8 main triggers of procrastination and methods to combat them

8 main triggers of procrastination and methods to combat them

Popular advice on productivity is mostly based on how to keep your attention while performing tasks. What really matters, though, is finding the answer to the other question: “What keeps us from focusing?”. Meanwhile, the triggers of procrastination are difficult to analyze because they are often related to our emotions.

Timothy Peachill, author of “Don’t Put It Off Tomorrow”, believes that procrastination is a purely instinctive, emotional reaction to something we don’t want to do. And the stronger this feeling is, the more often we put things off. There are several main sources for this behavior.

How procrastination begins

Researchers have identified four basic steps that we need to go through to complete a task: starting, planning, acting, and finishing. We begin to procrastinate when one or more triggers interfere with the process.

1. Boredom

Sometimes we have to deal with tasks that do not stimulate our brain in any way. These are any tasks that seem monotonous and uninteresting to us. For some people it is tedious and boring to clean the apartment, while others love to clean and tidy – everything is individual.

But whatever these chores are, the very thought of them makes us bored. And so we’re already lying on the couch, deciding to put everything off until tomorrow.

2. Despair

Imagine that you need to solve a work problem using a confusing online program or find information on the Web, but the application keeps freezing up and your Internet connection is interrupted.

After a while in each of these situations, you will experience one feeling – despair. Soon it will be joined by a sense of loss of control and powerlessness, and then by procrastination.

3. Complexity

Sometimes we are faced with particularly difficult tasks, such as making complex calculations, memorizing large amounts of data, or figuring out how to use some intricate apparatus.

The harder the task, the more likely it is that we will choose easier tasks or give up and go back to procrastination.

4. Stress

Timothy Peachill considers it one of the main triggers of procrastination, because it is stress that slows down the first step – starting a task.

No matter what the cause, a broken state and fatigue are unlikely to give you a chance to get to work.

5. Uncertainty

To accomplish a task, you need to understand how to do it. Vague instructions and explanations, lack of understanding and uncertainty lead to a significant decrease in productivity.

6. Chaotic

Even when the goal is clear, another problem may arise – a lack of understanding of how exactly to go about this goal. If uncertainty is related to not knowing what to do, then chaoticness is related to not knowing how to do it. Both can quickly lead to procrastination.

7. Lack of reward

Let’s say you write a long, detailed report. It’s difficult and time-consuming work, but your boss probably won’t thank you and won’t appreciate your efforts at all. No wonder procrastination comes into play. When we don’t get any return, all the effort seems like a waste of time and effort.

8. Meaninglessness

If the task has no meaning for us personally, procrastination is inevitable. As in the case with boredom, everything depends on the person.

For some, even such a small thing as cleaning a desk is filled with meaning – it is an opportunity to update the space and feel comfortable. And for some people the same cleaning is a meaningless waste of time and an activity that they have to do rather than want to take on.

How to deal with the triggers of procrastination?

Boredom, frustration, difficulty, and stress occur at any stage of a task. Uncertainty, chaos, lack of reward, and meaninglessness usually make themselves felt in the beginning and action phases.

The good news is that all eight triggers very rarely occur simultaneously. More often than not, we are dealing with a combination of several of them, so they can be dealt with quite successfully. After all, procrastination is just a signal that you need to change your attitude toward the task at hand. There are three ways to do this.

1. Find the source and divide the goals

Before you tackle procrastination, you need to understand why it occurred. Analyze your feelings and determine what triggers are interfering with your actions.

Then make up an Eisenhower matrix. This classic time-management technique involves breaking things down into four categories:

  • urgent and important;
  • non-urgent and important;
  • urgent and unimportant;
  • non-urgent and unimportant.

It makes sense to start fighting procrastination only with urgent and important tasks.

2. Assess your strengths

Determine how you can best work on your task. You may be more comfortable dealing with it in a few hours without too many interruptions – or it may be much easier to divide it into simple subtasks.

Most of the time, the beginning is the hardest part. This is where the 10-minute rule comes in handy, allowing you to get down to business immediately and keep your focus.

3. Change the task

Each of the triggers of procrastination can help you fight it effectively if you give it the opposite meaning.

If the task is boring, try to think creatively about it. For example, you need to sort papers. Add some fun to this rather tedious job. Buy colorful stickers, tap into your creativity and create your own original system for organizing documents.

If you’re dealing with a difficult task, ask for help. And when you feel like you’re doing a thankless job, indulge in something yourself, like a delicious dinner. This will help you get through all the steps of any task with ease.


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