The Real Reasons You Procrastinate And How To Stop

You know you should do something, but you never seem to get around to it. You put off doing something until the last minute, causing yourself to rush through it to get it done on time. Many people find that they procrastinate, but why? Even when there are serious consequences for procrastinating, there are four reasons why people don’t act when they should.

Negative Self-Assessment

When a person’s self-esteem is low, they often procrastinate. Believing that you can’t do something becomes the reason for not trying at all. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that a negative self-assessment of skills, abilities, and worth often leads to procrastination. These negative beliefs make people think they aren’t capable of completing something or that they can’t finish it well enough to please others. People may also believe they aren’t prepared adequately for success if they do achieve it. A negative self-assessment is part of both a fear of failure and a fear of success.

Before doing something, people consider what the possibility is that they will fail. If they don’t think they have the skills and abilities to succeed, they may put off doing something so they won’t have to experience failure when they can’t complete the action. If a person is interested in moving to a new city but is afraid that they can’t pack their belongings well enough to keep them from being broken, has trouble finding their way around new locations, and aren’t good at making new friends, they will procrastinate and never make a move. Procrastination stops them from trying any action that they believe will cause them to fail.

Another part of negative self-assessment is the fear of success. If someone doesn’t think they can handle the changes that success can bring, they may procrastinate to avoid dealing with their fears. A person might think they have a fantastic dessert recipe but procrastinate and never enter it into a contest. The fear of having to get up on stage to receive an award, talk to strangers about their baking, or of getting negative comments from jealous contestants is enough to make them procrastinate and never try to win.

Lack of Importance

Some people procrastinate because they don’t see a good enough reason to act. Instructors at Oxford Learning identified the lack of importance as a reason that students procrastinate with assignments. If students don’t perceive a benefit, they will put off doing the work or delay starting until they don’t have time to fully complete the assignment.

Adults often procrastinate when they aren’t interested in action or don’t feel the benefits of doing something are important enough to make an effort. In the workplace, some people procrastinate because they don’t think their efforts will be noticed by the boss. People arrive late for appointments because they don’t think being on time is important, especially if they get service whether they’re late or not. A person might procrastinate mowing their lawn if they think going to a party is more fun. When someone doesn’t see a worthwhile benefit from an action, they justify procrastination because it isn’t important to them to do it.


The need to be perfect at something causes people to procrastinate. A person may never finish a project or move forward toward a goal because they don’t think their work is perfect enough to be complete. An artist with a closet full of paintings they don’t think are ready to sell, a person who doesn’t take a certification exam because they feel they still need to study more, and someone who loves to sing but doesn’t join the choir because they can’t hit all the high notes are all examples of procrastinating because of perfection. Instead of trying and learning from their mistakes, they put off moving forward because they don’t think they are good enough for success.

Mental Health

US News and World Report spoke with doctors who believe that mental health issues can cause procrastination, including:

• Depression

• Attention Deficit Disorder

• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

When a person is depressed, they may find it hard to motivate themselves to do even simple tasks like get a haircut or go grocery shopping. Depression can make people believe there isn’t a benefit to almost any action. If someone has difficulty completing a task because they are easily distracted, Attention Deficit Disorder may be the cause. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder procrastinate doing useful tasks because they are caught in a cycle of repetitive, compulsive behaviors that fill up the time they could use to doing something else. Not all procrastination comes from mental health issues, but severe forms of procrastination can indicate a need for testing or professional help.

The reasons people procrastinate are complex and include poor self-esteem, fear of failure and fear of success, perfectionism, and possibly mental health issues. Knowing why you procrastinate is the start of changing your behavior and getting things done.

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