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Why Do We Procrastinate ?  Understanding It’s Root Causes 

Just five more minutes is a phrase that we often catch ourselves using, despite knowing the consequences of delaying our work. These five minutes often turn into hours causing panic and stress as we finish our work just before the deadline. Steel (2007) defined procrastination as a form of self-regulation failure characterised by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences. It is a common tendency that sometimes most people give in to, but chronic procrastination can harm our grades, job or life. 

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” – Leonardo da Vinci. Often when we are assigned a task we end up thinking that there is plenty of time, we can do it later. Unfortunately, in most cases that often turns out to be the last day before the deadline. Leaving work to be completed for the last minute brings more misery than joy yet, time and again we can’t help ourselves. “I should have started before” is something that we only remember when we are rushing to finish our work at the last minute. It should be obvious that procrastinating will only cause us more stress, but we just can’t help ourselves from putting off work why is that? Let us look into the causes together as to eliminate a problem from its root we need to first learn why it happens. 


  1. Increase in Stress: procrastination is linked with higher levels of stress, and lower quality of life leading to further mental health concerns. It leads to a downward spiral of negative thoughts and unrest. Research has proved that putting off work leads to anxious thoughts guilt and lower levels of self-esteem, leading to a vicious cycle of self-esteem and stress

  1. Negative Impact on Physical Health: Procrastination leads to stress which in turn decreases our immunity, making us more vulnerable to diseases. Chronic stress can lead to sleeping issues and poor physical health
  1. Work and Relationship Issues: Procrastination leads to poor work performance and low grades. It can lead to regularly putting off work having adverse effects on our academics and career. Procrastination can also be detrimental to our relationships as people who are close to us might feel neglected or ignored often leading to resentment or conflict. 

4.Loss of Time: Procrastination is considered the thief of time. It is important to take regular breaks but often when we procrastinate we feel guilty and anxious. It can also lead to missing important opportunities and deadlines which keep accumulating and can significantly impact your life. 

  • 5.Poor Decision-Making Skills: Procrastination also has a negative impact on your decision-making skills. Putting work off for later creates a lot of pressure resulting in making impulsive decisions that we frequently regret later. Chronic procrastination causes stress and anxiety which further impairs an individual’s decision-making skills.


Joseph Ferrari a psychologist who has been studying procrastination for decades explained that most people procrastinate once or twice but chronic procrastinators make it their life. He further states that they do it at home, they do it at home, they do it at work, and in relationships, these are the people who you know will definitely be late. There is a common misconception that procrastinators are lazy, which has been debunked by several researches that state that procrastinators tend to be worrisome, impulsive and have a hard time regulating their emotions. If procrastination is extremely harmful for us then why do we put off work? Let’s explore the causes to gain some more insight:

  1. Perfectionism: When an individual is too focused on perfectionism, worrying about not making a mistake makes it hard to start a task. The fear of making a mistake or revealing mistakes leads to putting off tasks for another day. It is normal to have some fear before starting a task but pathological fear of failure can paralyze a person into inaction.
  2. Low Self-Esteem: Low self-esteem can cause procrastination due to doubt in our ability to perform. If we feel that we aren’t skilled or intelligent enough to do something it is natural to avoid the task. By avoiding the task we can avoid the uncomfortable and negative emotions caused by low self-esteem. 

3.Disconnection from our Future Self:  This tendency is often called the present bias.n Human beings tend to focus more on present gratification and tend to forget the implications their current actions would have for their future self. Individuals tend to focus more on instant gratification compared to delayed gratification.

4.Ambiguity: Uncertainty or fear of the unknown often makes it hard to start a task. Sometimes people are afraid to take action and it may lead to an undesirable result. Uncertainty about the result leads to discomfort making the individual avoid the task.

5.Lack of Motivation: Sometimes individuals avoid doing a task just because they lack motivation. They might not enjoy the task and consider it boring and unpleasant. An individual is more susceptible to procrastination when they feel that the reward external is not sufficient. 

6.Feeling Overwhelmed: An individual may avoid doing a task because it’s stress-inducing and overwhelming. This commonly occurs when a person has too many tasks to handle or has to complete a single huge task which will have a significant impact on their life. In such a situation, a person may feel paralysed before even attempting the task.

  • 7.Impulsivity and Self-control: Individuals who are impulsive and lack self-control tend to procrastinate more than others. People who lack self-control and our impulsive are more prone to getting distracted, which leads to postponing the task at hand.


Now that we have understood how harmful procrastination is and what causes it, we need to understand how to overcome it. Sometimes it may feel that procrastination is unavoidable but do not worry with some practice we can overcome this habit. Let us explore some strategies to overcome procrastination: 

1.Awareness: The first step is to become aware that you have a tendency to procrastinate and gain insight into why you do it.  You can’t come up with an effective solution if you don’t really understand the root of the problem. As with most problems, awareness and self-knowledge are the keys to figuring out how to stop procrastinating. 

Set Reachable Goals: Often the task the goal we set feels unattainable, which demotivates us from working towards it. Try diving tasks into shorter and measurable ones so that you do not feel that you are stuck in one place. Setting small goals that you can easily accomplish can make you feel more in control and productive and enable you to break the cycle of chronic procrastination.

Set a Direction: If you are unsure where to start research more about the task at hand or seek help from friends, coworkers, teachers, etc to gain insight about the topic and how to go about it. It is hard to start a task if you are unsure what to do. 

Eliminate Distractions: Environmental distractions are one of the main factors which hinder our productivity. Try reducing or eliminating distractions such as social media while you are working. Turn your devices off and keep them away when you are working.

Forgive Yourself for the Past: Understand that the past cannot be changed instead use your past experience to understand why you procrastinated and build upon effective strategies to avoid falling into the same pattern.

Reward Yourself: Often we tend to procrastinate if we feel that the work is not rewarding or fulfilling, which causes demotivation. After dividing your tasks into smaller ones set some rewards to further motivate yourself to keep working. 

The only things I regret, and the only things I’ll ever regret are things I didn’t do. In the end, that’s what we mourn. The paths we didn’t take. The people we didn’t touch.” – Scott Spencer.

 It is completely normal to procrastinate sometimes, at times it may even be needed to take a break from work to avoid burnout. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure that it does not become a habit as it is a vicious cycle which leads one into a downward spiral of anxiety and stress. Let’s try to avoid having regrets about what we did not do and end this vicious cycle. 

By – Kopal Rawat

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