Why Are We Still Procrastinating?

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill”.  Christopher Parker

Procrastination is all too common and most of us struggle with it from time to time; take heart, researchers estimate that only 20% of us are actually chronic procrastinators and this figure holds world-wide. The rest of us, simply have moments when we struggle to take action. With guidance and a measure of awareness we can move through the problem.

Early theories of motivation identified that tasks and goals can possess both appealing elements, that influence us to move toward them, and unappealing elements, which move us away from them. It is this dichotomy that often befuddles us. Overall, when a task lies in the future, we feel optimistic or positive about moving toward it, however, as we move closer to the task or event, the negative aspects become much more evident. These forces influence the dynamic which follows.

It has been suggested that goals can be characterised as either “approach goals” or “avoidance goals”. An approach goal would reflect a desired or positive outcome, such as studying to earn an “A” and an avoidance goal would focus on staying clear of an outcome that is unfavorable, such as studying to avoid failing. Think of all of those failed New Year’s resolutions were they framed positively or negatively in your mind? Research has shown that “avoidance goals” have a greater tendency for procrastination. So, it seems that how we “frame” our view of a goal is critical. Exploring why we feel negatively about a goal, may help us move toward it and possibly understand our tendency to procrastinate.

Reasons why we might feel negatively about a task:

Feeling “outmatched”: Often we question whether we have the knowledge, skills or abilities to complete the task or goal. These judgments can delay a healthy start.

Fear of failure: Pondering the prospect of failure can keep us from tackling a tough task; perfectionism can also play a role. When we put things off we also avoid being judged or evaluated.

No connection: When a task feels irrelevant to our role, position or function, our energy level can wane. Investing time and resources doesn’t seem warranted.
It’s painful: Making a difficult phone call or writing that long overdue e-mail can be stressful. However, on some level we know that we need to act.

Collateral damage: We can develop a negative association between a task and something or someone else. In essence, it’s not the task that you feel uncomfortable with; it’s the individual who asked you to complete the task or what that completion might signify.

Limited rewards: The “payoff” doesn’t seem significant or really matter to you. It’s difficult to stay motivated, when you believe that the task you are about to complete will not lead to a valued reward. There is limited personal benefit.

What to do:

Build confidence: If a goal seems daunting, ask for help, support, direction or clarity around a task as this will increase your confidence in getting started and your belief in your ability to get it done; those feelings of self-efficacy. Develop your own “anti-procrastination” team those you can bounce ideas around with when you need a boost to gain needed momentum.

Re-frame your goals: Look at an unwelcome task or goal; look for the larger and possibly more appealing picture. What is the bigger “yes” or end result. Visualise the benefit when the task is complete. Could its completion contribute to advancing another, more positive goal?

Find meaning: Goals that have personal meaning have a greater chance of success; attempt to include tasks or goals that help you derive energy and personal satisfaction within your day.

Break it down: Research suggests we should set smaller, more approachable goals to keep us moving forward. This involves identifying “bite sized” pieces that when attacked individually add up to moving us forward.

Incentivise: A powerful method to self-manage is to include incentives as you make progress. Try attacking your least favorite task first then offer yourself a meaningful reward.

contact us

tel: +27(0) 11 783 3221
mob: 082 555 7361

email: caron@trainingmania.net

follow us!



We are an accredited provider of Education and Training with the Services Seta accreditation number 3840. This means we comply annually with comprehensive SETQAA evaluations and our quality management practices in relation to eight criteria as specified by SAQA and our quality offering is therefore assured. Our BBBEE Level2 status provides 125% procurement recognition and we are 100% female owned, 51% black female owned and classified as an emergent Empowerment organisation.