Procrastination is Not a Character Flaw

performance Mar 01, 2023
how to stop procrastinating

 Are you constantly overwhelmed with your work? Tired of waiting for the last second to finish all your projects? Consistently pushing back your tasks until ‘tomorrow’?

This is how I was for the longest time. And after years of studying my own habits as well as listening to the frustrations of many others, I’ve found that procrastination is one of the most widespread issues plaguing workplaces.

Now I will say this: by no means have I found the cure to procrastination (you can just take a look at my desk to prove it). But I have found strategic ways to overcome it, leverage it to my advantage, and ultimately bring it to a healthy level where I feel as though it no longer negatively impacts my work. Getting to this level starts with identifying procrastination that hurts you, using tools and tricks to overcome it, and understanding how to use your work style to your advantage so you can start crushing your to-do list day after day. Let’s get into it.

How Procrastination Develops

For me, procrastination always seems to appear whenever I have to complete a task that I know is either very difficult or intimidating. I think to myself ‘you know what, this is going to take a very long time and I am just not in the mood to get it started right now…’

Excuse after excuse floods my brain of all the reasons why not completing the task is the right thing.

For the longest time, I thought that my procrastination was due to being very lazy, but I see now that this is not the case. When I procrastinate, it's usually not because I don't feel like doing anything, but rather it's because the specific task I am avoiding scares me. I am not confident in my ability to get it done, so I rather ignore it and put it aside until I have absolutely no way out and the time crunch pushes my adrenaline levels so high that action is the only option for me.

“Procrastination is not a character flaw, but a coping mechanism for dealing with fears and anxieties about our work or self-identity”

As this became a habit for me, I got stuck in a vicious cycle. The more I procrastinated, the more anxious and less confident I became. Worse yet, the more I procrastinated, the more I began to label myself (proudly) as a procrastinator. There is a crowd of people out there who tout their procrastination successes, yet deep down they wish they had to drive to complete their tasks on time. I’m not saying procrastination doesn't work, but it is a problem that most of us do not wish to address head on. By reading this article, you are moving in the right direction (or maybe you are procrastinating your current work by reading!). Either way, here are the top 4 ways procrastination shows up for us. After these, I will lay out some tips to conquer them.

4 Types of Procrastination

  • Perfectionist Procrastination: Perfectionists have a hard time getting started on projects because they're afraid of imperfection. They don't want to be judged by others for doing something wrong or poorly, so instead of doing it now, they put it off until later when everything will be perfect: The weather will be perfect, their mood will be perfect, their energy levels will be perfect… Check out my blog post on Perfectionism
  • Avoidance Procrastination: Whether your work doesn't seem engaging, interesting, or important enough, you may find yourself actively avoiding tasks when you get them. You find so many other things to do instead of the task you are avoiding, and your stress levels and productivity suffer because of it.
  • Distraction Procrastination: Technology, social media, and other distractions can pull our attention away from the task at hand and cause us to procrastinate. Ask yourself: “If I weren’t already doing this, would I have started doing it today?” Select 1 activity from each area of your life to eliminate or put aside until your more important goals are achieved. At the Breakthrough Academy, we complete the 15 minute miracle exercise to help us identify where we are spending the majority of our time. If you want to take on the challenge and complete the exercise, I am adding a FREE Resource here for you
  • Overwhelmed Procrastination: When a task seems too big or too complex, we tend to procrastinate because we don't know where to start or how to approach it. This one particularly affects larger projects with longer-term deadlines that sneak up on us quicker than we would like.

Each of us procrastinate differently.

Take a week to study your patterns so you can break them. Record where you are spending time and create a procrastination log (linked here). When it comes to the practices that will help you manage your procrastination, there are so many more great tools to keep in mind, some of which we explore next.

Conquering Procrastination

I love the work of Niel A. Fiore in the book The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. Here are the five actions from his book that I like most and that you can use to overcome procrastination and reprogram yourself to be a producer.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk isn't just about saying nice things about yourself—it's about accepting yourself completely as you are. It's about giving yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them instead of beating yourself up over them. Replace negative messages “I have to, I must finish, this is too big, I must be perfect, I have no time to relax” with positive messages “I choose to, when can I start, I can take 1 small step, I can be perfectly human, I’ll make time to relax”

Three Dimensional Thinking

To tackle the fear of being overwhelmed, accept three things:

  • You do not need to start at the “right” place
    You do not need to finish instantly
    You can learn as you go.

Thinking in this manner makes starting much more approachable, and it also helps you view tasks as opportunities for personal growth. These acknowledgments add depth to your work and allow you to escape the linear track-of-mind that consumes so many people.

Effective Goals

Set realistic, observable, concrete goals with an action verb. From there, break things down into manageable sub-goals that provide a clear and specific daily direction.

“I wish I was more organized”


“I will set aside 10 minutes to organize my workspace every day”

Guilt Free Play

Many people feel that working hard will deprive you of fun, but you can absolutely have both if you prioritize “guilt-free playtime” in your calendar. Doing so removes the fear that work will deprive you of fun, it drives you to finish your work in the remaining time, and the time itself provides energy and stimulation for creative learning and problem solving.

State of Flow

The state of flow is a mental state in which a person is fully absorbed and focused in the task at hand, resulting in increased creativity, motivation, and satisfaction. You can achieve this by setting clear goals, eliminating distraction, and using focused, uninterrupted blocks of time for work.

Bonus Tip for Leaders

If you’re looking for tips on how to manage procrastinators at work, I’ve got you covered.

As we saw in the article, threats and pressure tend to only increase people’s fears, anxiety, and tendency to procrastinate.

On the other hand, successful managers use words and images that evoke choice and inspiration. They state priorities clearly and give frequent rewards and praises, all while focusing on commitment (not compliance) and action steps (not end-point). Here are some actionable tips to get your team moving in a healthy direction.

  • Encourage employees to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Having a clear plan of action can help employees focus and stay on track.
  • Set realistic deadlines and check in with employees to make sure they are on track and staying motivated.
  • Celebrate successes! Let your employees know when they have achieved something — no matter how small. Don’t be afraid to show your appreciation for them.
  • Allow for flexibility in work hours or tasks. If an employee doesn't feel they are capable of completing a task in the allotted time, give them the opportunity to adjust their timeline and workload.
  • Provide resources to help employees manage their time and stay organized. This could include time-management apps, online tutorials, books, and more.

Closing Thoughts

The cyclical dread, stress, and frustration that accompanies procrastination can be broken, if you want it to. Learning how to manage it in healthy ways and position yourself to produce the best results is one very important skill that will take you from good to great in your career, and I hope this week’s article may serve as a helpful guide on how to address it in your current life. There are so many tools and resources to help you put your best foot forward, and ultimately place you in the best spot to achieve your goals and then some. Next week, we’ll be discussing another important topic that builds on the lessons learned here today, and how you can continue to take steps forward towards the things that mean the most to you: an amazing career, strong relationships, fulfillment and gratitude, and a revitalized life that has everything in store waiting for you. See you then.

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