Everyone wants to be successful, and that includes you and me. The sad truth is that most people want success, but they don’t want to work for it. They choose to delay the work, or do something that is more comfortable. In short, they procrastinate. They choose to do something else than work on what they’re supposed to get done.
And in this guide, we’re going to talk about why people procrastinate and how to overcome it.
People procrastinate, and they put things off. They choose to delay their dreams and refuse to work on their goals.
They prefer to watch television, check updates on Facebook, and waste time on YouTube rather than working hard for their dreams.
So do you procrastinate? Of course, everyone does.
I believe that even the most successful people procrastinate once in a while. Nobody is perfect, and no one has unlimited energy and willpower to work 24 hours a day.
You need to rest, and you need to eat. And we are all human beings, and that means, we can be affected by our emotions.
The key is to learn how to handle procrastination and how to manage our emotions.
Successful people are able to accomplish more because they know how to manage themselves. They know how to bring themselves into taking action, and they developed proactive habits that help them get things done.
You can do the same.
But before we dive into the content, we must understand what makes people do what they do. In other words, what makes people procrastinate, and what makes them feel motivated to take action.
Why do successful people are able to take massive action despite facing all the difficulties and challenges, and on the other hand, why most people are not willing to work for what they want when they have all the opportunities to do so?
Well, Anthony Robbins said that we are all governed by the two forces in our life:
Pain and Pleasure
We take action because we feel pleasurable doing the work, and we procrastinate because we feel pain taking action.
For example, why do some people are able to wake up at 6 am to hit the gym? Well, some people are able to hit the gym at 6 AM because they love doing it, or perhaps they feel the pain every time when they look in the mirror and see their fats dangling on their belly.
On the other hand, some people want to wake up at 6 AM to exercise, but they end up sleeping on their comfortable bed. Why is that?
It all depends on which force is stronger, the pain or the pleasure.
Some people feel great when they smoke. They get all the pleasure and no matter how hard they tried; they just cannot get rid of the habit. They associate pleasure with smoking, and that emotion is stronger than the urge to quit.
However, if one day they were diagnosed with lung cancer, they will do whatever it takes to stop smoking immediately. By this time, the pain of suffering death is much stronger than the pleasure to smoke, and so they quit smoking instantly.
These are the two forces that make people do what they do – pain VS pleasure.
If you always put off working on your goals, find out the reason. You will discover that it is because you feel the pain to take action. Maybe you are afraid to do it, or maybe you feel boring doing the work. Whatever the reason, you associate pain with taking action.
Therefore, what you need to do is to associate taking action with a lot of pleasure and fun.
And at the same time, feel the pain when you try to procrastinate or when you try to delay the work.
Just imagine what will happen if you fail to achieve your goals? What will happen if you did not make enough money by the end of the month? Are you going to feel guilty? Maybe you don’t have enough money to pay the bill? Or maybe your spouse will feel disappointed with you? Or probably you can’t buy your kids the toys they want?
Whatever it is, you must imagine the worst and feel the pain of your procrastination.
In other words, you want to make yourself feel pain for NOT taking action.
Conversely, you want to associate a lot of pleasure with taking action. Just imagine what would happen if you take action? You will get more results.
- If you are in sales, just imagine getting more sales and commissions.
- If you are running your own business, think about what you want to achieve out of your business.
- If you want to get back in shape, see yourself fit, confident, and don’t have to hide your bloated tummy.
Just imagine all the good things that you are going to get if you work on your goals and are living your dreams.
To make it simple, just associate pain with not taking action and equate taking action with pleasure.
So now you understand the two forces that shape our life, let us discover the top 10 reasons why people procrastinate and how you can do something about it.
1. They Are All About Their Feelings
People procrastinate because they are all about their feelings. Let me ask you this question, “Who wants to wake up early at 5 am when they can choose to sleep comfortably on their warm bed?”
The answer is no one. If I can choose, I will choose to live comfortably without taking action and still produce outstanding success in life.
The truth is that this is not possible. You know very well that if you desire success, you must work for it. Without action, nothing will ever come true. You need to sacrifice for what you want.
Humans are all about feelings. Nobody feels like waking up early in the morning, and no one wants to work hard or train hard to reach their goals.
But we all know that there is no gain without pain. We cannot rely on our feelings. We cannot let our feelings decide how we are going to live our lives.
