This article was last updated on June 29, 2014
Procrastination doesn’t need to rule your life. With the right knowledge you will be able to train yourself to beat procrastination, and find your inner focus and motivation. But in order to know HOW to stop procrastination from affecting your life, you need to understand the WHY. In this article you are going to discover the four most common causes of procrastination.
As you are reading, you should be taking note of which particular causes are most relevant to your own life. Think long and hard, and see which statements resonate best within you. I suggest you take a moment now to grab a pen and paper, and then jot down which proposed causes apply to your experience of procrastination.
The reason for doing this is so that you can use this knowledge when looking to overcome procrastination: The more you know about why you procrastinate, the easier it becomes to stop the problem dead in its tracks.
Much like any good military commander seeks to understand his opponent as best as possible (in order to improve his chances of victory), you should attempt to have as much knowledge as possible about what is causing you to procrastinate.
To help you make the most of this article, I’ve also included a succinct “cure” for each of these causes as well. I would also recommend you take the time to do more research about motivational methods and techniques.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the list and try to understand what is causing you to procrastinate.
The 4 Main Causes Of Procrastination Revealed
1. A Fear of Failure
In my experience one of the most common causes of procrastination is a deep-rooted fear of failure. If you fear the consequences of failing, then a logical extension of this is a disinclination to take action.
This is because you are guaranteed not to fail if you don’t attempt something (although the argument can easily be made that not attempting is the same as failing in the first place – which is an important point to consider).
Procrastination is comforting when you fear failure. It serves as a protection mechanism, shielding you from the possibility of real failure – as opposed to the more subjective failure that accompanies not attempting something in the first place.
Cure: Understand and accept that failure is not fatal. Most mistakes can be fixed, and you will get a second chance to right any wrongs. Obviously don’t go into a task with a mindset of failure … but realize that mistakes do happen.
Furthermore, train yourself to understand that failure to take action and give something a go is actually worse than being unsuccessful in its execution. If you try and fail, you at least have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. If you never tried in the first place, then you’ve got nothing to show at all.
2. Excessive Perfectionism
Another common cause of procrastination is excessive perfectionism. If you are a self-confessed perfectionist, then you might find it difficult to take action unless you know you can do a job with which you will be totally satisfied.
This becomes a problem when you have to try something new, or different to what you are used to. Because of an ingrained perfectionist mindset, you will either consciously or subconsciously worry about being able to reach an end-state that will be to your liking.
It’s a great thing to be proud of the work that you do, and to want to do your best. However, when your mental picture of something you want to complete is actually beyond what you can reasonably expect to do, then you have a problem. Basically, you know that you won’t be able to do as well as you want … so it’s easier to do nothing at all.
This excessive perfectionism causes procrastination by encouraging you to put off attempting a task until you think you can do it perfectly. In many ways, this is similar to the “fear of failure” concept I outlined above; except that instead of believing you cannot succeed at all, you worry that you cannot meet your own high standards.
Cure: Aim to do your best, and be happy with the output. Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect job (especially if someone else will be critiquing your work – their idea of perfection will differ from yours).
3. Low Energy Levels
Another frequent reason for procrastination is experiencing low energy levels. If you are lacking energy, then it stands to reason that you will not feel like doing much at all.
This is a common cause for those of us with relatively unhealthy lifestyles. Whether you get insufficient sleep to “recharge your batteries”, or your diet causes you to feel sluggish and tired, lifestyle factors can play a huge factor in how inclined you are to get up off the couch and take action.
You should be able to easily identify this problem in your life: If you want to be active and productive, but simply lack the physical energy to do so (i.e. the mind is willing but the flesh isn’t) then you are probably suffering from low energy levels.
Cure: Work on developing a healthier lifestyle. Experiment with sleep, diet, and exercise to find a balance that works for you. There is a wealth of useful information online about making positive lifestyle choices – and you’ve probably already got a fairly decent idea already of what changes you could make.
If you cannot get any positive results (in terms of raising your energy levels), then consider consulting a healthcare professional in case there are underlying causes of low energy that require comprehensive medical treatment.
4. A Lack of Focus
A lack of focus in life is another frequent cause of procrastination. Although some people like to claim that “the person who does not know where they are going always travels further”, this idiom does not mesh well with those of us who are predisposed to procrastination.
You probably have a lack of focus if you frequently feel directionless, or that you do not really have a purpose in life. If you do not have any goals set, then it is almost certain that you will be lacking in focus – as you have no target to work towards. You may simply feel as if you are just drifting through life.
This lack of focus causes procrastination by preventing you from homing-in on an “end point”. Instead, you will wind up expending all your energy in the here and now, with nothing to guide you towards productivity.
When I was younger I suffered greatly from a lack of focus. I had no strong goals or targets to reach, so I simply frittered away most days. It wasn’t until I learned the art of effective goal setting that I became able to overcome procrastination and achieve more with my life.
These days I set goals for just about everything I do. I have goals for my fitness (e.g. wanting to squat twice my bodyweight by the end of the year) through to long-term financial goals.
Cure: Set yourself some inspirational-yet-attainable goals. It’s important to set the bar high enough to encourage you to take action, but not so high that you are likely to fail (which isn’t good for your motivation and drive).
A good goal encourages you to take action, because you do not want to disappoint yourself by failing to achieve what you set out to do.
You should now have a solid understanding of the primary causes of procrastination. What is crucial at this stage is to find the causes that speak most clearly to you.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, understanding what has caused procrastination in your life will give you the power to fight back against it.
Once you understand why you are procrastinating, you can take steps to overcome the problem and experience a much more fulfilling life.
I’ve beaten procrastination, and many others from all walks of life have managed to do so as well. There is no reason why you cannot do the same – now is your chance to go out and make the most of life.