Written by Bonnie Gifford
Bonnie Gifford
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Reframe Therapy
Last updated 16th April 2024 | Next update due 16th April 2027

Nearly one in five of us put off important tasks until the last minute, thanks to distractions, feelings of overwhelm and being unsure of how to get started. We explain more about procrastination, why we procrastinate, and how hypnotherapy can help.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is more common than you might think. According to research, 20% of us identify as chronic procrastinators, while a whopping 88% of us waste at least one hour each working day while we procrastinate. If you find yourself delaying tasks or chores until the last minute (or frequently missing deadlines), it can be a sign of procrastination.

You can procrastinate at any age. From young school children to teens, young adults to those nearing retirement age; if you've ever found yourself putting something off (regardless of the potential consequences), you may have experienced procrastination. 

Around one in five adults procrastinate, while an overwhelming 87% of teenage and young adult students procrastinate. Nearly half (45%) say procrastination has negatively impacted their grades on a fairly regular basis. 

Frequent procrastination can lead to increased feelings of stress and anxiety. One study into procrastination and mental health revealed that long-term procrastination can negatively impact your physical and mental health. Essentially, procrastination is an unhelpful, ineffective coping mechanism. When we procrastinate too much, we feel like our stress levels are higher and, without more helpful coping mechanisms in place, can fall into a negative cycle of unhelpful behaviours. 

Procrastination is about avoiding something we don’t really want to do. If we feel negative about a task at hand our anxiety rises so, to ease the discomfort, we put it off for later.

- Hypnotherapist Caroline Evans (HPD, DSFH), explains more in Can hypnotherapy help with procrastination? 

But what causes us to procrastinate? And what can we do to help overcome this negative habit? 

What are the four types of procrastinators?

Procrastination can be split into four different types. These include:

  1. The lucky optimist - You believe everything will work out in the end (and it often does).
  2. The overloaded - You have too much to do (and often end up failing your tasks).
  3. The pleasure-seeking avoided - You leave boring, hard, or otherwise painful tasks until the last minute to focus on the more fun present.
  4. The perfectionist - You avoid starting – and finishing – tasks (due to your own, often unrealistically high standards)

Why do you procrastinate? 

There are many different things that can lead to procrastination. Studies have shown that the most common causes of procrastination include distraction (48%) and feeling overwhelmed and unable to decide where to start (40%).

Other common reasons for procrastination can include:

  • a lack of organisational skills or poor time management
  • low motivation
  • difficulty focusing or concentrating on the task at hand
  • feelings of anxiety or fear of failure
  • unrealistic expectations or goals (set by yourself or others)
  • negative self-beliefs (about your worth, ability, or capability)
  • perfectionism
  • past negative experiences (leading to avoidance or delay)

As explained by one hypnotherapist, “Procrastination reflects a basic breakdown in self-regulation. This occurs most often when we are faced with a task that’s boring, frustrating, lacking meaning, and leads to unpleasant feelings or negative moods. Chronic procrastinators have continuous problems finishing tasks, while situational procrastinators delay because of the task.”

Are procrastinators lazy?

Not all procrastinators are lazy! Procrastination isn’t a sign of laziness. While lazy people may not start or finish a task and are fine leaving it undone, procrastinators are more likely to feel uncomfortable, upset, or guilty. Procrastination itself is an active process. By procrastinating, you are choosing to do something else instead of the task you should be doing. Laziness, on the other hand, often comes from apathy, inactivity, or an unwillingness to act.

Are procrastinators smarter?

Many high achievers procrastinate. Studies have found that those with a higher IQ may have a tendency to procrastinate. Some experts believe this may be due to them being able to finish tasks more quickly, while others believe it may be linked to perfectionist tendencies. 

It’s important to remember that intelligence and success aren’t always linked. Without motivation, positive habits (eg: time management, organisational skills), and the ability to complete tasks, you can risk languishing and failing to progress in your career or chosen field. 

How to stop procrastinating

If you are worried that procrastination may be having a negative impact on your work, life, or productivity, there are a number of things you can try. It’s important to note that unless you are ready to change, nothing will change. Without the desire to change and improve, old, bad habits that lead to procrastination will return. Try the following 11 tips:

1. Start with a quick win

Pencilling in a smaller task or ‘quick win’ can be an easy way to start your day. This can help create an initial sense of success, helping push you in the right direction and setting the tone for the rest of the day. 