If you are all about your feelings, your feelings will control you. You will never want to take action when you are in bad mood. You will never want to work on your dream, and you will choose to watch TV or play games because it is pleasurable and joyful.
I’m not saying that you cannot enjoy, but you must understand that if you choose feelings over principle most of the time, you will lose big because you will procrastinate.
Therefore, you must learn to manage your feelings. Successful people are successful because they know how to handle their feelings.
Imagine Steve Jobs getting into his office and tells his team, “I don’t feel like working today, so let’s cancel all the meetings, and let’s get back home.”
It is good to enjoy, but the moment you spend time enjoying, you are also wasting the time you can use to work on productive things.
So, don’t let your emotions and your feelings control your life.
Instead, live your life with principles. The moment you decide to wake up at 5 am, just do it and don’t think too much or your feelings will get over you.
Once you get up from your bed, get up and don’t snooze your alarm and then continue to sleep.
If you want to be successful, you must learn to build productive principles and never let your feelings control you.
The next time you don’t feel like waking up or working, just think, “Is this feeling helping me right now?” If it is not, ignore the feeling and get back to work.
Do not procrastinate because of your feelings. You want to be the master of your emotions, and you do not want to be the servant.
Never let your emotions tell you what to do. You can rest, and you can take a break at times, but after that, make sure you get back to work. Learn to control your emotions instead of letting them take over your life.
2. They Make Lousy Excuses
The second reason people procrastinate is that they always make lousy excuses. They say things like:
- “This is too hard.”
- “I have no idea how to do this.”
- “I can always do it later, I have time now.”
- “I don’t have enough time for this right now.”
- “I’m just too tired to work on this.”
There are much more examples of lousy excuses people make each day to procrastinate.
These excuses are not helping at all. They only force you to think about creative ways to procrastinate and delay the work.
What you say to yourself matters. You have to be careful about how you talk to yourself because ‘you’ are listening!
So if you consistently give yourself excuses, you will eventually buy into them. And when you started to believe these excuses, eventually, they become deeply rooted bad habits that will destroy your life.
When you tell yourself that you do not have enough time for a certain task, think about it, do you really don’t have enough time for it? Or is it because the task is not really that important?
If the task requires an hour to complete but you have only 20 minutes, choose to do it. It is alright because you can continue later and when you get the work started, you will usually come up with the motivation to finish the work because you have built up the momentum.
So stop giving yourself lousy excuses. You know you can accomplish anything if you want to and you know you are much better than that. There is no way these lousy excuses are going to stop you from reaching your dreams, right?
The next time if you think that the task is too difficult, or you have no idea how to do it, get help.
Ask someone how to do it or just Google for a solution. Delegate or outsource the work if you want to.
Whatever you do, never let your excuses stop you from getting where you want to go.
Here are the 106 excuses that prevent most people from living their best life. It was a great write-up from Chris Brogan, check it out.
The next time you caught yourself giving lame excuses and wanted to put things off or delay your work, change your self-talk.
- Replace “I have to” with “I choose to”
- Replace “I must finish” with “When can I start?”
- Replace “This project is so big and important” with “I can take one small step”
The best productive self-talk I found is to focus on starting and taking just one small step. I always ask myself, “What one small step I can take right now?”
Whenever I feel lousy and make excuses like “I’m feeling so tired, can I do it tomorrow?” I will change my self-talk and ask myself this, “I know I’m tired but what is the one small thing I can do right now?”
I will usually tell myself to do that just one small thing and then I can get to rest.
Guess what, whenever I started to work on that one small step, I got myself into action and created the motivation. And I will get more done than just one simple step most of the time.
Try it and you will see how effective this technique is going to be.
Here’s a great guide you should read: How to Talk to Yourself Positively
3. They Think Short-Term
People procrastinate because they always think short-term, and they focus on what is in front of them.
They choose to enjoy the pleasure of playing games, sleeping, or surfing the internet for no reason rather than working on their goals and dreams.
If this described you, you must change your thinking from focusing on the short-term to focusing on the long-term.
You have to understand that whatever you do right now is not going to give you immediate effect. What you do right now is for your future.
Writing a blog article and publish it on your blog is not going to give an immediate impact on your blog. However, if you do it over a long period, you will see the result slowly coming in.
On the other hand, choosing to play games or spend time checking updates on Facebook may give you immediate pleasure. You will feel good and enjoyable, and you may want to leave some comments on your friends’ posts, but if you look at it from a long-term perspective, this is not going to make you successful.
