Beating Procrastination Requires Understanding These Emotions

Learn how to tackle your to-do list in a timely manner, once and for all.

Who hasn’t sat down to start an important project only to get sidetracked by a “What City Should You Move To” quiz on Facebook? Or set aside a Saturday afternoon for a dreaded task like detailing your car only to get sucked into a Netflix binge? Procrastination happens. It’s normal and possible to overcome once you understand the following emotions and how to address them.

1. Feeling: Fear.

Sometimes just imagining the dreaded task, such as waiting in line at the DMV or reading that confusing chapter on nuclear fusion in your textbook, is enough to make you uncomfortable and anxious. Instead of starting, you choose instant gratification and do whatever is even slightly more pleasurable even if that’s emptying the dishwasher.


First acknowledge that the item on your to-do list is something you must do and therefore the fear is something you can’t avoid. Then, try a visualization technique where you face or overcome fear. Imagine yourself cutting through a doorway covered in tape or powering through a burst of fog that momentarily blinds you.

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2. Feeling: Overwhelmed.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a task is so big you can’t finish it.


Instead of worrying about the finish line, just get started. For example, if you’ve been procrastinating a Powerpoint presentation, simply start by creating the file and naming it. Before you know it, you will have the first five slides completed.

3. Feeling: Shame.

When you procrastinate, you may feel ashamed that you were unable to control your impulses and may now have a consequence you have to deal with, such as a late fee on a past due bill. The feeling of shame can kick off a snowball effect of more procrastination.


It sounds simple, but let yourself off the hook. A study of students found that those who didn’t give themselves a hard time for not studying on an earlier exam did better on the next one. By acknowledging you made a mistake, chances are you’ll feel less guilty and be better equipped the next time around.

4. Feeling: Disregard for your future self.

When you procrastinate, you may be putting your future self at risk. What does that mean? If you don’t put away the laundry or skip going to the gym again, you’re leaving these tasks for the you of tomorrow, a week from now or five years from now.


Picture yourself in the future dealing with these items you put off. Are you stuck folding mounds of laundry on a Sunday night when you would rather be watching the game with friends? Are you out of shape and not able to play with your grandchildren? The more you understand the risk of delaying action today, the less likely you are to do it.

Motivated to start an exercise program? Making an appointment with your physician is a smart first step. Find out why.

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By Anne Fritz