CARLOS VETTORAZZI

How to Stop Procrastinating 

26 February 2024
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After enduring years of anxiety, guilt, shame, and anger, life finally caught up with me when I was 28.

There I was, sitting in the doctor’s office, 75 pounds overweight, with blood samples indicating a biological age of 55.

I stared at the doctor in front of me, not absorbing a word he was saying.

All I could think about was what he had just said: If you want to attend your sons weddings, you need to make some health changes starting today.

Looking back it is clear to see that my deteriorating health forced me to stop procrastinating.

Ovdr the next three years I lost 75 pounds, which I’ve kept off for over fifteen years.

But I wasn’t done with procrastination, or it wasn’t done with me, depending on how you see it.

In the next phase of my journey, I decided to reevaluate and improve my approach to relationships.

For many years, my lack of vulnerability and aggressive communication style prevented me from experiencing a loving relationship.

I had reached a point where I no longer believed that a loving relationship was possible.

The lessons from beating procrastination are that we all have something that we procrastinate.

It’s a complex issue that we benefit from understanding.

In my initial attempts to overcome procrastination, I discovered the value of analyzing it from multiple perspectives: motivation, mindset, emotions, environment, and habits.

In this comprehensive article, you’ll gain insights into various cognitive distortions, attentional bias, and emotional theories related to procrastination.

You will also gain a deeper understanding of the procrastination cycle and learn effective actionable steps to stop procrastinating.

Let’s start with a definition and some psychological theories to understand the reasons we procrastinate.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination are the places we go to avoid doing what we know needs to be done, often focusing on the less urgent, more enjoyable, or easier tasks.

We postpone or delay tasks or actions.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

The simplest way I can explain why we procrastinate is because we have an “intolerance to discomfort.”

It is the emotional discomfort that feeds our tendency to avoid certain tasks and prioritize other things – not the task itself.

Procrastination thus becomes a coping mechanism we use to avoid emotional discomfort.

Effects of Procrastination

Many coaching clients have reported symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and reduced life satisfaction, which they attribute to procrastination.

How do you feel when you procrastinate?

The Consequences of Procrastination

When asked about the consequences of procrastination, the answer is straightforward.

The ripple effects of procrastination often lead to a series of consequences such as low self-esteem, diminished self-worth, and feelings of shame.

I can relate to feeling guilty, regretful, and lacking confidence because of procrastination.

That being said, I can also resonate with the notion of not delaying a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, and aligns with our values and purpose.

It’s crucial to identify and understand why you engage in activities that don’t align with your interests, skills, or values.

Without this knowledge, you’re more likely to feel unmotivated and procrastinate.

Conquer Procrastination or Learn to Deal with it?

Whether you “conquer” procrastination or “learn to deal with it” depends on your perspective, what you’re hoping to achieve and how you go about it.

When implementing changes, I consider multiple pragmatic approaches to maintain clear thinking.

I look at various strategies and skills that are likely to help me achieve the desired result.

My approach is based on practical experience and factual observation rather than theoretical or abstract ideas.

I strive to understand what works best in real-world scenarios, considering all the complexities and nuances of a situation.

This allows me to acquire the necessary skills to manage any discomfort associated with procrastination.

Conquering Procrastination

Focus

This approach aims to eliminate procrastination entirely and develop habits that prevent it.

Benefits

Reduced friction, improved self-confidence, and a sense of accomplishment.

Challenges

Eliminate procrastination altogether requires some solid habits. This can be challenging because it demands time, effort, and is not be attainable for everyone depending on their life circumstances.

If you have an infant or elderly, sick parent that requires a lot of your time and attention, you may find yourself postponing other tasks to meet other needs.

In this case, I use deliberate procrastination, meaning I choose what not to do until I can free up resources.

Strategies

Gaining an understanding of your “habit loop” in procrastination help manage and overcome your tendencies to postpone or avoid tasks.

Learning to Deal with Procrastination

Focus

This approach accepts and expects that some procrastination is inevitable and aims to deal with it effectively.

Benefits

More flexible and less demanding than “conquering,” allows for occasional breaks and indulgence, and promotes self-acceptance.

Challenges

Dealing with anything in life requires understanding of your own triggers and the development of healthy coping mechanisms.

The challenge lies in striking the right balance between productivity and personal well-being to prevent burnout and maintain motivation.

Strategies

Self-awareness, setting realistic goals, identifying alternative tasks for when you procrastinate, and negotiating with yourself for more productive behavior.

Ultimately, the best approach depends on your individual needs and preferences and life seasons.

Sometimes things are ending. You find yourself in transition or at new beginnings. Different stages require different approaches.

Some find benefits with “conquering” procrastination, while others prefer a more flexible “dealing with it” approach.

