Procrastination: Why put off till tomorrow what you can do next month? by Camilla Watson

Sometimes thought of as laziness or self-sabotage, not doing what we actually know is ‘the right thing’ has several diverse causes. Only when we uncover the emotional cause behind the particular procrastination can take the first step required for change.

Procrastination can affect us in any area of our life and usually we are focused and motivated in some areas but not others. Some common examples of procrastination are: putting off a particular work task, not planning nutrition or other personal care, not making an appointment with a doctor or dentist, or neglecting home maintenance. Any of these can have serious consequences if put off for too long.

There are actually four main reasons for procrastination; understanding which of these is affecting you (or your staff or family) will open the door to positive change.

Understanding the REAL causes of procrastination:

  1. “I don’t know how.” (lack of knowledge or understanding)
    1. When we don’t have the ability, skills or knowledge (or perceive we don’t) it is difficult to begin.
    2. A strategy to manage this challenge is to acquire the knowledge, maybe breaking the task into several manageable pieces and learning as you go.
  2. “I’m afraid.” (fear, anxiety; of the ‘doing’ OR of the consequences)
    1. This can be caused by fear of the actual activity itself, fear of the direct consequences, or fear of the possible future consequences.
    2. Managing fear requires analysis of the REAL risk as compared to the PERCEIVED risk, and a strategy to ensure safety – which may require learning new skills. It is possible we don’t actually ‘know how’ and this is driving our fear. It is also possible our fear is a warning that this really is not a good idea.
  3. “I’m right.” (sense of entitlement or superiority, maybe to make ‘the other’ wrong)
    1. This can be linked to the desire to be independent, but sometimes can lead to childish behaviour and not listening to the wisdom of others. It can also be driven by a subconscious desire to be seen as different – to our parents, to the mores of our upbringing, or our peers. Am I trying to prove my parents/peers/society wrong? Can I choose to stop making this about others and instead make a decision to act in my own best interest regardless of what another may think?
  4. “I don’t want to.” (refusal, irresponsibility)
    1. As adults we all choose our behaviour; however, being ‘adult’ (ie: responsible and able to look after and provide for ourselves) carries certain responsibilities. Ask yourself the following:
      • Where is the resistance coming from?
      • Do I really not want to do this, AND am I prepared to accept the consequences?
      • Do I need to accept responsibility for my life and my choices and take action, even if the action is difficult or painful?
      • How can I motivate myself? Do I respond best with the motivation of a positive ‘carrot’ or a negative ‘stick’?

To start creating a clearer 2023, choose one thing you regularly procrastinate on. Identify it clearly, and decide which of these four causes is the best fit. Commit to a management strategy – including a timeline.

Camilla is a counsellor, behavioural specialist, and Heal Your Life coach. She offers a range of services, in person and via Zoom, including her book ‘The Life You Want – Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Depression’. Find out more at:

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