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Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off important tasks that we know we should do.  Procrastination is often caused by fear of failure or the avoidance of doing something important that has a deadline attached to it.   If you want to learn how to avoid procrastination it’s essential to understand the causes of procrastination.

When we procrastinate, instead of working on something important we choose to do something else of less importance.  If you procrastinate you’re probably familiar with the frustration, stress and overwhelm that goes hand in hand with procrastination. 

In this article I’m going to share the primary causes of procrastination and give you 7 ways to avoid procrastination in the future.

Whether it’s a looming deadline, an important project or a new capability you want to develop, learning how to avoid procrastination will save you time and energy and help you get more focused.  

The meaning of procrastination 

Procrastination is the act of delaying or failing to take action on an important task, project or deadline.  Procrastination is not laziness or a character flaw.  We all procrastinate from time to time.  Procrastination is the process whereby we choose to do something else instead of the work we know we should be doing.

Should is the key word for procrastinators.  We procrastinate when we know we should do something important but don’t take action.  We also procrastinate when we continue to do something even though we know we shouldn’t.  

Procrastinators often put things off or leave them to the last minute.  Many procrastinators only take action when a deadline is looming and waste time doing anything else apart from taking action and moving forward on the project or task they have to do.

What causes procrastination? 

Procrastination is caused by a variety of internal and external factors.  People often procrastinate because they don’t have the confidence to complete a task or they’re afraid of failing a task.  These fears cause procrastination and and stop people from getting started in the first place.  There are six primary factors that contribute to procrastination. 

1. Fear of failure 

People often procrastinate because they worry that they won’t achieve a desired result, or feel like they don’t have the capabilities to achieve it.  This fear of failure comes from a lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem.  

2. Low self-confidence

People often procrastinate when they don’t have the self-confidence to take on the work or feel that they can complete it.  This lack of self-confidence causes people to waste time on activities that they feel confident about doing.  

3. Goals not being exciting enough  

We procrastinate when our goals, tasks or projects are just not exciting enough.  Procrastination starts when we aren’t emotionally committed or engaged in the project or the end result it will achieve.  Instead of working, we procrastinate and find other things that are more interesting to do.

4. Unsure of first step to take

We procrastinate when we try to figure out how to do something that we don’t have the capability to undertake.  When we are unclear on the first step to take or feel we don’t have the capability to move forward, we procrastinate.

5. Perfectionism 

A common cause of procrastination is perfectionism.  Rather than taking action, perfectionists spend hours, days and even weeks tweaking and perfecting their work.  This is often caused by having impossible ideals and a fear of failure.

6. Lack of focus 

Procrastination is often caused by a lack of focus.  We procrastinate when we don’t have a clear focus on where we should invest our time and what’s most important to us.  Instead of being focused on our most important work, we procrastinate and waste time on low value activities.

James Clear goes into more detail on why we procrastinate

7 tips on how to avoid procrastination

Here are 7 ways to avoid procrastination.  

1. Set achievable goals

Part of the reasons we procrastinate is because our goals feel too daunting and we lose confidence and focus.  The key to avoiding procrastination is to set achievable goals that you feel confident about achieving, 

It’s easier to avoid procrastination if you feel confident, energised and excited about the work you’re doing.  Having this confidence helps you stay focused on your most productive work, instead of procrastinating. 

To make progress on your goals, start by laying out five specific, measurable goals you want to achieve in the next 90 days.

Then come back to today, and lay out the first action step you want to take for each of the five goals.  This will help you avoid procrastination and get into action.

2. Forgive yourself for procrastinating 

We all procrastinate.  The first step to avoid procrastinating in the future is to forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past.  

Procrastination can feel like something you don’t want to admit.  Many procrastinators look at procrastination as laziness or a character flaw.  They don’t want to admit to their procrastination.

The thing is, everyone procrastinates.  Procrastination shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of inadequacy.  In fact, procrastination can be viewed as a powerful tool for productive work. 

If you identify the number one task you’re procrastinating on, it might actually be the task that is most important for you to take action on right now.   

3. Create deadlines to avoid procrastination

We procrastinate when we have no fixed deadline to work towards.  Procrastinators often get trapped in a cycle of should do or I’ll do it someday.

To avoid procrastination, you need to create deadlines to complete goals, projects or tasks.

If there is no deadline attached to the work you’re doing, you will procrastinate and put it off.

When there is no excitement or energy to the work you’re doing, then it will be put off in favour of activities that you enjoy far more.

To avoid procrastination, get in the habit of setting deadlines for your work so you know exactly what you need to complete, and by when. ,

4. Remove distractions 

We procrastinate when we are distracted from our most important work.  Procrastinators love distractions as it takes them away from taking. 

To avoid procrastinating, it’s essential to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working on your most important projects.

If you don’t, it’s easy to get distracted by people, interruptions, social media notifications or other stimuli.

When your environment is not conducive to getting things done, avoid procrastination by changing things up.

Work in a coffee shops, in a park or anywhere else where you the space and time to be distraction-free.  

5. Work in time blocks 

We procrastinate when we can’t focus on our most important work.  Instead of being focused on one project, we multi-task, and waste time on low value work. 

To achieve bigger results, and avoid procrastination, start working in time blocks.  Time blocking allows you to focus on one specific task for a fixed period of time, without switching to another task.  

You can use the Pomodoro technique or some other platform to help you with time blocking.

I use the 60-60-30 method to help me avoid procrastination.

The way it works is simple.  Decide on an important project or task to work on.  Work on it for fifty minutes, or until the timer goes off.

Then take a ten-minute break, then work for a further fifty minutes.  Take a further ten-minute break and finally, take a thirty-minute break to recuperate.  Use this time to get some exercise, go for a walk, have some lunch or talk to a friend.

Using time blocking will help you avoid procrastination and help you stay focused.

6. Take more breaks

We procrastinate when we feel fatigued and lose energy and focus.  If you’re working long hours without a break, it becomes easy to feel exhausted and start procrastinating.

To avoid procrastination, start taking more breaks during the day to boost energy, focus and motivation. When we feel energised and focused we can stay on task for longer, which ensures we don’t procrastinate. 

7. Get organised with an accountability partner

The reason we procrastinate is often because we have no accountability.  Without accountability to ensure we compete projects or move closer towards our goal, we procrastinate. 

If you work alone, there is no one to hold you accountable.  Lack of accountability can mean that deadlines aren’t achieved and hours are wasted on social media and chasing bright shiny objects.  

To avoid procrastination, find a coach, mentor or accountability partner to hold you accountable.  They will help to motivate you and inspire you to tackle important projects and move you closer towards your goals.

This accountability helps you stop procrastinating and complete your most important work. 

Read more about the benefits of working with an accountability coach


To learn how to avoid procrastination, firstly forgive yourself for procrastinating in the first place.  Then, take a moment to identify the things you’re procrastinating about.  

Finally, commit to using the anti-procrastination tips I’ve shared in this article.  They will help you identify the first step to take to get into action.  Take that first step.  Then identify the next step to take. 

Don’t let procrastination stop you making progress towards your goals.  Take action today.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What’s your number one tip to avoid procrastination and get more done?

Which one thing causes you to procrastinate?

Either way, let me know in the comments.

Procrastination articles

How to overcome procrastination: 5 simple ways 

How to stop procrastinating in 7 steps 

5 ways to overcome fear of missing out 

How to overcome perfectionism: 4 simple ways 

Overwhelmed at work? 10 strategies to beat stress

About the Author

Mark Pettit is a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results. 

Get more articles, tips and tools to help you simplify your time and stop procrastinating on the blog.

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