4.2 Procrastination and How to Avoid it

“You may delay, but time will not”
– Benjamin Franklin

Questions to consider:

  • Why do we procrastinate?
  • What are the effects of procrastination?
  • How can we avoid procrastination?

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss why procrastination occurs
  • Explain strategies to manage distractions and procrastination
  • Discuss how to enhance your sense of self-efficacy


Procrastination can be defined as an act of delaying tasks that require to be completed.

It is something we all do to greater and lesser degrees. For most people, minor procrastination is not a cause for great concern. But there are situations where procrastination can become a serious problem with a lot of risk. These include: when it becomes a chronic habit, when there are several tasks to complete and little time, or when the task being avoided is very important.

Because we all procrastinate from time to time, we usually do not give it much thought, let alone think about its causes or effects. Ironically, many of the psychological reasons for why we avoid a given task also keep us from using critical thinking to understand why procrastination can be extremely detrimental, and in some cases difficult to overcome. To succeed at time management, you must understand some of the hurdles that may stand in your way. Procrastination is often one of the biggest. What follows is an overview of procrastination with a few suggestions on how to avoid it.

Activity – Causes of Procrastination

Causes of Procrastination

There can be many contributors to procrastination that have their roots in our physical well-being or our own psychological motivations, such as:

  1. Lack of Energy – This could be due to lack of sleep, juggling multiple jobs, family situation and responsibilities or illness. Whatever the reason for lack of energy is, it is critical to identify and find solutions to overcome this condition.
  2. Lack of Focus – Distractions are very common and can result from mental fatigue, lack of interest or distractions from other things in your life. Just like lack of energy, lack of focus can impact how you manage your time.
  3. Fear of Failure –  It is important to note that a fear of failure may not have anything to do with the actual ability of the person suffering from it. They could be quite capable of doing the task and performing well, but it is the fear that holds them back.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDI4WeAkRo8&list=PLTnjjdSlNvx3T_8z3k3skfhRW9sODlt01


Impact of Procrastination

Procrastination can impact you in several ways. Most of these impacts are obvious and commonly understood, but some may not be so obvious and may cause other issues.

  1. Loss of time – Procrastination can be thought of as using the time you have to complete a task in ways that do not accomplish what needs to be done. Thus causing you to lose valuable time on unnecessary tasks, leaving you little to no time on the most important tasks that need to be accomplished.
  2. Loss of goals – Completing a task can lead you to achieve a goal. When tasks get delayed due to procrastination, the goals are not accomplished. The risk for the loss of goals is something that is very impactful.
  3. Low self esteem – Often, when we procrastinate we become frustrated and disappointed in ourselves for not getting important tasks completed. If this continues to happen, we can begin to develop a low opinion of ourselves and our own abilities. We begin to suffer from low self-esteem and might even begin to feel like there is something wrong with us.
  4. Stress – When tasks that need to be completed are delayed, it can cause stress and anxiety. Putting off tasks to the last minute is a stressful thing, as it causes restlessness and uncertainty. Procrastinating when it comes to college work almost always includes an underestimation of the tasks to be completed— sometimes with disastrous results.

Strategies to Manage Procrastination

  1. Get organized – Several strategies to get organized are discussed in this unit. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all, and each situation will call for you to try a variety of time management strategies. The next chapter discusses ways to combat procrastination is to use time management strategies such as schedules, goal setting, and other techniques to get tasks accomplished in a timely manner.
  2. Eliminate Distractions –  Distractions are time-killers and are the primary way people procrastinate. It is too easy to just play a video game a little while longer, check out social media, or finish watching a movie when we are avoiding a task. Putting aside distractions is one of the primary functions of setting priorities.
  3. Reward Yourself – Rewarding yourself for the completion of tasks or meeting goals is a good way to avoid procrastination. An example of this would be rewarding yourself with the time to watch a movie you would enjoy after you have finished the things you need to do, rather than using the movie to keep yourself from getting things done.
  4. Be Accountable – A strong motivational tool is to hold ourselves accountable by telling someone else we are going to do something and when we are going to do it. This may not seem like it would be very effective, but on a psychological level we feel more compelled to do something if we tell someone else.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7zSwqxIKvc&list=PLTnjjdSlNvx3T_8z3k3skfhRW9sODlt01


Key Takeaways

  • Understand procrastination and the reasons you personally procrastinate.  Use this information to incorporate proactive strategies to help you avoid procrastinations.
  • Identifying your priorities is an important first step to creating an effective time management system.
  • Once you know how you spend your time, you can make a specific plan for how you want to spend your time.

Attributions and References

This chapter contains adaptations from:

Baldwin, A. (2020). College Success. Provided by: Open Stax.
Book URL: Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/1-introduction
Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/3-3-procrastination-the-enemy-within
License: CC BY: Attribution


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Fundamentals for Success in College Copyright © 2022 by Priti Parikh, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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