Why You’re Procrastinating (And How To Fix It)

Why You’re Procrastinating (And How To Fix It)

There are 86400 seconds, 1440 minutes, or 24 hours in a day. No matter which way you measure it, that’s a lot of time.

However, time cannot be reclaimed once it is spent. Every single one of those 86400 seconds, or 1440 minutes, or 24 hours is gone forever once it has passed.

And what are you spending this precious time doing?

If you’re putting it towards productive ends, then you have no worries. Whether you are doing work, studying, or working on physical and/or mental self-improvement, you certainly aren’t “wasting” time.

But what if you feel you are burning through time with no direction, focus, or purpose?

In this article you are going to learn the truth about why you are feeling lazy and unmotivated, and how you can overcome procrastination to take action and achieve amazing things with your life.

The Two-Part Process

In order to beat procrastination and laziness and become motivated, there are two things you need to do:

  1. Identify what is causing you to feel lazy/procrastinate/avoid taking action (i.e. find the cause)
  2. Tailor a solution that addresses that underlying cause

I call this the “two-part process”, and believe it is the best way to empower yourself to take meaningful action and overcome the nasty habit that is procrastination.

Identifying Why You Procrastinate

As mentioned above, one of the most crucial things you can do to help beat procrastination and laziness is to identify the root cause of the problem.

This is about understanding your foe. Much as a military commander would (as far as is possible) avoid going into battle without a comprehensive understanding of the enemy, so should you attempt to avoid fighting procrastination without understanding why it affects your life.

The good news is that the causes of procrastination tend to be fairly consistent amongst most people. In my experience, there are five primary causes of procrastination. Read through the list below, and make sure to see which one applies best to your life:

  1. Physical lack of energy.
    This applies to you if you find yourself so tired and lethargic that you cannot actually make yourself do anything. You might know exactly what it is that you want to achieve, but simply do not have the physical ability to do it due to exhaustion.
  2. Fear of failure/embarrassment.
    If you fear the consequences of failing at a task or activity (including the embarrassment or shame of being perceived as a “failure”) then procrastination becomes a comforting alternative. This is because you will be relying on a somewhat subconscious belief that not trying prevents you from failing in the first place. If you’re an excessive perfectionist, then you probably procrastinate due to a fear of failing to meet up to your own high expectations. The whole raison d’etre of this cause of procrastination is that you put off doing things to avoid the possibility of failing them.
  3. Lack of direction or goal in life.
    If you are drifting through life like a rolling stone, and you feel that you lack direction (i.e. you don’t have a concrete goal towards which you can work) then it stands to reason that you are inviting procrastination. No direction and no goal usually result in procrastination and laziness, because you have nowhere to focus your energies. The good news is that this is one of the easiest causes of procrastination to fix … and I’m sure you can probably guess how before I’ve even covered it.
  4. Not knowing where to start/being overwhelmed.
    This is an extremely common cause of procrastination if you are faced with doing something you have never attempted before. In fact, even doing tasks that are marginally different to what you are used to may result in you feeling overwhelmed, or unable to find a starting point. In this circumstance it is all-too-tempting to “relapse” into procrastination; a more comforting alternative than trying to make sense of what you actually need to do.
  5. Plain old laziness.
    In this situation you know what you need to do, you have the energy to do it, and you have the skills and resources to be successful. However, you simply cannot be “bothered” to get it done. Whether you find yourself playing video games, or watching TV, or on social media instead, laziness as a cause of procrastination is often mixed with elements of distraction.

Which one of the above causes of procrastination applied best to your experience? Don’t worry if you think that multiple choices apply to you; this can certainly be the case.

Furthermore, the cause of procrastination can actually vary from instance to instance. For example, you might put off going to the gym because of a lack of physical energy. The next day, you might procrastinate on an important assignment because you don’t know how to get started.

There will, however, be a common theme that will run through most instances where you find yourself procrastinating – your goal should be to identify this common theme as best as possible.

Curing Procrastination with a Tailored Strategy

Now comes the hard part (or maybe the fun part … I like thinking of this as being fun!). It’s time to say no to procrastination and laziness, and yes to motivation and productivity.

As mentioned earlier, the best way to do this is through a tailored strategy that stabs right at the heart of your identified cause of procrastination.

This will require some further research and independent thinking on your part. But in order to make the process as easy and attainable as possible, I’ve put together a crib-sheet that features a number of different ways you can help tailor a procrastination-busting solution for each of the aforementioned causes.

Remember that the aim of this process is to beat procrastination and get stuff done, while addressing the underlying cause of the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

For each cause I have listed a few key bullet points that will serve as starting blocks to help you overcome the problem, and eliminate that underlying cause.

Overcoming a Physical Lack of Energy

  • Determine whether you are getting enough sleep. If you’re up until 2am watching Game of Thrones on your laptop, and then getting up at 7.30am for class, then you certainly will not be getting enough sleep to effectively recharge your batteries. Even if you think you are getting enough sleep, you should attempt to increase the amount or quality of it. A 30-minute afternoon nap might be all you require to get more energy. If you are waking multiple times during the night, then try cutting down caffeine. There is a wealth of information out there about sleep quantity and quantity – do your research and find what works well for you.
  • Try to eat as healthy a diet as possible. Cut down on processed and junk foods, which can leave you feeling sluggish. What worked best for me was reducing my sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, in order to reduce the impact of insulin spiking. You are what you eat; if you eat unhealthily, then don’t expect to perform at your peak when it comes to taking action.
  • Exercise regularly. The verdict is clear that regular exercise improves mood and energy levels. This will help put you in a position where you are able to have a good chance at beating procrastination. Even something as simple as thirty minutes jogging on a regular basis will help immensely.
  • If you already consider yourself to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, but you cannot shake feeling like you have no energy, then you should consider consulting a medical professional. There could be other underlying issues that require attention and treatment.