Experiment with both and see which works best for you.

Understanding your reasons for procrastinating will help you choose the most effective approach.

If you beat yourself up for procrastinating, it will only make you put things off more.

Life is a long-term game, often disrupted by short-term thinking.

Most things won’t matter a year from now. So, be kind to yourself and focus on progress, not perfection.

Dont stop experimenting with different strategies that help you get things done in a way that feels both sustainable and positive.

The most intelligent question to ask here is:

What are some things you need to stop doing, continue doing, and start doing to achieve your goals?

What techniques and skills can I adopt to overcome procrastination and achieve my goals sustainably?

The goal in everything we do is to achieve a greater sense of freedom, accomplishment, and fulfillment. This comes from effectively managing various aspects of our lives, including procrastination.

The Benefits of Reducing Procrastination

I don’t think it’s possible to completely overcome procrastination.

Minimizing it is a more practical and realistic approach that improves your life in multiple ways.

Reduced stress and anxiety

Procrastination often leads to either not completing tasks or scrambling to catch up.

Tackling tasks head-on reduces anxiety and restores control.

Increased productivity and achievement

We all need to work, sometimes with less interesting things.

Getting things done on time free up time to make consistent progress towards your most important goals.

Time and focus aligned with your values becomes incredibly motivating and leads to a sense of accomplishment.

Improved self-confidence and esteem

When you consistently overcome procrastination, you signal to yourself and others that you are a person with constructive habits and self-discipline.

This creates confidence in your ability to complete tasks.

It also boost your self-esteem, leading to a more positive outlook on future challenges.

Better organization

Postponing tasks keeps the loop open in your brain. By reducing procrastination, you can close these loops and better organize your tasks.

Reduced guilt and shame

Procrastination leads to feelings of guilt and shame for not taking action. Some of us distract or numb ourselves to avoid feeling guilt and shame.

Whether you distract or numb yourself or feel guilt and shame, overcoming these emotions helps replace them with a more empowering self-image.

Enhanced creativity and focus

Sometimes procrastination lead to bursts of last-minute creativity.

However, overcoming it also allows for longer periods of sustained focus and deeper engagement with life.

It frees up time for play and more creative solutions.

Stronger relationships

When you meet deadlines and commitments reliably, it strengthens your relationships with teammates, family, and friends that count on you.

Your procrastination affects many lives, delaying tasks makes people feel unsafe.

Behind my procrastination, there are unmet needs, both mine and others.

Actionable Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Frame Tasks as Opportunities and Progress

Words matter, and when I reframe tasks as opportunities for growth, learning, and progress they feel less daunting and more fulfilling.

Progress isn’t about a single goal. It’s a constant journey filled of small steps and growth that applies to many parts of life.

Opportunities arise from understanding and addressing challenges, not from repressing them.

Empowering Questions:

How can you view this task as an opportunity for growth and learning?


What small steps can you take to make progress on this task?


How can you embrace the journey of progress and growth in various aspects of your life, including this task?


Visualization + Action

There are two key ingredients for achieving goals:

Vision and execution.

Visualization is a simple technique that you can use to create a strong mental image of a desired future event.

Take some time to visualize yourself completing the task step by step successfully and enjoying the positive outcomes.

When you visualize success, picture what you want to accomplish, not what you want to avoid.

The image needs to have a clear and specific purpose.

Ask: Why do I want this?

Once you visualize your future outcome, start thinking about what you need to do to make it a reality.

Ask: Where am I, where am I going, and what road will I take to get there?

These questions will help you identify potential obstacles, strategize solutions, and break down your vison into actionable steps.

Clarity fuels motivation and keeps you focused on the next step.

Don’t forget, your brain can’t tell if something is real or just in your head.

That is why you can have a panic attack while sitting safely in your couch.

Pro athletes use visualization technique to boost their motivation and confidence daily.

Confidence comes from the Latin word ‘fidere’ which means ‘to trust’; therefore, having self-confidence is having trust in yourself.

When you see a clear path in front of you, take action.

Visualization alone is not enough.

You need to translate your vision into concrete, measurable steps.

Having a clear vision of success gives you both guidance and motivation, but it is taking action that brings your vision to life.

Together, they create a powerful cycle of belief, action,progress and results.

It’s a map and a compass: the map gives you a destination, while the compass guides your steps to get there.

Any small step you take towards your goal helps you move forward, build momentum, and trust yourself.

Practice gratitude

I focus on the things I am grateful for, even when I am procrastinating.

This help me shift perspective and reduce negative emotions that fuel my procrastination.

Just keep in mind that while appreciating positive external circumstances is good, genuine gratitude goes much deeper.

