Causes of Procrastination, Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

10 Real Causes of Procrastination (& Its Effects on Your Life)

Has it ever happened that you sat down to do an important task, and then suddenly found yourself scrolling through Instagram or watching a video on Youtube or Tik Tok? Something or the other kept coming up, it’s the end of the day now, and your important task remains unfinished.

No matter how organized and committed you are, chances are that you have given in to these temptations and delayed your work. This act of unnecessarily delaying or postponing your actions is known as procrastination. So, it is important to know why we procrastinate.

Let’s dive in and find out the causes and effects of procrastination.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of postponing your work or actions - it could be a simple act of delaying your assignments and waiting till the deadline, or a difficult presentation for work.

Many people lack the motivation to complete their work and fall into procrastination. This leads to potentially dangerous consequences like students failing in schools or colleges, professionals performing poorly at work, and missing deadlines in businesses, amongst many others.

Furthermore, procrastination is also associated with issues like increased stress, illness, and poor physical and mental health.

Why do we procrastinate? 10 Main Causes of Procrastination

Procrastination is not always a matter of motivation and willpower. It is also about self-control, lifestyle, and habits. Before we get into how to overcome procrastination, let’s understand the main causes of procrastination:

01) Abstract goals

Most people over-commit to themselves and set unreasonable goals which they are unable to keep up with. You usually delay your work because you think you can do everything at once. In addition to this, what causes procrastination is undefined or vague goals, like ‘work well’ or ‘get fit.’

Conversely, a goal should be defined with measured results. It should be achieving 50% sales over last year or losing 5 kg weight, and so on. With properly defined goals, you will be able to plan your way to achieve them and understand how to overcome procrastination. Basically break down your goals into smaller, manageable chunks, and you’re more likely to achieve them (and may even be excited to get after them!)

02) Indecisiveness

When people are unable to make decisions in a timely and organized manner, they usually procrastinate on the task at hand. Indecisiveness can be due to multiple reasons- you are unable to decide which course of action to take, how to prioritize your tasks, or how to divide time among them.

With so many decisions to make, you might exhaust yourself only with planning and eventually delay the work. Professionals often make this mistake when they struggle to make up their minds and choose between multiple clients and projects and procrastinate their work. Basically, there is a lack of clarity of what’s next.

03) Fear of Failure

One of the most common reasons for procrastination is the fear of failure. So, if you often wonder why we procrastinate, this is your answer. When you are afraid of failing at the tasks at hand, you avoid or delay the task, thereby promoting procrastination. It serves as a protection mechanism and shields away from the possibility of failure. Though not starting the task would lead to a definite failure, most people tend to ignore this argument and procrastinate their work.

04) Waiting for the deadline

People sometimes procrastinate because they are optimistic about completing those tasks in the future before the due date. For example, you might avoid or postpone an important presentation or a meeting with a client if it is not due in the next few days. When you await the ultimate deadline to begin your work, you may not be able to put in your best efforts, and the work quality might be hampered.

Further, some people think they perform well under pressure and put off tasks till the last minute. This habit of waiting for a deadline is one of the primary causes of procrastination.

05) Task aversion

People often procrastinate on tasks because they dislike the tasks at hand. This occurs when you don’t find the task appealing or are averse to the people associated with it. For example, a business owner might procrastinate an important meeting if he does not like the client, or a freelancer might procrastinate his project if he finds the work too tedious.

Furthermore, you can also stay averse to a task which seems tedious. The habit of task aversion often becomes a defense mechanism for people to procrastinate their tasks.

06) Lack of perseverance

Perseverance is the ability to strive for success and maintain a goal-driven attitude even when you face some challenges in the course of your work. Many people lack the will to persevere for their goals, overcome obstacles, and finish the task.

This lack of perseverance reduces your focus and motivation for the work. You then simply keep it aside and procrastinate it indefinitely.

07) Excessive perfectionism

One of the most common reasons for procrastination is the feeling of extreme perfectionism. When you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist, you don’t want to start the work unless you are sure about it. Further, you will not complete the task unless it is picture-perfect.

This over-urging need for perfection encourages procrastination because it tricks your mind that you are not ready for the work. While perfectionism seems like a desirable characteristic to have, it can often set unrealistic expectations and delay your work further.

08) Decision fatigue

In line with the earlier point of indecisiveness, some people fall trap to decision fatigue. Have you ever looked at a closet with hundreds of outfits, and still feel you don’t have anything good? This is what happens when you have many options to choose from.

While everybody wants options in their lives, they forget that it takes a lot of mental energy to pick one from the many options and make a decision. This often leads to decision fatigue where you tend to delay things and fall for procrastination. It is important to practice easy goal setting exercises and make decisions quickly.

09) Unrealistic expectations

Most often, people hold an unrealistic view of themselves for the future. They want to alleviate their current status and hold a better status than they are today. This unrealistic view may hold you back from completing your current course of action.

Your delay in today’s tasks can affect your future, but you might not realize it till you reach there. With unrealistic expectations, you may deny your ability to do things right at the moment and procrastinate everything.

10) Resisting challenges

When you face a challenge in life and fear whether you can overcome that or not, you become a potential procrastinator. In trying to avoid a difficult task, you delay your work.

For example, when your boss gives you a new project to work on and you are not confident of completing it successfully, you will delay the task due to low self-esteem. This act of resisting a challenge can lead to procrastination and affect your productivity.

Effects of Procrastination

Though the causes vary from person to person- from laziness to the fear of failure- it has far damaging effects that can harm you in many ways. Here are some of the negative effects of procrastination that can have an adverse effect on you.

  • Waste of time: You lose so much time procrastinating. This is a terrible feeling and leaves you feeling guilty of wasting time because you cannot get it back. The quality of your work will be different if you can utilize your time adequately.
  • Low self-esteem: You will lower your self-esteem. This is one of those vicious circles you cannot get out of. You sometimes procrastinate because of low self-esteem but procrastinating only adds to this. Having low self-esteem can further destroy you in multiple different ways in your life. So get that task done, and you’ll feel better about yourself, and start a positive cycle instead!
  • Stress and anxiety: You will lose your mental health because procrastination is linked to problems like stress and anxiety. When you procrastinate, you also lose sleep over it and eventually stress yourself, thereby reducing your health as well as productivity.
  • Lack of control: You will face a lack of self-control over your thoughts and decisions. When you procrastinate, you don’t make decisions within your control. It is the subconscious mind asking you to delay the task.
  • Lack of focus: You lose your focus and concentration and have a reduced interest in activities. Procrastination leads to mental fatigue and eventually causes depression.
    Low self-efficacy: You will lose your self-efficacy when you procrastinate. You tend to lose time and be unsuccessful in achieving your goals. This leads to low self-efficiency and can affect your personality adversely.
  • Low energy levels: Procrastination leads to lower energy levels. When you procrastinate your work and are not able to finish it later, you experience low energy levels and feel sluggish for the rest of the day.


The above-mentioned points explain the effects and causes of procrastination. As long as laziness and task aversion outweigh your level of motivation and productivity, you will always procrastinate your tasks. All these causes lead to lower efficiency and create a gap between your actions and goals.

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