Why Procrastinate?

So, I read this great article about procrastinating . . . a few weeks ago. I left it open in one of my Firefox tabs because I wanted to write an article about it.

Unfortunately I can’t write an article about how to stop procrastinating because I still procrastinate. So today I’ll write about why I procrastinate. I think that identifying the causes is the first step toward a solution.

So, I think that my procrastination is related to issues with:

  • motivation
  • distraction
  • indecisiveness
  • fear
  • perfectionism

I think that all of these are connected, but I will try to write about them one at a time.


I am sssooooo much more productive when I’m motivated. So if I’m not motivated, I usually don’t do much unless a big scary deadline is breathing down my neck. Deadlines are wonderful motivators, but unfortunately, setting deadlines for myself doesn’t work very well for me. Maybe I need to start setting a series of deadlines, but even that will not help with the fact that self-imposed deadlines just aren’t as scary as external ones.

One reason I lack motivation is that, in my experience, tasks fill the amount of time you give them. That is, no matter how early I begin a project, I will still work on it until the deadline. So it seems that, by procrastinating, I can accomplish the same amount of work in less time. That approach is somewhat effective until I start a project that has no deadline (i.e., most of the projects around my house!).


E-mail, Facebook, laundry, food, my husband, my Google reader, some random craft project, a book, an article . . . all these and many more things conspire to distract me. Your distractions may be different, but we all have them. That’s why there are lovely articles about closing your e-mail, using JDarkroom, and other tricks to shut out distractions. One big problem with distractions is that often, Idon’t even realize that I’m distracted until I’ve already wasted an hour. Then Iend up procrastinating much more than I intended to.

Speaking of distractions, did you know that Slate had a whole issue about procrastination?


Indecisiveness is a big, big problem for me. Let’s say that I’ve motivated myself to accomplish something today, and even gotten rid of distractions, like my e-mail. Now, I have to decide what to spend my time on. Unfortunately, I’m interested in lots of things, so options abound. I’ll agonize over my decision, wasting valuable time. Often I know that I need to dedicate a large chunk of time so that I can finish a project, but I can’t decide which one to focus on. So I usually end up spending a little bit of time on three or four projects, but never finish any of them.

My indecisiveness points to something else really important that I’m procrastinating: prioritizing. I know that I need to decide on a few things that are important to me, and focus on them. But I really don’t want to let go of my varied interests, so I procrastinate prioritizing. I really need to get over this.


As much as I hate to admit it, a lot of my procrastination comes from fear. I have many goals for myself, but I’m afraid that I might fail while trying to reach those goals. So, I procrastinate. I can always reach the goal later, I tell myself, but what will happen if I try and something terrible happens? So I never try, and of course I never reach the goal.

Yes, I know it’s silly. But I bet that if you are honest with yourself, you’ll find some fear behind your procrastination, too.

Big tasks are another source of fear and procrastination. I remember when I was a kid, and my mom would tell me to clean my room. I would look around at the toys everywhere and think that I could never get the room clean. I’ll never see the light of day! I’ll die cleaning this room! Yeah, right. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I just had to take a deep breath and start working. And I still need to do that today.

It also helps to break large tasks up into smaller chunks.


This one is pretty obvious. I say things like, “I need to wait until I have time to do the job properly.” Sometimes, it’s true. But most times, I use that as an excuse when I should just get started. Really, we can always make time for things that are truly important to us, so this excuse does not stand. Chances are, the perfect moment will never come. My motivation will not magically intersect with a large chunk of time and perfect weather. That’s why I’m writing this article now instead of waiting until I can do more research. Later, if I ever decide to do more research, I can write another article.

Baby Steps

I’m trying to fight procrastination in steps. Writing this article was a step for me. It has helped me think about why I procrastinate, and now I can close that tab with the article on it. Hopefully, it will help you think about why you procrastinate, and maybe give you some ideas about what you should do instead.

Now I’ve decided that the next step is for me to clean out my other Firefox tabs. So I’m going to go do that now. And just to show that I’m making progress, I’ll write another post about all the interesting things in my tabs.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
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