How To Overcome Procrastination


Learning how to overcome procrastination is a simple process that can radically improve your happiness and well being.

How much better could your quality of life be if you knew how to overcome procrastination? What does your procrastination cost you?

Procrastination is a habit. Like any habit, it can be changed. This takes commitment. To commit to any change you need sufficient motivation.

Learning how to overcome procrastination addresses four core areas. These are:

  1. Self talk
  2. Emotional states – what we feel or what we want to avoid feeling
  3. Behaviours – this area covers the mechanics of behaviour modification. New behaviours and habits are set up.
  4. Motivation – being pro-active and skilful in how you manage motivation is essential to success in all endeavours.

These four areas cannot be dealt with in isolation. Each effects the other.

Our self talk directly influences how we feel.

How we feel and how we anticipate we will feel, is at the heart of motivation.

Whether or not we take a certain action or avoid a certain action, all depends on motivation.

To overcome procrastination habits, begin with changing your self talk. Take control of what you think and say to yourself.

Change your self talk and everything else changes!

Literally we talk ourselves into doing something. We talk ourselves out of doing something. We make excuses. We bargain with ourselves.

“I’ll do that once I’ve….” is a popular procrastination mantra! Once i’ve cleaned out the medicine cabinet. Once I’ve lost 5 kilos. Once I’ve finished the tax. When I’m not so tired.

Of the above four areas, the central driver in procrastination is all about how something makes us feel. For better or worse. We are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain or uncomfortable feelings.

The irony is that in avoiding immediate pain or discomfort, we usually set ourselves up for much more future pain or discomfort.

‘Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder’ Mason Cooley

How To Overcome Procrastination: Awareness and Understanding

To overcome procrastination you first need to understand exactly what is going on for you. What are your triggers? What blocks you from taking action now? What are you trying to avoid?

Once you identify your own procrastination dynamics, then you can plan strategies to modify or change each aspect.

To guide your reflection here are some of the most common sources of procrastination:

Self talk:

It’s too hard.                                       I’m too tired/exhausted.

I don’t know where to start.             I don’t have time.

I’m not capable/ I can’t do it            I won’t be able to do it well enough.

I don’t know how to do this.             I won’t be able to finish it all at once.

It must be perfect.                             I can’t start that unless…

It’s better/easier to put it off until……(list all your excuses!)

“What if ” thinking:

Procrastinators often get caught in ‘what if’ thinking. They are fearful or worried about negative consequences.

What if I mess it up?            What if it is not perfect?

What if people judge me?   What if I fail?

What if I’m successful and then cannot live up to that?

Emotional states that set up procrastination:

The most common emotional states that keep us trapped in a pattern of procrastination include:

Overwhelm           Depression        Anxiety

Boredom               Despair              Hopelessness

Resentment          Frustration         Fear

What are your most commonly experienced feelings? What happens when you feel like this?

Behaviours that feed procrastination:

Poor time management.            Poor stress management.

Ineffective organizational habits or skills.

Addictive behaviours.

Being easily distracted and/or losing concentration or focus.

Taking on more than you can manage – a pattern of overcommitting.


It is important to be clear about what motivates you and what demotivates you. Make a list of motivators and de-motivators. Use this information to support the changes you want to make. (Aim to increase motivators and reduce or avoid de-motivators!)

You may also like to read these other posts on  motivation , values and overwhelm.

Counselling can help in lots of ways with all of these areas. Self talk and underlying beliefs can be changed. Your emotional life can be radically improved. Motivation can be made shiny and strong! Behaviours can be modified. Imagine if those things you keep putting off were no longer hanging over you or holding you back!

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