The first thing to understand about procrastination is that most of us beat ourselves up for procrastinating when we’re not even doing it.

Let’s start by defining it. Procrastination is putting off an important task, project or decision. Putting off something unimportant- well that’s just prioritisation. Putting off something important because you’re exhausted – that is what I call smart energy management.

But if you ARE putting off something important… well read on, because I’m going to help you get to the bottom of it. In my experience there are seven causes of procrastination, and only by understanding the root cause can you overcome the temptation to procrastinate.


You have the energy, but you don’t know when or where to start. Putting off redecorating the living room because you have no idea where to start is not a failure of motivation, but a failure of planning. So break it down into manageable parts, work out which part has to come first, and the one after that and go. Planning will give you momentum.


We all have flow activities, things that work with our natural strengths and energy. If you can, get some profiling done and identify your natural flow activities. If you’re in a position to delegate tasks that are out of your flow to someone else whose energy is more suited to them, delegate. But if you can’t delegate, batch those out of flow tasks together. Oh, and maybe listen to some great tunes while you get them done!


No wonder you’re ‘procrastinating’, you just don’t know how to do the thing. Sounds simple and easy to fix. But what if you don’t know you don’t know? Find someone – a friend, a colleague, a coach – who can help you discover what you don’t know, and help you identify where you can get the knowledge to get started.


You are overwhelmed by the options in front of you, and feeling a little bit emotional as a result. This is when I reach for my ‘Overwhelm First Aid Kit’. I stop, take a step back and remind myself that being overwhelmed doesn’t mean I’m not capable. Then I dump everything down on paper. Once I can see it all, I can decide what to ditch and what to delegate. Then I review the now shortened list, refocus, prioritise and decide. Stepping back rather than pushing through is the most effective way to deal with overwhelm.

Analysis Paralysis

You’re not just taking your time over a decision, you’re putting off making it all together. Welcome to the indecision roundabout. Someone once told me about their parents getting stuck on a roundabout in Italy in the early 60s. Baffled by which exit to take, they drove round and round so many times the traffic officer in the middle of the roundabout began saluting them. Eventually they had to choose an exit, literally any exit. The only way to stop analysis paralysis is to choose an exit. You can always turn around, and you never know you might find you chose the right path.


Sometimes we put off doing something because we’re worried we’re not going to do it perfectly. One way to overcome this is to future pace the imperfection. Fast forward into the future, imagine the report is not perfect but it is done. Imagine it going before the board with ‘through’ spelt ‘though’, or with the wrong font on the index page. Imagine the board reviewing the paper. The more that you can imagine it happening imperfectly, the more you can see it’s not going to undo all the credibility you have built with the board. Undo perfectionism by imagining imperfection.


We have two different selves inside of us and our future self is completely different to our present self. Your future self values future rewards like being mortgage free, looking great in that dress, finding the partner of your dreams. The problem is your present self wants to spend not save, likes eating cookies in front of the TV rather than exercising and actively avoids dating sites. They are different selves, and we will actively procrastinate until such time as the pain of putting it off, exceeds the pain of taking action. That’s called the action line. One way of bringing that action line nearer is to bundle together something that you love with the thing you were procrastinating. For example, only listen to a podcast that you really love whilst you’re working out.

What are you waiting for?

Next time you’re stuck in a rut, brainstorm a list of all of the tasks, projects, or decisions that you are procrastinating on. Apply the seven deadly causes to identify why you’re actually procrastinating and apply the solutions I’ve suggested to each of them.

What are you waiting for?