Why Do People Procrastinate?

Procrastination is the most common self-inflicted ‘time robber!’  Whereas ‘interruptions’ are the most common form of  ‘other-inflicted’ time robbers.  So, Why do People Procrastinate?  To some, procrastination is a casual visitor, here today, gone tomorrow; to others it is a nagging mother-in-law, who comes for a weekend visit but ends up moving in!  To begin to answer the question ‘why do people procrastinate’ and what we can do to overcome it, lets begin by identifying the two varieties of procrastination.

Two Basic Varieties of Procrastination

Over the course of my 35 year career in teaching time and life management I’ve witnessed that there are two very basic varieties of procrastination.

  1. Conscious-  Where we are ‘awake’ and aware of what we are doing, and
  2. Unconscious- Where we are almost totally unaware of our actions.

Conscious procrastination is easiest to identify and offer specific responses to.  Unconscious procrastination is a bit more difficult–because we must ‘catch’ ourselves doing it.  Either way, procrastination carries a high opportunity cost.  ‘Putting it off’ has probably caused more heartache and failure than all other time management problems combined!  Opportunity knocks just as often at the procrastinator’s door as at anyone else’s.  But the procrastinator doesn’t answer.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

Why Do People Procrastinate?  In other words, why do we often allow the things that matter most to be at the mercy of things that matter least?  Perhaps the most common reason is that certain important tasks are unpleasant.  Some people absolutely hate balancing their checkbook, for instance, or filling out monthly reports, or doing their taxes, or meeting new people, or speaking before groups, or answering their mail, or taking out the garage, or going to the dentist, or exercising, or on and on and on… Being productive and successful and healthy often requires us to leave our comfort zones.  The natural response to unpleasant tasks is to put them off.  But if we put them off, we let events control us, our productivity drops, and so does our self-esteem.  The only way to escape this downward spiral is to exert control over the events in our lives, even if some of them are unpleasant.


Here are some suggestions for overcoming procrastination:

  1. Set A Deadline, which creates an urgency where before there was none.
  2. Do The Most Unpleasant Part First.  By doing this, you can look forward to the more enjoyable tasks and end your day with a positive feeling.
  3. Make A Game Of It.  This is an effective way of turning drudgery into fun.
  4. Build In A Reward, which gives you incentive to complete the task quickly.

Other Reason of  Why Do People Procrastinate.

Another big answer to the question, ‘why do people procrastinate’ is because some tasks seem overwhelming to us, because of their size, duration, or complexity.  Quick, easy, fun tasks are always more enjoyable, but we can make monstrous tasks less

Why Do People Procrastinate

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.

overwhelming if we take Henry Ford’s advice:  “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Other answers to why do people procrastinate doing important tasks include: over-committing (which has a paralyzing effect), lack of information, unclear goals, fear of failure, poor timing, and general disorganization.  Or, we may procrastinate a task because of apathy–we really don’t care whether it gets done or not.  If we are aware of the reasons for our procrastination, we can attack the problem more directly.


Regardless of the reason, procrastination is a deadly time robber–and the best way of overcoming it is to somehow infuse the procrastinated task with a sense of urgency!

 Hyrum W. Smith