Taming Time - Time Management Skills
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Time Management > Overcoming Procrastination > Causes of Procrastination

Get Rid of the Causes of Procrastination
and Get Your Life Back!

causes of procrastination
Photo by Kjirstin. (See footer for photo credit links)

Hands up all procrastinators...

By examining the causes of procrastination you can begin to take your time back from that sneaky thief. Would you let someone on their whim dip their hand into your bank account and take $1? What about $5? What about $1000?



Well I have news for you; you do have someone dipping their hands into your time bank account, procrastination. Taking a resource from you that you have no way of replacing... so what can you do?

Below we will examine 6 causes of procrastination and some simple solutions. If your cause isn't on the list don't fret we have a list of 6 more causes of procrastination and how to overcome them.

1. Can't See the Wood for the Trees

Sometimes a task just positively looms over you. You know the feeling when you feel like you are standing at the bottom of a very large mountain. And no matter which way you look at it - it just seems impossible to defeat.

"Sometimes I find it hard to get started on a large, complex task. It is difficult to identify where to start, so I procrastinate and put off taking the first step."

- Paul: Technical Writer

You know something? I bet you already know what you should do, the question is - do you do it? When faced with a substantial or challenging task what should you do? That's right - break the gigantic, humungous, colossal task into teeny weeny, incey, wincey, tiny manageable pieces. This works, I guarantee it.

In fact this is how I am putting this website together. One step at a time.

Action Step: Break up that assignment, work project or spring clean into manageable chunks. Find a small beginner step you can take. If your task is to spring clean your house, set a timer for 15 minutes and just start. You will find that often once you start it is very easy to keep going.

If you need more practical help with procrastination don't miss this section. If you just get started, you will be surprised at what you can do. Go on, just start!

2. Fear of Failure

"We now know a thousands ways not to build a light bulb."

- Thomas Edison.

More procrastination quotes

Have you passed up opportunities because of fear of failure? We humans are a weird bunch sometimes. To think that some of us actually don't even try something because we are afraid of failing! And fear other peoples reactions to our "so-called failures".

People who fear failure persist in procrastination because they view it as their free ticket to shoddy work. It means they can do a slap shod job at the last minute, with the handy dandy excuse that "I didn't have enough time". Thus letting them "off the hook" - because after all they didn't fail, they just didn't have enough time to do the job properly.

Being afraid to try is one of the more illogical causes of procrastination. I also battled the fear of failure issue for some time. Before I used to let opportunities pass by for fear of looking stupid, but now if something takes me a few goes to get it, so be it. If any of this resounds with you, a change in your mindset will work wonders. It did for me. This is of course is easier said than done, but is key to overcoming fear of failure.

Action Step: Learn to do something that is unlike anything you have done before, and accept that you will experience "so-called failures". In reality these "so-called failures" are really just lessons you have learned.

Also you may want to learn more about the effects of procrastination.

3. Perfectionism

Firstly, I hate to be the one to tell you...but you're not perfect.

And nor will you do everything perfectly, no matter how much you procrastinate.

"Procrastination is opportunity's assassin"

- Victor Kiam

The simple truth is a perfectionist is often perfect at one thing - procrastinating. On my english report card it said "Michelle is a perfectionist and a procrastinator - the two often go hand in hand" (paraphrased from memory). Perfectionism is one of the sneaky causes of procrastination. In fact many are not even aware that their perfect attitude is one of the biggest causes of procrastination.

That report card was a wake up call for me, and I decided to get my act together. If I hadn't overcome perfectionism TamingTime.com wouldn't exist - I would be too caught up obsessing over every last detail. As it stands I do put my best effort in, but I know I'm bound to mess up now and again.

What will wake you up to your perfectionism?

Action Step: Admit you have been a perfectionist. Now give yourself permission to to do a really bad job, to fail and mess up. You have to mean it, otherwise it won't work. Maybe write it down somewhere as a little reminder. You may also want to find out more about the effects of procrastination.

4. Fear of Confrontation

This is an interesting one, I conducted a highly un-statistical (is that even a word) survey to find out what were common causes of procrastination and someone submitted this:

"Procrastination for me is caused by trying to avoid confrontation. I don't want to read an email, pick up the phone, or do anything like that if I fear there will be confrontation or I'll hear something I don't want to."

