What Causes Procrastination and How Can We Stop It?

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a chronic procrastinator. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “I’ll get to it later” or “I do my best work under pressure,” I could have beat Elon Musk to buying Twitter.  And while it feels good to put things off in the moment, I always wind up feeling stressed and overwhelmed when it comes time to tackle my tasks. 

Wasting time is not a good habit, but it’s difficult to change your ways once you’ve developed a habit of chronic procrastination

Notice that I said “difficult,” not “impossible!” Like all habits, chronic procrastination can be changed. The first step in changing your habit is finding out why you procrastinate in the first place. So, let’s learn about what causes procrastination before we discuss some steps we can take to stop putting things off.

What Causes Procrastination?

  • Anxiety. Anxiety is overwhelming. Folks that experience anxiety may procrastinate due to the stress or tedium of a task, or else the fear of inadequate completion. Be kind to yourself and remember that practicing self-compassion amidst anxiety is one of the best ways to avoid anxiety-related procrastination.
  • Prioritizing pleasure. Let’s face it: getting things done isn’t always fun. As humans, we tend to prioritize our pleasure, ultimately putting off important tasks if they aren’t enjoyable. For example, a certain freelance writer might delay completing an article in favor of a quick hike, because the hike is more pleasant in the short-term. While the hike is more enjoyable, it typically isn’t worth the resulting stress of procrastination (speaking from personal experience).
  • Perfectionism. Perfectionism is one of the leading causes of procrastination. Healthline puts it best: “For many people, the idea of doing a task in a less-than-perfect way may be grounds enough to say, ‘Forget the whole thing!’” 

When you have an important task looming over you, it’s easy to focus on the fear of making a mistake. This fixation on failure results in difficulty starting tasks because your brain tricks you into delaying your duties entirely. If this sounds familiar, don’t let yourself fall into this trap! Slow down, and remind yourself that making mistakes is a valuable part of completing any task.

  • Exhaustion. Life is exhausting. If you’ve had a long day or a rough morning, productivity is the last thing on your mind. It’s easy to lean into that lack of motivation and say, “I’m too tired, I’ll get to that later.” While it’s important to take breaks and focus on your mental health, too many breaks can be a bad thing. 
  • Distractions. When was the last time you sat down to get some work done without spending the first few minutes scrolling through your phone? If you’re like me, it’s likely been a while. Thanks to the seemingly endless amount of notifications that ping from our smartphones, the risk of distractions is at an all-time high. One of the best ways to avoid procrastinating is to put your phone down and get focused!

Five Ways to Stop Procrastinating

Now that we know what causes procrastination, let’s look at some strategies we can use to curb our natural inclination to delay. 

  1. Take it in small steps. It can be overwhelming to know where to start when you have something big to do—so split it up! If a task will take eight hours, shrink it down into four segments of two hours. You’ll find the task much more manageable, and you can reward yourself with a well-needed break in between.
  1. Make a plan and stick to it. Schedule out blocks of time specifically for completing high-priority tasks. Write your schedule down, and make sure you stick to the original plan. This is a good exercise in personal accountability, and a great way to begin a habit of doing rather than avoiding. Make sure you reward yourself for following your plan!
  1. Take a deep breath and meditate. As a chronic procrastinator myself, I find that taking a few minutes to clear my head before getting started on an assignment is the best way to maintain a feeling of focus. Slowing down and focusing on breath helps you feel more connected with the present moment. This helps your brain enter a clearer and more optimistic state of mind: perfect for getting work done. 
  1. Make a tally mark every time you find yourself off-task or procrastinating. This one might feel a little ridiculous, but trust me! Next time you sit down to get some work done, pull out a little piece of paper and set it next to you. Whenever you feel the urge to check your phone or succumb to a silly distraction, make a tally mark. At the end of the day, count up how many tally marks you have. If you do this every time you work, you’ll notice the amount of tally marks getting progressively lower. This is a method of brain training that encourages awareness and helps you retain focus and stay on-task.
  1. Put your phone away. According to a recent study, the average American checks their phone 344 times per day. To put that into perspective, that’s once every four minutes! With that statistic in mind, it’s no surprise that phones are what causes procrastination. One of the best ways to maintain focus and avoid procrastinating is to put your phone away when you’re working on an important task. Those emails, texts, or TikTok messages can wait.

Troomi Teaches Your Kids Productivity

Adults aren’t the only ones who deal with procrastination—kids procrastinate just as much as we do. What causes procrastination for kids? Well, if a task doesn’t sound fun or exciting, or if expectations are unclear, they are often the first to suggest delaying it in favor of doing something else. This is especially the case when cell phones are involved. Why do math homework when you could play Fortnite?

If your child is delaying school work or neglecting their social life to play on a phone, Troomi is just what you need. Our kid-friendly, parent-approved smartphones encourage kids to prioritize the important stuff. By removing social media and addicting games, Troomi phones encourage your kids to focus on the world around them—not the screen in front of them.
Click here to learn more about Troomi, then click here to check out the Troomi blog! We update it every weekday with interesting tech tips, news stories, and everyday parenting tricks.