Rising Star Systems

procrastination, guilt, panic, excuses

Top 10 Causes of Procrastination

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post on procrastination… (only slightly kidding)

Let’s talk about procrastination – procrastination is an overwhelmingly common time management problem:

  • 20-25% of people procrastinate chronically.
  • 88% of workers procrastinate 60+ minutes daily on the job.
  • 80-95% of college students procrastinate to some degree.
  • 75% of people consider procrastination a personality trait/problem.
  • Procrastination costs the US economy an estimated $70 billion per year.


So what is procrastination, actually? According to Merriam Webster:

transitive verb
: to put off intentionally and habitually

intransitive verb
: to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done


While there is a lot of shame/blame associated with procrastination and a lot of shoulding all over ourselves, it is important to remember that procrastination is a symptom.

Focusing on the symptom will only deepen how stuck you feel. So, let’s look at the top 10 most common causes of procrastination:

  1. Impaired Executive Function
  2. Preference for Instant Gratification
  3. Task ambiguity and a lack of accountability combined with external pressures
  4. Decision Paralysis
  5. Lack of Clear Goals
  6. Avoidance Coping
  7. Overwhelm
  8. Poor Time Management
  9. Task Difficulty
  10. Perfectionism

10 Impaired Executive Function

Challenges in cognitive processes like planning and organization can contribute to procrastination. Clinical issues such as ADHD, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, etc. can cause impaired executive function.

But executive function is also deeply affected by emotional intelligence, and personal and professional development.

I’ve found in working with clients that executive function can be improved with training and practice. And even those with functional decision making challenges can create time management systems that significantly improve their executive function.

9 Preference for Instant Gratification

When you prefer instant rewards over long-term benefits, it can result in procrastination, especially when facing a larger project.

Often the procrastination is justified using a lack of necessary resources or feeling ill-equipped or ill-prepared as an excuse. So preparation and gathering of resources far beyond what is necessary for the favorable outcome can result.

This is also called over-functioning.

This preference can be overcome using short-term intermediary goals and getting very clear on what resources and preparation you really need.

8 Task ambiguity and a lack of accountability combined with external pressures

There are several aspects to this source of procrastination that can combine in different ways.

For example, feeling pressured to do something without clear instruction and little to no external support can make us feel resistance and resentment, and uncertain of our ability to complete the task (with an accompanying fear of failure).

These combine to make us not only procrastinate, but feel fully justified in our procrastination – a deadly combination! An example of when internal shame can convert to external blame, both of which cause us to stop in our tracks.

7 Decision Paralysis:

Also known as analysis paralysis, decision paralysis is a difficulty in making decisions which leads to postponing actions.

The truth is sometimes you’re actually not ready to make a decision. You’re missing critical data or need to develop skills and structures in order to move forward with a project.

But fear can shift this logical postponement into procrastination until you can’t move forward even on the actions that will give you the data or skills you need.

Understanding exactly what you need, and creating a functioning list that you can check off as you accomplish the intermediate tasks will help to break this log jam.

6 Lack of Clear Goals:

When your goals are unclear or vague you may have difficulty initiating, let alone completing tasks. This can look like a lack of interest or boredom in the activity, a lack of motivation and/or feeling easily distracted from these activities.

Once you’ve connected them to a clear, specific goal, even mundane tasks like cleaning your home or doing laundry, can feel more important and gratifying.

5 Avoidance Coping:

We humans often use avoidance as a way to cope with stress or negative emotions. Whether its conflict avoidance, avoiding anticipated pain or struggle, or avoiding some other negative emotion, including boredom, procrastination is a common coping method.

Self-awareness is key to shifting this source of procrastination – because once you get really clear on what you’re avoiding, you have the power to shift your coping methods into something more productive.

4 Overwhelm:

Facing a large workload or many tasks simultaneously can be paralyzing. Decision paralysis can also contribute to overwhelm – simply deciding which thing to do first can be paralyzing!

Chunking tasks down to their smallest steps, deciding to do one thing for only 15 minutes, giving yourself rewards for doing the hard stuff can all help to minimize overwhelm.

But the real trick is to narrow your focus until you feel able to move forward.

3 Poor Time Management:

Including the inability to prioritize tasks and allocate time effectively can all contribute to procrastination.

This becomes even more disruptive when it applies to a lack of a productive routine. The absence of established routines can make it challenging to initiate tasks consistently or accomplish them in a timely manner.

2 Task Difficulty:

When a task seems too challenging or complex, we often delay starting it.

When a task involves new technology or acquiring any new skill, the anticipation of the pain of the learning curve is often blown out of proportion to the point where it seems so impossible, why even bother trying.

Understanding the 4 stages of learning and recognizing where you are in that process can often ground you and return your experience back to a manageable task.

1 Perfectionism:

Setting excessively high standards can make starting a task overwhelming.

Perfectionism is the enemy of success. There is no such thing as perfect – in art, music or life. Perfection is boring.

Instead of seeking perfect, seek excellence.

Perfectionism is a complex issue and I will deal with it in a future blog. It is often a survival coping method held over from childhood.

If you struggle with perfectionism, contact me. I can help you through coaching or a Personal Breakthrough Session, especially if this coping skill is connected to childhood trauma.

procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday

It’s important to note that procrastination is complex and often involves a combination of these factors. Understanding the specific causes for an individual can help in developing strategies to address and overcome procrastination.

And remember, the actual cause of your procrastination may be different depending on the task you’re postponing.

One last note – procrastination isn’t always unproductive.

I often procrastinate when it comes to writing. I’ve discovered that I’m not actually procrastinating. I’m gestating.

So, when I’m ready to write, I sit down and it pours out of me with ease. When I try to force myself to write something when I’m not ready, it’s like pulling teeth!

I’ve learned to allow myself the time to gestate on an idea (unless I have a deadline). I struggle and suffer less and enjoy my writing process so much more!

In the Time Management Mastery Intensive program, we address most of these 10 issues – because they are critical to creating a time management system and skill mastery. A new program will be starting soon. Register today to gain mastery on the most fundamental success skill that all other skills depend on.

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