2. Improve your time management and organisation skills

Learning time management and organisational skills can help you better prioritise your workload based on deadlines, how important tasks are, and how they may affect your (or others') overall workflow. 

3. Balance your day

Not everything on your to-do list is going to be fun. Ensuring you space out the tasks you enjoy alongside those that you don’t can help you to avoid a backlog of last-minute tasks and hard-to-meet deadlines. 

4. Try time-limiting techniques

There are a number of different methods that can help you get back on track. The 1-2-3 method (where you count to three, then start doing the task you should be focusing on) can help overcome that initial barrier to getting started. 

Another method, the one-minute method, works on the idea that you need to force yourself to focus for just one minute. By setting the time to focus so low, it can help you to kickstart your focus. The Pomodoro technique is a longer version of this, which works on the idea that out of every 30 minutes, you should spend 25 focusing fully on a pre-determined task. Then, you can have a five-minute break to do something completely different, before setting another 25-minute timer on a task, followed again by a five-minute break.  

5. Avoid over-filling your schedule

When you have too much on your plate, getting started can feel overwhelming – let alone finishing. By ensuring your workload is manageable, you can increase your chances of success as completing tasks can help boost your sense of accomplishment and further motivate you onwards. 

6. Evaluate your to-do list

Are all the tasks necessary, or could your subconscious be pushing you to procrastinate? When you feel like tasks aren’t worth your time, you may find yourself procrastinating. 

7. Practice accountability

Set your own deadlines and stick to them. If that isn’t working? Try telling someone else about them. When others expect something from us, we can feel more motivated to get started, as we don’t want to let them down. 

8. Be kind to yourself

Acknowledge that you struggle with procrastination and forgive yourself. This can help reduce associated negative feelings of guilt, which can trigger further procrastination. Just be careful not to give yourself permission to continue procrastinating.

9. Evaluate your excuses

Finding an excuse to procrastinate is easy. Maybe the office is too loud, your internet connection is slow, or your inbox is busier than expected. But are these good enough excuses to postpone the task you should be working on?

Ask yourself: if it’s too loud to focus on this task, what task can I do instead? If my inbox is busier than usual, can I prioritise what needs to be answered now, and what can be done after my other tasks? If you're having trouble with your connection or hardware, who can you talk to about these issues? And are there other tasks you can do while these issues are being fixed? 

10. Build sustainable, healthy habits that work for you

Everyone works differently. Finding habits (and stacking them to create a sustainable routine) can help improve your performance, make better choices, and ditch the excuses that lead to procrastination. Remember: willpower alone doesn’t work. Systems do. Finding the routines, systems, and frameworks that work for you is key. 

11. Be aware of self-sabotaging behaviours

Hypnotherapist Mary Bowmer, HypDip; HPD; MIBWRT, warns of the dangers of self-sabotage in 10 steps to overcome procrastination. Laziness, tiredness, sickness, hunger, negative thoughts, excuses, and other people’s negative influences can all lead to self-sabotage. 

Hypnotherapists who can help with procrastination

How can hypnotherapy help with procrastination?

If you are ready and open to change, hypnotherapy can be a helpful tool in overcoming procrastination. Working with a qualified, experienced hypnotherapist can help you to learn healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress, anxiety, and perfectionist tendencies.

As hypnotherapist Caroline Evans, HPD, DSFH explains, “Hypnotherapy allows access to a person’s subconscious and helps to create new habits, and a positive perspective on life to get you back in your intelligent mind. It focuses on your strengths and can change your behaviours to line up with your new perspective and goals. When those negative thoughts are changed to positive, creating new habits becomes much easier.”

Using hypnosis, a hypnotherapist can enable you to create new habits, change negative self-perceptions, and release feelings of guilt or self-doubt. 

It’s important to remember that in order for hypnotherapy to work, you have to want to change. With the support of a hypnotherapist, you can learn new habits, make positive changes, and eliminate procrastination.

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