, p57)

However, sometimes putting off doing something for justified reasons is known as planned delay. Moreover, when someone takes longer to doing something using extra effort is known as pre-crastination.

What are the reasons for procrastinating?

There are five main areas as to why we procrastinate:

  • Avoidance - it might be challenging for you to have a difficult conversation; make a commitment to someone or something; maybe you don't have enough knowledge or skills to complete something

  • Autonomy - do you have control over what you are supposed to do?

  • Frenzied activity - are you looking very busy to put off what you want to get done?

  • Interpersonal-ploy - are you dependent on others? Do you want something to fail because of another colleague?

  • Over commitment - have you got enough time? How many other things have you said yes to?

What is the impact of procrastinating on myself and others?

There are many ways procrastinating can impact on you and those around you, for example:

  • stress and anxiety

  • deterioration of relationships - personal and professional

  • demotion

  • depression

  • fear of failure

One way of looking at the impact on you and those around you is working with a mapping system. I would like to invite you to think of a time when you delayed doing something and complete the procrastination map below, please feel free to change the examples, add or take away the boxes.

So how did you get on?

Maybe you've identified that the impact of putting off something is having a significant impact on you and those around you or the relief of avoiding doing something is greater than the stress of it. Either way, the issue / problem / task is not going to go away.

Remember this is subjective and numbers have different meanings for you and for other people and the purpose is to give you an insight into how actions or lack of actions can impact ourselves and others around us.

What strategy can I use to help me overcome procrastinating?

I would like to share one strategy of many in my toolbox that you could use to help you overcome procrastination.

  • Think about the first steps of how you could get started, write them down.

  • How can you stop yourself from slipping back, how do you keep moving forward?

  • What are the costs and benefits of doing nothing?

  • Maybe look back at your procrastination impact map for guidance to get you started.

Take care, Paula

See our other pages on: Criticism; Coaching; Stress Management; Action Plan


Edgerton N & O’Riordan S Dr, 2020. Primary Certificate in Performance Coaching, The Essential Management Development Programme & The Foundation Coaching Development Programme. Centre for Coaching: London

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