Procrastination affects almost everyone to some extent. The term has its roots in the Latin word “procrastinare”, which means “to put off”.

Unpleasant or seemingly time-consuming tasks, such as making the tax return, finishing an upcoming project, or even the plan to finally switch careers and start a new business, are postponed again and again.

Procrastination: How To Deal With Discomfort And Aversion


Procrastination is usually triggered by a feeling of aversion associated with a certain task. This aversion is often so strong that as a result, we’re doing anything to avoid starting this task. Just the thought of that annoying project makes us say things like “not again” or “this is too exhausting, I don’t have the energy to do this now”.

But putting important tasks off is not a solution. Subconsciously we know very well that the activity is still due and an unpleasant feeling of shame or guilt starts bothering us.

We then want to get rid of this negative feeling as quickly as possible and therefore start to distract ourselves from it with escape behavior and other „important tasks“.


“I’ll start that project tomorrow! Today I still have to do the groceries, make the laundry and take the dog for a walk!”


But no matter how much we distract ourselves from the actual task, the negative feelings caused by procrastination still affect us. Over time the feelings usually even get stronger and ultimately lead to emotional states such as fear, anger, boredom, despair, rage, the feeling of guilt, stress, and shame.

We often don’t even associate these feelings with our procrastination. This means it can happen that we feel angry or desperate and have no idea why.




The Vicious Cycle Of Procrastination – How To Stop It


If we do not learn to cope with these feelings or to properly manage them, we create a vicious cycle of procrastination. This cycle is a mixture of the fact that we’re putting off an unloved activity and simultaneously searching for better feelings by doing an escape behavior. These factors have the same mechanisms as addictions and they only reinforce the original problem.

The following infographic shows how this vicious circle starts, continues, and even intensifies itself.


why do people procrastinate-procrastination-vicious-cycle


In order to successfully break this vicious cycle, building resilience to these negative feelings is an effective strategy. Instead of repeatedly resorting to escape behaviors and distractions, it is better to withstand negative emotions.

This is easier said than done, but with the right strategy, it is possible to break the vicious cycle of procrastination.


How To Overcome Procrastination? – Check out the 12 Tips To Stop Procrastination


Mastering Feelings And Emotions – The Best Cure For Procrastination


The first step is to become aware of, accept and allow the unpleasant feelings that may arise. The goal is to become more mindful of these feelings and instead of putting them away and acting on autopilot, we find a window of opportunity that allows us to consciously reflect on what’s happening.

This means we are saying „Stop“ and consciously deciding how we want to deal with the emotion and how we want to continue.

By noticing the emotion and mindfully engaging with it, it even becomes some sort of a tool (marker and option for assessment) that can be used to trigger a reflection process. You alone decide how you want to cope with the emotion and which steps you want to take next.


Resilience And Mindfulness: Two Key Factors To Stop Procrastination


If you have noticed that a certain emotion initiates the vicious cycle of procrastination, you consciously say “stop” and then actively direct your attention only to the positive consequences of getting the unloved task done. In other words, you change your perspective and become the master of your emotions.

At the same time, you create momentum that makes it easier to start the task and stick with it until it is done.

Consciously visualize the goal (completing the task) and picture how you will feel and how you will celebrate your success. By doing this, you are refraining to enter the vicious cycle of procrastination. This means in the future you will have the opportunity to mindfully intervene before the autopilot mode kicks in and choose to take a better direction instead.

Think of the negative consequences of allowing negative emotions and procrastinating. Then immediately imagine the positive consequences of starting and completing the activity. Also, weigh whether the positive consequences of getting the task done significantly outweigh the short-term positive consequences of engaging in escape behavior.


How will I feel if I put off the task again? And how will I feel instead when I finally check it off my to-do list?


Mindfulness is so valuable because it gives you a window of opportunity to make a conscious decision. It always gives you a chance to recognize emotions immediately whenever they arise. This allows you to consciously say “stop” and avoid entering the vicious cycle of procrastination in the first place. It’s the most effective way to stop and overcome procrastination.


An additional tip and perspective:

Our feelings and emotions can be compared to a wave. It first builds up in front of us and gets bigger and bigger until it finally reaches its maximum height and breaks and finally subsides. It is the same with our feelings. If we succeed in bearing the negative feeling for a while, it often automatically gets weaker. In this case, you have consciously decided to stand the negative feeling without unconsciously tapping into the vicious cycle of procrastination.

Want to overcome procrastination and get things done?
Here are 9 Impactful Coaching Worksheets & Exercises for those who want to take action and catapult their productivity.