The Main Reasons for Procrastination and How to Overcome Them

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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There are many reasons people procrastinate, ranging from the psychological to the practical. Let’s look at each of these in turn.


Psychological Reasons for Procrastination

“Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination.” -Unknown

Fear of failure, fear of success, low self-esteem and a negative view of oneself and one’s accomplishments have all been cited by experts as some of the main psychological reasons people procrastinate.  

You may think going to therapy is the only way to solve these issues, but then procrastinate and never go. A more practical approach is to look inward to see which of these reasons is causing your procrastination so that you can tackle each issue one by one.

Fear of failure? Stop comparing yourself to others. Compare yourself to yourself. Are you improving? How did you improve? What are your accomplishments? Review them. Think back to times that you didn’t know how you would accomplish a goal but you did. Here’s another secret: start.

Fear of success? Success brings a lot of rewards, but also the responsibility of always having to maintain high standards. This can lead to perfectionism, so the work will never be completed. Done is better than not done. Start. Review. Edit. Update. Improve. It does not need to be perfect; it just needs to get done.


Practical Reasons for Procrastination

“Procrastinator? No. I just wait until the last second to do my work because I will be older, therefore wiser.” - Unknown

There are a lot of practical reasons for procrastination that you may not be aware of. Again, a personal inventory may help you spot patterns and counter them with a range of success strategies. Which ones can you relate to below? As you read through, start thinking about ways you can overcome these challenges.


A Lack of Focus

“It’s not procrastinating if you are drinking coffee, it’s “procaffinating.” -Unknown

You might try to sit down to work only to start answering emails, tweak your Facebook page or fiddle with your website. If you are in your own business, these can all be useful online marketing strategies but they are not usually mission-critical compared to meeting important deadlines.

Turn off all distractions and schedule a couple of times a day only to check your email or go on the internet, so "research" does not become random surfing.

Lack of Prioritization

“I’m very busy doing things I don’t need to do in order to avoid doing anything I am actually supposed to be doing.” -Unknown

We all remember that sinking feeling at school when every single teacher started giving the same deadlines or nearly the same deadlines for their big projects. You probably started with the projects you liked the best or found the easiest, and many times, the topics we like are the easiest. Later on, you may have realized that you didn’t budget enough time for the projects that would take longer because they were overwhelming or maybe just not interesting to you. Ugh!  

It can be the same in your career. Avoid this problem by keeping track of deadlines with a daily, weekly and monthly to-do list as well as a list of projects. Check your calendar at the start and end of each day to track your progress and countdown to each important deadline. Always build in extra time so you can meet your deadlines.


A Lack of Concentration

“Stop putting it off. Procrastination breeds guilt, guilt breeds depression and depression breeds failure.” -Barbara Corcoran

Concentration might be an issue if your mind is racing all the time. Even if you have turned off all distractions and are sitting at your desk, you can’t seem to get going or keep going.

One idea is to push forward with the work no matter how bad you might think it is. It can always be edited and improved upon later. A blank piece of paper can’t be edited. Set a timer. Oftentimes, starting is the most difficult part of the job.

If you try all these tips and still can’t seem to concentrate, consider getting a medical check-up. You might be suffering from ADHD. Or, you might be taking medications known to cause changes in memory, such as antihistamines for allergies, antacids, and statin drugs to lower cholesterol. Discuss alternatives with your doctor.


Procrastination can hold back even the most talented people from the success they deserve. Honestly assess your reasons for procrastination and experiment with planning, scheduling and prioritizing. You may find a great improvement in your overall wellbeing which will motivate you to continue with your new-found techniques.