Overcoming Procrastination

"I think I procrastinate. Where do I start?"

Identify your signs of procrastination:

  • How do you know you are procrastinating? 
  • What do you do to procrastinate? 
  • Identify situations or areas in which you procrastinate, (for example, social relationships, school, finance, household, etc.) 
  • When do you procrastinate? 

"What might be underlying issues or causes of procrastination?"

  • Lack of relevance 
  • Lack of interest 
  • Perfectionism: having extremely high standards which are almost unreachable 
  • Evaluation anxiety: concern over other's responses to your work 
  • Ambiguity: uncertainty of what is expected to complete task 
  • Fear of failure and self-doubt 
  • Fear of success: for example, if you succeed, you might have concerns over having to maintain same level of performance; concern over jealousy from others. 
  • Inability to handle the task: lack of training or skill necessary to complete task 
  • Lack of information needed to complete task 
  • Environmental conditions: 
  • Orderliness of work area 
  • Availability of needed materials 
  • Adequate lighting 
  • Distractions 
  • Temperature 
  • Physical conditions, such as fatigue
  • Anxiety over expectations that others have for you. This might include feeling high pressure to succeed or having expectations that you will fail.
  • All-or-nothing thinking (for example, seeing one setback as total failure) 
  • Task seems overwhelming or unmanageable 
  • You are actually overextended, trying to manage too much

"What can I do to manage procrastination?

  • Identify what is necessary to accomplish task in a given amount of time; Get a sense of the entire project and what is required to complete it. 
  • Set goals for what is to be accomplished
  • Break goals into smaller sub-goals, such as concentrating on one section of a paper at a time. 
  • Accept that there are no magical cures. 
  • Struggling with Fear of Failure?
    • Acknowledge strengths skills 
    • Recall previous successes 
    • Work on weaknesses 
    • Take risks 
  • Struggling with Fear of Success?
    • Get accurate perspective of what your success will mean 
    • Focus on your own needs and expectations rather than those of others. 
  • Perfectionism:
    • Examine your standards. Are they realistic? Are they set so high that they are causing you distress? 
    • Adjust your expectations and set realistic goals. 

"What are behavioral strategies I can use to overcome procrastination?

Identify and Plan:

  • Identify your special behavioral diversions
  • Note when and where you use them 
  • Plan how to diminish and control their use 

Bits and Pieces:

  • Break large tasks into small ones.
  • Prioritize work and set deadlines.
  • Use behavioral suggestions, like laying the book you have to read out in plain view.

The Ten Minute Plan:

  • Work on a dreaded task for ten minutes, then decide whether or not to continue.

Bogged in the Middle:

  • Change location or position; take a break; switch subjects or tasks.


  • Make contracts with yourself or someone you see regularly.

Premack Principle:

  • Reward yourself for accomplishment.

"What are cognitive strategies I can use to overcome procrastination?"

Prepare yourself mentally. Think of:

  • When, not if
  • The price of delay
  • Positive thoughts
  • Learn to tolerate discomfort

Watch for mental self-seductions into behavioral diversions. Examples include:

  • "I'll do it tomorrow"
  • "What's the harm of a half-hour of TV now? I've still got time"
  • "I deserve some time for myself"
  • "I can't do it."

Dispute mental diversions: Ex. "I really don't have that much time left, and other things are sure to come up later," or "If I get this done, I'll be better able to enjoy my time," or "Once I get started, it won't be that bad."

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