There are many reasons we procrastinate; these are the top six:

#1 You consider the task/project to be low priority (when it is not). 

  • Re-evaluate your goals.
  • Where does this task fit into your goals? Is it an A, B, C, D, or E task?
    • A is defined as something that is very important that you must do because it will have serious positive or negative consequences if you do it or fail to do it.
      • You may have more than one A task, and you can prioritize those by A1, A2, and A3.
    • B is a task that you should do but only has mild consequences such as returning an unimportant phone call or reviewing your email
    • C is a task defined as something that would be nice to do, but there are no consequences such as having lunch with a coworker.
    • D is a task that you can delegate. The rule is to delegate everything that someone else can do so that you can free up more time for the A tasks that only you can do.
    • E is a task that you can eliminate and it won’t make any difference if you do such as watching TV or browsing social media.

#2 You don’t have all the information necessary to make a decision or can’t figure out what to do next.

  • Don’t let this paralyze you into inaction.
  • Brainstorm how you can obtain the missing information.
  • Obtain more information about the overwhelming task.
  • Speak to others, gather more details.

The more you know; the overwhelming task can shrink and get more into perspective.

#3 The project seems overwhelming. 

  • Starting is often hard when a project seems overwhelming or too big.
  • Begin by doing a “brain dump” with mind mapping. Mind mapping is a diagram using a non-linear, intuitive approach to problem-solving, decision making and brainstorming. Mind maps are for many purposes, including taking notes, making lists, or even mapping out your future life; the options are endless!
  • Once you have completed your brainstorming take the information on your mind map and begin to create a sequential plan including what the task is, its deadline, and what resources are needed.
  • Next, organize the tasks by priority and sequence (the order in which the tasks are due).

#4 Fear of failure aka the perfectionist personality.

  • Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Failing makes you better!
  • Know that no matter how hard we strive perfectionism is never achieved.
  • Limit your options.
  • Instead, recognize when “good” is “good enough” if the alternative is delaying and doing nothing.

Take imperfect action.

#5 Avoidance – the task is or seems unpleasant.

  • To quote Benjamin Franklin, “You may delay, but time will not.”
  • According to Brian Tracy, one of the best ways to overcome procrastination is for you to get your mind off the unpleasant task in front of you and focus on a single action that you can take.

“One of the best ways to eat a large frog is for you to take it one bite at a time.”

Brian Tracy

  • Find an accountability buddy to help you set and meet deadlines.

#6 Awfulizing – You think the task/project will take forever to complete.

  • Break it down into small and manageable tasks.
  • Assign how much time you anticipate each task will take.
  • Schedule the tasks in your calendar to get a clear picture of how long it the task/project will take.

When do you procrastinate doing something and what must happen for you to then take action?

Teach Project Management

Planners are essential for managing large school projects and papers. I suggest students subtract two days from the project’s due date for each week they have to work on it. (For a three-week assignment, for example, subtract six days and consider the new date as the due date.) This gives the student a buffer if anything comes up to throw him off schedule. 

From there, help your student work backward in his planner to create shorter term goals, such as “purchase materials,” “complete outline,” “finish first draft,” etc. This helps them manage their progress along the way and avoid a frantic rush to finish at the end.