Why You Procrastinate (And 7 Ways to Stop)

You may think there are a lot of reasons why you procrastinate, but it really comes down to one ugly underlying habit: people pleasing. Here’s how to stop.

Dear Dr. Sylvia, 

It took me weeks to finally press the “send” button on my email to you with my dilemma. This is embarrassing for me to admit out loud.

Here’s a truth I have been ignoring for way too long.

I know I am a procrastinator and I hate it.  

It’s like an addiction.

Whenever I say “I’ll have it done today” it turns into another day and another day…

I go into overwhelm and have so much self-doubt it’s killing me.

And then that darn inner critic starts to tell me what a jerk I am.

Then…… I’m in the self-destructive cycle of going from judging myself to its twin sister known as SHAME.

My team at work looks at me with unsaid nasty thoughts and now fear is screaming in my ears “Watch out or you will be fired.”

Yea gods!


Never Good Enough

Dear Never Good Enough,  

First, rest assured, you are NOT alone.   

You are NOT lazy. 

You are NOT broken. 

You are CAUGHT in a whirlpool of stress and anxiety. It’s a trap you can get out of.  

Yes, you can! 

Why You Procrastinate: The Perfectionism/Paralysis Trap 

It begins with analysis paralysis.  

Did you ever think that you may simply think too much?  

I bet you analyze everything you do rather than just take a deep breath and do IT (whatever the IT is). 

Here are 7 ways to get out of your dilemma. 

  1. Lower the bar: Stop thinking in terms of awards and medals. Start thinking in terms of helping the team. See your team and your work more as a relay race rather than a solo marathon. Get your part done, even if it isn’t perfect, and go from there. It can be polished with the help of others. You win when you all work together. 
  2. Chunk it: Make an outline and have a check-list. Once you have that, you can start and stop and then start again. Feel the relief when you cross something off the list and then get to what’s next rather than pressuring yourself to have it all done in a single sitting. Ever heard of the Pomodoro technique
  3. Get an accountability coach: You can have a friend or colleague there to cheer you on or get a personal coach to help you stay on track. Just make sure it is someone who is a positive cheerleader in the “you can do it” way. 
  4. Say NO: Please remember that “NO” is a complete sentence (here’s how to use it). Too often procrastinators and perfectionists want to stop what they are doing by helping someone else. That’s a mind trick to keep you from getting your own projects done
  5. Look backMost often, the desire to be perfect comes from a desire to please others and get acknowledgement. Many times, this behavior started when you were young and looking for praise from a parent, caretaker, or teacher. Want to know the pyschological reasons why you procrastinate? Read more about this in my book Don’t Bring It to Work (especially pages 73-74)
  6. Practice mindfulness:You can take a meditation break for 20 minutes or take a walk or even simply get a big glass of water and sip it slowly, focusing on the smooth silky liquid going into your mouth and sliding down your throat. Then, get back to work.
  7. Give yourself a reward: When you complete a part of your project, stop and give yourself something that makes you happy. It could be to call a friend, a favorite snack, singing some fun songs, or playing with the dog. This is the reinforcement you need to keep going.  

Deciding to Do (and BE) “Good Enough”

Once you know why you procrastinate, you can break down the walls you have built.  

It will, however, be very much like strength-training at the gym: it takes determination and the use of emotional muscles that have gone soft from  inactivity. 

No excuses, no ignoring, no blaming, no–none of that!

Visualizing can help. Use imagery to see yourself as content and relaxed rather than dissatisfied and anxious. 

Decide that your projects will make you proud, not perfect. Let them be good enough. Then you can change your name  from  Never Good Enough to “Perfectly Imperfect.” 

Here’s to your success, 


P.S. There is a 7 day Sanity Challenge (takes about 10 minutes a day) starting on February 22 that will give you some more specific ways to break free from the stress of the procrastination, perfection, paralysis cycle.   

You will be free to be the best you possible. Ahhhhh, to be free to be you without qualifiers sounds so good. 

Sylvia Lafair