Why do we procrastinate?

Angela van SonBlog17 Comments

converse-fieldsThe last book I read mentioned fourteen possible causes. It seems a miracle that we get anything done at all! I’m not going to list those fourteen, at  least not now. There’s a more pressing issue. I quote*:

Until you can see the function that procrastination serves in your life, you’ll probably put off trying our techniques.”

For me, this is the bigger WHY. What do we gain by procrastination, on a level we don’t even think about? Or, when we think about it, is hard to grasp. Because it seems so irrational. And it is.

Some examples:

  • Fear of failure (hidden thoughts telling you that failing equals losing self-worth)
  • Fear of success (hidden thoughts that claim success is dangerous in some way, or ‘just not for me’)
  • The battle for control (you may be resisting authority, the ways of the world, the clock)
  • Fear of separation
  • Fear of intimacy

Knowing the deeper cause of your procrastination will make it easier to change it.

By the way, don’t worry: the good old “I just don’t feel like it” is one of the causes too. It’s called task aversiveness if you want to make it sound posh ;).

* Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen, Procrastination. Why you do it. What to do about it now.



17 Comments on “Why do we procrastinate?”

  1. Avatar

    I always thought I have a fear of failure. I think because that’s the one I hear about the most but now that I read this I think I have a fear of success. I feel there is so much I don’t know that I don’t deserve success. I’m going to look up that book. Thanks.

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    I usually fall under the “task aversiveness” category but I really need to think about the other examples and see if when I “don’t feel like it” is masking something much deeper.

    1. Angela van Son

      Lately my brain is doing a “I can’t think anymore” scam on me. I just know it’s a deeper level playing up.

      The good thing is, even with the deeper level playing up I don’t need to go to a psychologist or do deep soul searching to get something done. Other strategies, like going for a walk or accepting help work out fine for me.

      Nothing wrong with doing work on a deeper level, but some days I don’t feel like it. Which is a form of task aversiveness I guess 😉

  3. Avatar

    Good points Coach!
    Since you’ve provoked me into observing procrastination, I see there are so many reasons to procrastinate.
    I’ve been asking what things can I do that will make procrastinating more difficult/undesirable?
    One answer seems to be planning and prioritization. If I’ve skimped on weekly planning, i seem to be long on distractions. I’m trying to trade in procrastinating for planning. At least then I have a list of what i didn’t get done 🙂

    1. Angela van Son

      What a brilliant question:

      I’ve been asking what things can I do that will make procrastinating more difficult/undesirable?

      And this one made me smile: “At least then I have a list of what i didn’t get done”

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    I read on another site my procrastination is because I am a perfectionist. If I can’t do everything to perfection, I just don’t do it.

  5. Avatar

    This is very interesting to think about. One of my big reasons for procrastination is I just don’t want to do whatever I’m procrastinating doing (like cleaning the house!). But, I don’t gain anything by procrastinating because I still eventually have to do it, so I should just do it first and get it over with!

    1. Angela van Son

      Good thinking Michelle: “But, I don’t gain anything by procrastinating because I still eventually have to do it, so I should just do it first and get it over with!” I bet that will help on many occasions.

      Have you ever tried cleaning the house in high heels? I did that as a child to make it more fun. Haven’t done it since 😉

  6. Avatar

    I agree that there’s always a reason behind the procrastination. People don’t just procrastinate for the fun of it. I think a big one for me is the fear of failure and what if I were to really give it my all and still fail? This also ties into perfection for me. One fuels the other. I feel that if I don’t do it perfectly then I might fail. But as you said, once I become aware of this, it seems pretty irrational. And once I see the pattern of what’s really going on, I have the awareness and freedom to choose something different. Thanks for your insight on the deeper reasons for procrastination.

  7. Avatar

    One thing I’ve become aware of is fear of success! I get stuck sometimes and I think that I have a fear of what things will look like when my big juicy audacious plans come to fruition.

    Love from Sue (from Amazing Biz and Life)

  8. Avatar

    Thanks for calling it like it is (at least in my belief system)!

    I sooo agree that we DO have a reason for wny we do most of our “less-than”positive” behaviors and when we can get in touch with that part of us, we access the power to change by making different choices that are more congruent with our conscious intentions!

    Great that you bring this to light!


  9. Avatar

    I think my biggest procastinating happens when I’m throwing a toddler-temper-tantrum inside, and my adult self doesn’t want to acknowledge that something’s really, really not right. I find myself writing a sentence, then getting distracted by social media (which, incidentally, I have blocked on all but one browser to remind myself I’m not meant to be hanging out there during work hours – the one browser I leave it accessible is so that I can access stuff if I suddenly discover I need it in the course of my work day, which does happen) then writing another sentence, then getting up and going to make a cup of tea, then writing ANOTHER sentence… (etc, etc, etc)

    Then, and when I’m hormonal – there are about 2-3 days towards the end of my cycle where I cannot focus or concentrate on ANYTHING. And it’s when my focus wanes that procrastination sets in :-S



  10. Avatar

    Great idea, and I do agree – getting to the root cause of why we procrastinate is essential. I’m going to come back to this post next time I’m procrastinating to try to get to the root of the problem.

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