Defeating the Fear of Failure

  • Accept that failure does happen. Sometimes you try your best, and you don’t succeed (Coldplay reference not intentional).
  • Understand that most mistakes can be fixed. Okay, if you don’t land your jumbo jet on the runway correctly, you probably won’t get another shot at it. However, for the vast majority of tasks and activities you will find yourself needing to do in life, you will have the chance to put right any mistakes.
  • Accept that failing to try is worse than trying and failing. Procrastinating to avoid a perceived failure is a far worse situation than having an honest crack at a task, and then coming up short. When you try at a task, you undertake a learning process that will make you more effective and productive in the future. Not trying denies you this opportunity to learn and grow. Furthermore, if you refuse to attempt a task at all, then you have already failed it.
  • If you are prone to being an excessive perfectionist, then you need to wean yourself away from that mindset. A desire to do good work to a high standard is great. However, setting unattainable targets that you can never meet will only lead to disappointment, and a desire not to try, as you know you will be unsuccessful.

Finding Meaningful Direction in Life

  • Set goals. I cannot stress enough the importance of goal setting for overcoming procrastination and beating laziness. Having goals gives you direction in life, and makes taking action so much easier. Much as a gun focuses kinetic energy in a particular direction, so does a goal focus your mental energy towards a particular point.
  • Ensure any goals you do set are realistic. For example, if you’ve never climbed a hill before, then aiming to scale Mt Everest in six months time would be totally unrealistic (and very dangerous!) Failing to achieve goals on a regular basis actually makes procrastination worse, as it impairs your self-confidence greatly. Conversely, realistic goals inspire you to take action and be successful.
  • Aim to have short, medium, and long-term goals. This will give you focus and impetus in the immediate future, and provide direction in the long-term.

An example short-term goal: Go to the gym three times a week this month.

An example medium-term goal: Run a marathon within the next three months.

An example long-term goal: Compete in an ultra-marathon within the next three years (and hopefully place).

Goals don’t have to sit under a common theme; the aforementioned examples are just for illustration’s sake. Your short-term goal might be to find a new job, while your long-term goal may be to build your own house by hand. The possibilities and combinations are limitless!

Starting From Scratch

  • Break tasks down into more manageable chunks. Almost everything you do can be atomized into a bunch of constituent parts. That 20000-word essay due in two weeks’ time? Start thinking of it as a research process, then writing an introduction, and then doing several argument sections, then a conclusion, and then editing and proofing. Suddenly it becomes a whole lot less daunting.
  • Research strategies and techniques that will enhance your performance when it comes to doing something new. Let’s say your boss has asked you to do a report on Excel, requiring the use of functions that you have never used before. You’re procrastinating on this job because you have NO idea what you’re doing. Why not do some web searching and see if there is a tutorial or how-to that will show you exactly what you need to do?

Kicking Laziness to the Curb

  • Just take action. Literally pick something you need to do, and force yourself to do it. I don’t mean to shortchange you here with a somewhat mediocre explanation, but there really is no other way to put it: You have to find something you need to do, and then do it.
  • If you’re getting distracted in the process (by Facebook, TV, video games, beetle dung sculpture, or whatever) then eliminate the distraction(s). For digital distractions, such as social media websites, I am a huge believer in using “blocker” apps or browser extensions. StayFocusd is the site blocker I use, and it has resulted in massive productivity gains by preventing me from accessing Facebook and Twitter when I should be working.
  • Physical distractions, such as co-workers coming to your desk to have a friendly chat, can be harder to avoid. One effective strategy I would suggest is to purchase a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Not only will these block out unwanted background noise, but they will also make others around you believe you are deep in a state of concentration, thereby reducing the risk of them coming up and distracting you.

The Easiest Way to Beat Procrastination Is to Take Action

This might come as a bit of a kick in the teeth, but the truth is that the best way to overcome procrastination is simply to take action.

Take something you need to do – whether it is college work, chores, or something else – and do it.

At the end of the day, there aren’t many valid excuses for failing to take action. You already know how to do it (and the advice in this article should have hopefully helped) and it’s now up to you to get things done.


By now you should know two important things:

  1. Why you are procrastinating
  2. How to stop it and take action instead – and address exactly what is causing your to procrastinate in the first place

As mentioned above, it’s all up to you now to take action. I’ve given you some of the knowledge and resources you need to succeed (and you’ll find loads more on other Mind of a Winner articles) but you need to put in the hard yards to beat laziness and procrastination.

If you’re looking for more advice, then on my blog “Why Am I Lazy?” you’ll find a comprehensive guide that features 40 different ways to stop procrastinating.

Don’t let those precious minutes slip away without being put to good use.

This submission was written by James Frankton, who blogs about time management and motivation topics at Why Am I Lazy?

James Frankton

Written by James Frankton

James Frankton blogs about time management, personal development, and motivational strategies at his site “Why Am I Lazy?” Having struggled for years with procrastination and low motivation, he now spends his spare time teaching others how they can overcome similar problems.
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