- Name Withheld

Are you afraid to make phone calls you should be making? What if the internet company overcharged you, would you procrastinate about getting a rebate?

Do not let fear of people get you down. You can get past this and you will benefit greatly by doing so. Make a decision right now to stop living in fear of confrontation!

Action Step: Take the bull by the horns as the saying goes, and make that phone call/email that you are fearing the very first thing you do in the morning.

I like this quote: "Eat a live bug every morning, nothing worse should happen to you for the rest of the day". "Eat your bug" (what you procrastinate about) first thing every day, and have a great day!

5. Lack of Skill

What if the cause of your procrastination is lack of skill? Is there anything that you can do? Of course there is! Identify what you procrastinate about, and what skills would make the task more easier.

Of all the causes of procrastination, I feel this one is the easiest to fix. These days there are so many courses available online or correspondence you really have no excuse! I even did this myself. I overcame some of the causes of procrastination including lack of skill. I went from someone who fought with the computer constantly to someone who makes their primary living on one!

Back in '07 I decided I wanted to stop dreading paper work, the computer and all the rest. I was also interested in doing some work from home on the computer. I took an inexpensive online course about website building. At that stage all I could do with the computer was email. And I couldn't even attatch a photo to an email!! By using the short course to upskill, suddenly I didn't dread the computer. I actually came to love it, and my laptop is hands down my favorite work tool. You can upskill too...

Action Step: Whatever area is holding you back - invest in upskilling. Taking a course will give you some more self confidence, so you can tackle any similar future tasks with ease. I can't promise learning a new skill will cure your procrastination, but it sure will help.

6. Fatigued or Just Plain Exhausted

Tiredness gets you down. It would have to be up there in the top causes of procrastination. Tiredness and fatigue make everything so darn hard. You are not alone. The National Sleep Foundation show that 60 percent of Americans admit to driving drowsy, so stands to reason that there are a lot of people out there running on empty. What can you do to combat fatigue?

"Most of the time I procrastinate tasks because I am either fatigued or simply lazy. Normally the jobs I would have to do, whether it be washing the dishes or paying a bill, are not particularly difficult tasks. At times, the tasks may even be as simple as picking a small piece of trash up off the floor. However, there is a definite point in time where I need to make a decision: Do I do it now or later?

If I do have the time and I'm not occupied with something else, I should do it immediately. But if I am tired, I may not feel like doing anything but zoning out in front of a movie. But if I am being lazy, I simply don't want to do it and choose not to. I often procrastinate in this instance because I'd rather not do anything that is required, and I deceive myself into believing that life would be better if I didn't take care of that responsibility right now."

Casey: Work-at-Home Transcriptionist

Simple answer is to get more sleep. Or better quality sleep. Good quality regular sleep needs to become a priority for you. As someone who has contested with fatigue and tiredness, the thing that works best for me is get a routine. At least for your wake up time. And stick to the same time 7 days a week.

Another reason you may be feeling run down and tired is your diet. Examine your diet - do you have a fatty, caffeinated and high sugar diet? A naturopath put me on a low GI diet for sleep, and wow, what a difference. I felt good, I could wake up feeling energised. The best bit - I could fall asleep at night. If nothing else limit caffeine, alcohol and sugar in the evenings. (Disclaimer: I am not a naturopath, dietitian or anything even remotely close, it has just been my experience that a change of diet helps.)

Action Step: Stop burning the candle at both ends. Decide on a get up time and stick to it and keep the caffeine, alcohol and sugar consumption under control. You might also want to check out these effects of procrastination.

Are you affected by any of these causes of procrastination? Check out overcome procrastination the accompaniament article to this one. It has 6 more causes of procrastination with simple practical action steps. We would love to hear your ideas for overcoming procrastination come over and share them at tackling procrastination.

If you are still asking yourself "why do I procrastinate?" continue to examine this section all about causes of procrastination and ways to overcome it. Is there really a cure for procrastination? What do the stats say about procrastination? Be sure to check out the fun stuff like the procrastination cartoons.

Causes of Procrastination to Overcoming Procrastination

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