In fact, wasting time on social media or watching excessive TV is going to kill your productivity. Your bad habits will destroy your life over the long term.
In Chinese, there is a saying, “Suffer now and enjoy later”.
Sadly, most people choose to enjoy now and suffer later. They choose to delay their projects and procrastinate on their goals. They choose to enjoy and have fun rather than working hard to reach for what they want in life.
Here’s a great saying from Muhammad Ali that I loved a lot:
I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’Muhammad Ali
So would you suffer now and live the rest of your life as a winner or would you just procrastinate and enjoy life now?
The choice is yours.
Here’s what you can do. Write down all the reasons why you want to achieve what you want and write down what would happen if you don’t achieve it.
Make sure you are as emotional as possible. Make all the purposes and your reasons strong and emotional. The more emotional your reason, the more powerful it will be.
Whenever you want to procrastinate, refer to your reasons. Read them out loud and feel the fear if you did not achieve your dreams.
And also, feel the pleasure and imagine yourself taking action and are enjoying the reward from achieving what you want in life. See yourself working hard and are living your dream life.
For better results, frame your answer and put it somewhere you can see often. You will want to do a review at least once a day.
You can also create a vision board or a dream collage to use it as a trigger to help you visualize your dreams:
4. They Focus On the Fear or Pain
Another common reason people procrastinate because they focus or think too much of the fear or pain of doing the work.
By now you know that when people put things off or when they delay doing the work, it is because they feel the pain, or they fear to do it. This is why people choose to procrastinate.
Have you ever come across any work that you fear to do? Like making cold calls or filing your taxes?
Most people will delay and try to avoid doing these tasks because they feel bored or worried, and there is no fun in doing it.
If you are in sales, then you probably can relate to the fear of making cold calls or prospecting. Most salespeople are afraid to approach strangers and make their presentations because they are afraid of getting rejected.
Here’s what you need to understand, the fear or the pain is not real. It is something you projected inside your mind.
You will never know if you will get rejected until you do it. So why fear? It is because you keep focusing and telling yourself what if you fail or what if she rejected me that creates the fear.
When you think about the fear and the pain, you will want to run away and procrastinate doing the work.
What you can do is simple, whenever you are afraid of doing something, just don’t think about it and focus on doing the work.
Fear only appears in your head because you think about it. You focus too much on the pain until you procrastinate and put off the work.
All you need to do is just get it started. Do it mechanically like a robot, without thinking. And as long as you take the first step, the second step will automatically follow.
The next time you want to make 50 cold calls, tell yourself just pick up the phone and dial the number. Just focus on doing one call at a time. Once you have made that first call, the second call will be easier because you have built up the momentum.
So stop thinking and start doing.
Check out these guides:
- Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More
- 7 Effective Methods How to Stop Overthinking and Start Doing
5. They Don’t Feel the Pleasure of Doing It
Would you want to do something you hate? Of course not, and that is why you procrastinate doing things that you do not like.
You have to make it fun. Just like doing your favorite things or your hobby. Ever wonder why some people able to burn the midnight oil to finish the drama they loved or to play the games they craved?
They seem to have all the drive and energy to stay up late just to watch one more episode of the drama or to play one more match of the game.
However, when it comes to working, they feel sleepy, and they feel tired. They tell you all sorts of excuses and they try to delay the work until the last minute.
So all you need to do is to make the work fun.
For example, if you hate going to the gym, but you want to lose weight through exercise, what you can do is to make the activity fun.
Ask a friend to tag along with you when you go to the gym the next time. Load some of your favorite songs into your phone and enjoy the songs when working out.
Whatever you do, make the activity fun. Make it pleasurable that you want to do it.
Make your work fun. You have to be creative in this. If doing the chores is no fun, how can you make it fun? Ask your husband to do it together? Or play your favorite songs when doing the work?
Make it a competition if you want to. Just like if you find cold calling is no fun, get your partner or colleague to do it together with you. Make it a competition and make the process fun.
If you find it hard to study alone because it is hard and not fun at all, get your friends to do a group study. However, you must make sure you are serious in this and gather to study and not to play around.
Associate what you do with your passion. Do you know you can develop passion for your work?
Here are 10 questions to help you reignite your passion: 10 Motivational Questions that Reignite Your Drive and Passion
6. They Feel Overwhelmed
Imagine if your task today is to write a whole book of 300 pages, how do you feel? Overwhelmed.
