In the Mind of a Procrastinator

Inspired by the TED speech of Tim Urban, the purpose of this article is to discuss a few of the characteristics and thoughts that make procrastinators procrastinate.

Although we may think that they are only a small group of individuals who may lack the motivation to complete their tasks. In fact, each one of us has been or is a procrastinator. It is a familiar and a common avoidance of completing or achieving our goals. So….

How Does A Procrastinator Behave?

A procrastinator will postpone their main activities or tasks while doing odd jobs around. And I guess each student may relate to this statement. Despite the amount of writing/studying they have, most of them are more likely to engage in activities that are completely unrelated or irrelevant to their current situation. In the worst cases, procrastinators will do nothing at all. They will simply watch how the time goes by against them and enter into a “hypnotic” state where they do not take action, which is commonly known as the passive procrastination.

Interestingly though, a procrastinator is always aware of their avoidance and often attempt to control and impose deadlines in order to motivate themselves.


There could be various reasons why people have their priorities mixed up, but some of them are quite common:

  1. Costs and Benefits of the Activity

A task requires dedication and effort. Depending on the complexity of the activity, one can feel stressed or overwhelmed by the responsibility that comes with it. Sometimes the simple thought of the process can cause anxiety, worry and as a result, the individual will seek activities that will help them reduce the tension.

On the other hand, a procrastinator will postpone the major task in order to finish all the other duties that may interfere with the former one. This is commonly known as an active procrastination and it may be beneficial as it allows more space and dedication for the target.

2. Fear of Success 

Not everyone joyfully reacts to the success that comes with the accomplishment of a goal. As odd as it may sound, some people experience anxiety when they think of the enthusiasm they will experience. What also contributes to the anxious state is also the idea of not knowing what happens after the completion of the goal.

3. Fear of Failure

Looking at the other side of the coin, people may lack self-confidence and doubt their ability to successfully finish a given task. Consequently, they postpone the activity in the hope that a better and easier solution will be found. Sometimes, they may seek enjoyment in other activities due to the fear of responsibility, or just refusing to deal with the challenge.

Therefore, is Procrastination Harmful?

To a certain degree, yes, it is! The thought of having to finish a task while postponing it can double the stress, cause confusion and disorientation. Regardless of the presence of other distractions, the thought of an unfinished task is constantly “hunting” the mind as well as create a sense of agony or emptiness. Moreover, when avoiding dealing with a situation, the result of it may be disastrous due to the increased pressure caused by the approach of the deadline, which will affect the decision-making skills: the more pressure is felt, the higher the likelihood of making mistakes.

Needless to say, a negative outcome will only affect one’s self-esteem, trust in own skills, and satisfaction which may lead the individual to repeat the same procedure in the future.

Now looking at the bright side of procrastination, new research data indicates that such approach triggers creativity. Although a procrastinator may be busy with other activities, s/he will subconsciously develop creative ideas and solutions that could effectively resolve the main task. This may be explained by the Zeigarnik effect, whereby our memory can remember more details about an incomplete task than those that had been completed, and subsequently become more motivated to meet the target.

Furthermore, a certain type of individuals perform much better under pressure or close to deadlines. Researchers explain that as the pressure increase so does the arousal and attention, but only up to a certain point.

Anti-Procrastination Strategies

  1. Identify Why You Procrastinate

Procrastination is often compared to laziness, but the two states are different. The former one involves an active process where an individual choose one activity over another, whereas laziness is represented by a lack of action, apathy, and disinterest.

Nevertheless, it is essential to understand the reason why you postpone deadlines or targets. Although there are many genuine reasons that could force you to briefly delay an important task, sometimes procrastination may be influenced by underlying psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, stress or fear of responsibility.

2. Fight The Feeling

Once you identified the cause of your procrastination, adopt a strategy that could help you fight against it and boost your performance. It is normal not to have the energy or the motivation to start a new task, but do not allow this to happen for longer than two days.

3. One Step At A Time

Generally, deadlines are an estimation of a task’s length and the time it may require to be successfully completed. Instead of perceiving it as a pressure, divide your time into smaller chunks and complete the small bits of the task every day. It will not only make you feel more confident, but it will also switch your brain on, forcing it to engage in the search for solutions. Besides, every effort you put into the task will speed up its completion.

4. Reduce Distractions

Life is unpredictable, but try to prioritize your goals and tasks. If there are situations that can be handled later on and do not require an urgent implication, then do not lose your focus. Practice self-discipline and ensure that you channel your attention in the right direction.

5. Reward Yourself

Every work can leave us mentally/emotionally/physically exhausted and the reward may not always be as high as the effort we have given. This is why you should reward yourself with a mini holiday or any treat that will help you relax once that you have accomplished your goals. In the end, you deserve it!

How do you avoid procrastination?

One thought on “In the Mind of a Procrastinator

  1. Pingback: 7 Traits of Intelligent People – Wabi-Sabi

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