It recognizes the good within you – your skills, experiences, and even challenges that help you grow.

Expressing gratitude should not be used to repress negative feelings, or to ignore valid frustrations or hardships, as it creates an unrealistic and unsustainable positive facade.

Gratitude is constructive – not positive. False gratitude feeds procrastination.

Don’t use gratitude to excuse inaction or accept unhealthy situations.

Instead, use it to recognize the good while striving for improvement.

Don’t neglect self-kindness to create a false sense of positivity through forced gratitude.

Acknowledge your struggles and appreciate your efforts.

Action-Oriented Strategies

The “Just Do It” Approach

The best way to overcome procrastination is to do it, even if it’s just for a two minutes.

When I first started running, I quicly realized that the goal wasn’t to run a marathon. It was to embody the identity of a person who runs four times a week, regardless of the weather or circumstances.

As a writer, my goal is not to write a book, even though that is exactly what I am doing.

My goal is to cultivate a daily writing routine, no matter where I am in the world.

The way I do this is by no longer giving my brain a chance to react.

I decide in advance what I will do when my brain goes into energy-saving mode or interprets something as dangerous, which it will.

I ask three questions related to scenarios where I typically procrastinate.

The questions always stay the same. The only thing that changes is the answer and the predetermined action I will take.

For instance, at the start of a writing session, I often experience a surge of overwhelm wash over me.

I take a deep breath and go through the three questions I have asked and answered in advance:

  1. Is this in alignment with my long-term goals?
  2. Why am I hesitating?
  3. What did I decide in advance I would do in this situation?

The answers I always carry with me wherever I go related to my writing are:

  1. Writing is one of my top three priorities and is 100% in alignment with my long-term goals.
  2. I often hesitate when I see an entire article or a chapter in front of me instead of one sentence.
  3. I have decided in advance to only write one sentence at the time and take breaks every 90 minutes.

This effective method has helped me build momentum, allowing me to see the results of my work, one sentence at a time.

Three simple questions that I have answered in advance makes it possible to break down the immenseness, focus on the one moment at a time.

The “Eat the Frog” Approach

The phrase “Eat the Frog!” is often credited to Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author most known for his work on time management and productivity.

The frog metaphor is used to represent the most important, difficult, and often overwhelming task, conversation, or part of a project.

Brian suggests tackling this “frog” first thing in the morning, to feel empowered and accomplish other tasks throughout the day.

This is sometimes called doing the important – not the urgent.

Identify the most important and challenging task on your list and tackle it first.

This can give you a sense of accomplishment and free up mental space for other tasks.

I write “can” because not all tasks or people are equal.

Beginning with the most challenging task, can feel overwhelming, especially for those who experience anxiety or perfectionism.

Some will find the “Eat the Frog” approach makes them procrastinate more or wipes out their motivation.

Identify what works for you and no matter what you choose, start with at least 2-4 weeks of consistent practice.

This gives you enough time to experience the initial challenges, make adjustments, and see the potential benefits.

Consistency and self-awareness are key to successful evaluation.

Don’t get discouraged by setbacks.

They provide valuable information that you need to adjust your methods during your practice period.

The “Accountability Partner,” Strategy

The “Accountability Partner” strategy refers to a method of overcoming procrastination by sharing your goals and deadlines with someone else.

Some of my coaching clients only feel motivated to exercise if they have a workout buddy, like a friend, family member, or colleague.

They need an accountability partner to start and keep going.

They motivate themselves by sharing their goals and deadlines with others and regularly asking them to check in on their progress.

If that is you, you don’t have a problem with procrastination, but simply need someone who will hold you accountable and help you stay focused.

Regular check-ins with this person can help you stay on track and provide an external source of motivation and support.

If you don’t have an accountability partner, you can share your intentions and actions on social media and ask your followers for support.

Additional Tools and Techniques

Tracking apps

You can’t change what you don’t know.

Information, knowledge, and experience live in a dynamic and interconnected cycle.

If you want to stop procrastinating, you need a more profound and holistic comprehension of both your internal and external worlds.

I use apps to track my time, behaviors, and habits.

This allows me to understand where I spend most of my time, identify patterns, and view days and sessions from different perspectives.

This allows me to make constructive adjustments.

Focus apps

The foundation of focus lies in giving your undivided attention to what needs to be done.

You need to be aware of something before you can focus on it. That is attention.

Focus is a more intense and intentional use of your attention.

Attention is the flashlight that scans the stage, while focus is zooming in with that flashlight to examine a particular object on the stage.

The inability to both scan and zoom in effectively is frustrating and often leads to negative emotions, like anxiety, boredom, and self-doubt.

These emotions further demotivate and fuel procrastination as a coping mechanism.