This is what happens when people think about their big dreams. There is no wrong in dreaming big, in fact, you must dream big if you want to be successful in life.
The problem is that people are ‘blocked’ by their thinking. They want to do big things, and they want to do it fast. This is why they feel overwhelmed and choose to procrastinate.
If you need to write a 3,000 words article, and you have only 30 minutes, most likely you will put it off because you will think that you do not have enough time for it.
This is not the right way to handle your work. You should always remember that every big thing started small.
All the billion-dollar businesses were once a small start-up. A 500-page book is written in words and sentences. Nobody can write a 500-page book in just one sitting.
You have to understand that success starts small, and all it takes is just one small step at a time.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you write a book? One sentence at a time. How do you make 100 cold calls? One call at a time. How do you build a successful blog? Write one quality article at a time.
There you go, the secret to success that most people seek. It is not a fancy secret; it is what everyone can do, one step at a time.
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.Confucius
Focus on only doing one step at a time. Think about what one small step you can begin. You want to make the work so small and so tiny that you feel effortless to do so that you will do it.
Just like if you want to do 50 push-ups, all you need to do is to tell yourself to do just one push-up. When you go down and do that one push-up, you will have the drive to continue the second, the third, and so on and so forth.
This is why you need to break down your goals into smaller actionable steps. When you focus on a big project, it overwhelms you. So break it down into small steps that you can act on right away.
Make the task so small that you don’t feel the resistance of doing it.
Below are some resources to help you start small and grow:
- How to Dream Big and Start Small
- Why Start Small? The 5 Important Benefits of Starting Small
- Success Cycle: How to Leverage Small Success to Build Bigger Ones
7. They Lack Strong Reasons to Take Action
Do you know why people procrastinate? Most people don’t have a strong reason for what they want, hence, they procrastinate.
They lack strong and emotional reasons to achieve their dreams and reach their goals, no wonder they choose to watch television than work on what they want.
I believe you have heard many times that your purpose will fuel your motivation. Your reasons are your drive.
Meaning to say, if your reason is not strong enough or emotional enough, you will not be fully committed to achieving what you want. You will delay your goals, and you will do something else when things get tough or when you have something ‘fun’ or something more ‘convenient’ to do.
Successful people have strong reasons to achieve what they want. They are inspired by their desperation to achieve their dreams.
They can’t stop thinking about living their dreams and building their businesses to the top. They are so obsessed with their dreams, and they just can’t stop but take action almost every waking moment.
What about you? How often do you think about what you want to achieve in your life? Is it once in a while? Or at least once a day? Only you know the answer.
So, if you want to get rid of procrastination, give yourself a strong and powerful reason to act. You must know why you want to accomplish what you want.
What is your why? Why do you do what you do? You have to find out your why because when tough times come, your why will become the fuel that drives you.
People fail and they give up because either they forgot their why or their why is just not strong enough.
Take out a piece of paper and write the goals you want to accomplish on top. And then write down at least 10 emotional and strong reasons why you want to achieve them.
When you know your why the how becomes something easy. It is your why that will drive you and motivate you to do the how.
Always remember and keep your why in your head. Review your reasons every single day. Do it once before you sleep and do it once every morning before you start your day.
This is a must-read: Why Clarity of Purpose is Important to Success and How to Get It
8. They Get Distracted
Another common reason people procrastinate is that they get distracted. How often when you want to work on your computer, you get distracted by Facebook or YouTube, or any other social media?
Not only social media, your friends, and your colleagues or your partners can distract you when you are working too.
They may ask you for a drink when it is time. And if you get used to it, it will become your habit, and you will want to spend time in the pantry for no solid reason.
This is very dangerous and very unproductive. Once you have developed the destructive habit of getting distracted, it will be a little challenging to get rid of it.
So, stop all possible distractions and try to adopt productive habits. When it is time to work, work. Lock yourself in your office room or just say no to the people who come to you.
You have to always put a priority on your most important and most result-yielding task. People are not moving forward and are not producing results in life because they focus on minor tasks.
They choose to do something that is unproductive and something that yield them less or no result.
Stop and take a moment to think about it right now. What have you done today? Is it going to give you the best result you want? Is the task you did going to get you to your goals?
If your answer is a no, then you need to do something about it. Focus on what is important. Work on the priority that will give you the most results.
So stay away from distractions. If you have to work with the computer and you don’t need the internet, disconnect yourself from it.