I noticed that we tend to compensate poor focus by setting unrealistic expectations or overthinking details.

This habit leads to analysis paralysis and further procrastination.

Blocking distractions helps regain undivided attention and focus on needs.

Empowering Questions:

We are is my attention at right now?


Is my focus intentional or scattered?


Am I fully present at this moment?


Mindfulness

Procrastination thrives on distraction, avoidance, and dwelling on negative emotions, while mindfulness encourages present-moment awareness, non-judgment, and acceptance.

Practicing being mindful has helped me become more aware of my thoughts and feelings and emotions and manage them effectively.

Being present shows me who I am and reduces my urge to procrastinate.

Empowering Questions:

What can you do to stay present and focused on the task at hand?


How can you cultivate a practice of mindfulness that will help you recognize and address feelings of overwhelm or anxiety that lead to procrastination?


How can you use mindfulness to transform your perception of challenging tasks from sources of stress to opportunities for growth and learning?


Notes to Self:

Progress, not perfection. Don’t strive for perfection. Focus on making progress, no matter how small. Each step forward is a step closer to your goal.

Break the cycle. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it becomes to break the cycle.

Be kind to yourself. Yes, I procrastinate sometimes. Being unkind to myself wont change that fact, focusing on learning and growing from my experiences will.

Other Factors to Consider

Personality Traits

Studies have found a clear link between certain personality traits and the inclination to procrastinate.

Low conscientiousness often leads to difficulties in planning and prioritizing tasks, making it easier to put things off.

If you have teenagers at home, or if you work with them, you’ll understand what I’m referring to.

Impulsivity, often finds it hard to resist distractions or temptations.

The impulsive person will act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences.

Impulsive actions are typically poorly conceived, prematurely expressed, unnecessarily risky, or inappropriate to the situation.

That’s why the are impulsive, often procrastinate important tasks for thing that bring instant gratification.

The opposite of impulsivity is deliberate thought and action.

Understanding my personality traits and their impact on my behavior has been crucial in overcoming procrastination.

Empowering Questions:

How can understanding your personality traits better equip you to develop a personalized approach to managing procrastination?


How can you leverage your unique personality traits to effectively manage and overcome the tendency to procrastinate?


In what ways can your personality traits be utilized as strengths when tackling tasks and responsibilities?


Personal Environmental Distractions

My personal environment encompasses many aspects that directly or indirectly influence my thoughts, behavior, habits, and emotions.

It includes the physical space where I live, the people with whom I spend time, the social media accounts I follow, and the technology I use.

The temptation to procrastinate intensifies with cluttered workspaces, intrusive notifications, and the endless scroll of social media.

A messy inner and outer personal environment creates feelings of overwhelm and stress.

Empowering Question:

How can you declutter your mental and physical space to enhance productivity?


What steps can you take to create a dedicated, distraction-free workspace?


How can you effectively communicate your boundaries and expectations to others?


Procrastination as a Habit

We are better off seeing procrastination as a habit.

The temporary relief of avoiding the task outweighs the negative consequences of delaying often plays out automatic and without our conscious awareness.

Understanding procrastination as a habit has helped me address its root causes and develop strategies to break the cycle.

In my experience, the key to conquering procrastination lies in understanding and addressing the triggers that lead to it.

Identifying distractions or negative thoughts, which are often the root cause, boosts both my productivity and overall well-being.

The next step is to establish habits that help you start, maintain momentum, and finish strong.

Final Thoughts

Procrastination cannot be reduced to a single explanation or solution.

Instead, we must understand our motivation behind this behavior.

This requires considering various factors such as time management skills, motivation levels, psychological traits like perfectionism or fear of failure, external demands or constraints among others.

By embracing a balanced perspective on this topic and tailoring strategies based on individual needs and circumstances rather than subscribing to one-size-fits-all approaches we can foster healthier relationships with our own productivity habits.

I still struggle with procrastination, but 99% of the time, I recognize my triggers and push through the uncomfortable emotions.

This wouldn’t be possible without a clear understanding of what procrastination really is, when and why I procrastinate.

I have discovered that it’s more beneficial for me to address negative beliefs, practice self-regulation skills, and manage my emotional responses rather than distracting or numbing myself.

It took me years to realize that procrastination is primarily a self-generated stressor and that underestimate my ability to succeed or undervalue the importance of the task.

If I am not mindful, my brain’s tendency to avoid discomfort will prevail, leading me to procrastinate.

We have all experienced the negative consequences of procrastination, which result in unnecessary stress for both ourselves and those we care about.

I will leave you with a helpful perspective from one of my coaching clients:

“Choose to see everything in life as a bootcamp for personal growth and progress.”

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