Too much time has been wasted in our lives, it is time to make a real difference and say no to trivial things that just do not matter.
Get rid of distractions. Build a bunker to prevent distractions from getting over to you.
Adopt this principle: When you work, work. And when you play, play.
When you spend an hour or two to focus seriously and do your work, you will see how much you can accomplish in those short periods.
Use time-block to boost your productivity and get rid of the distraction. Plan your day and time to block your most important work. Those are the works that will give you the most result, so focus and do them first.
9. They Don’t Have the Energy
How often do you feel sleepy and tired to work after your lunch? This is a very common problem most people are suffering from, especially in today’s world where most people work with their computers.
If you eat too heavy for lunch, you may feel sleepy and tired after you get back to work. This is because your body needs to use a lot of energy to digest the heavy food you consumed.
Successful people are aware of this, and they always do their best to maintain their health and productivity.
Michael Hyatt, one of the top writers in the productivity field, suggests we take a cat nap in the afternoon. You can read about his article on taking power naps.
I followed his advice, and I found that taking a short nap works extremely well.
When I feel tired and sleepy in the afternoon, I will just stop everything and take a quick nap. A 15 or 20 minutes nap makes me feel refresh and energetic. It boosts my productivity and I’m able to focus better after a quick nap.
Well, there are many reasons why you feel sleepy and tired. Sometimes when you have nothing to do on the weekend, you will feel sleepy too. And the culprit is boredom because you have nothing to do. So you need to find out your purpose in life and set goals to have something to work on!
Additionally, some people feel tired because they did not have a good night’s sleep the day before. Coffee may help, but it may not be a good long-term solution.
While I admit I love coffee and drink it every day, but I try to only drink coffee in the morning.
Whatever you do, you have to keep your physical health at an optimum level because you need to be healthy and have the energy to pursue your goals and your dreams.
When you feel tired and sleepy, try to find out the reason. Usually, if you feel sleepy after lunch, it is because of your fatty, high-carbohydrate, and heavy meals.
And if you feel tired and sleepy during the weekend and you feel bored; it means you do not have empowering goals that drive you. Remember this quote from Tony Robbins:
People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.Tony Robbins
Sometimes you may feel sleepy or tired to do the work because you don’t like the work, and you feel boring about it. So just apply what you have learned above, make the work fun; make it pleasurable.
Hence, find out why you do not have the energy and why you always feel sleepy.
If everything is in place, you should be able to go through your day beaming with energy and feeling passionate about living your dreams.
10. Whatever You Can Think of
If you read up to this point, it simply shows that you are committed and serious about overcoming procrastination. And I believe that you can overcome it.
There are many reasons people procrastinate. Everyone is different. What is driving you to achieve what you want in life is different from me, and what turns you off and makes you procrastinate will also be different from me.
Therefore, find out why you procrastinate. If you want to stop procrastination once and for all, you must get rid of the root. You must find out the cause and ‘cut off’ the root of the problem.
You need to understand that procrastination is a symptom. And there is a reason for it. And your role is to discover the reason why you choose to procrastinate and not getting things done.
And once you get rid of the cause, start to install productive habits into yourself.
Remember, no one is perfect, and you don’t have to blame yourself for procrastinating. Instead, learn to overcome procrastination and take charge of your life.
Now you have learned the most common reasons why people procrastinate, and you have acquired the techniques to overcome them.
So make good use of the information here.
Here’s the summary:
- They are all about their feelings
- They give lousy excuses
- They think short-term
- They focus on the fear or pain
- They don’t feel pleasure doing it
- They feel overwhelming
- They have no strong reasons to take action
- They get distracted
- They do not have the energy
- Whatever you can think of
Remember, what makes you do what you do and what makes you procrastinate are the two forces, pain, and pleasure.
You procrastinate because of the pain associated with the work, and you feel pleasure to do something else.
And you work on your goals because you feel pain if you did not do anything about it after three years and you feel pleasurable for the rewards that are waiting for you in the future.
Use these forces to build the successful life you want. More importantly, understand these ten reasons why you procrastinate and overcome them starting from now.
By the way, procrastination is really a mind game. If you can conquer your mind, you can overcome procrastination. Check out this free web class from John Assaraf and learn how to overcome procrastination in 3 simple steps.
If you love this article, remember to share it to benefit others. So, why do you procrastinate? Share with me in the comment section below.