A guide to regaining control: how to overcome chronic procrastination

Ever find yourself postponing a task because you’re not in the mood to deal with it? You’re not alone. Procrastination, often due to prioritizing immediate needs over future concerns, is a universal human tendency. While it may provide short-term relief, continually putting off tasks can lead to a cycle that impacts mental and emotional well-being.

Signs of Chronic Procrastination

Identifying chronic procrastination involves recognizing patterns such as regularly missing deadlines, procrastinating across various life domains, and engaging in this behavior weekly or daily. Distractions become commonplace, relationships may be affected, and stress affects sleep and physical health. Chronic procrastination isn’t merely laziness but a complex interplay of emotions and coping mechanisms.

Chronic procrastination is often linked to mental health conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Rather than laziness, procrastination can stem from a struggle with emotional regulation. Avoiding tasks is often driven by the desire to sidestep anticipated emotional distress associated with the job, making it more about managing emotions than mere productivity.

Emotional Distress and Procrastination

Research suggests that the roots of procrastination lie in the emotional and mood-related aspects of tasks. It’s not a lack of productivity but a reluctance to face emotional discomfort. Procrastination becomes a coping mechanism to delay the negative emotions associated with a particular chore or assignment. Unaddressed emotional distress, whether recognized or not, becomes a significant driver of chronic procrastination.

Procrastination as a Mental Health Symptom

While chronic procrastination can be a symptom of mental health conditions like anxiety or ADHD, it can also contribute to ongoing emotional distress. The concern about specific tasks or the pursuit of perfectionism can exacerbate procrastination. Depression, characterized by low energy and self-worth, may lead to neglecting responsibilities due to a lack of motivation or self-doubt.

Procrastination feeds into a cycle where the negative emotions associated with a task grow over time. The temporary relief of avoiding a job reinforces the desire to procrastinate again, creating a challenging loop to escape. Procrastination becomes a habit that compounds the emotional concerns that triggered it initially, leading to stress, anxiety, depression, and a host of other emotional and mental health challenges.

Breaking the Procrastination Loop

Overcoming chronic procrastination involves addressing the emotional roots of avoidance and developing effective coping mechanisms. It requires recognizing the negative impact of procrastination on mental and emotional well-being and actively working towards breaking free from the cycle. Seeking support through therapy or self-help strategies can be a crucial step in building resilience against chronic procrastination.

  1. Self-Forgiveness and Compassion: Acknowledge past procrastination without self-blame. Practicing self-forgiveness and compassion can reduce the likelihood of future procrastination.
  2. Challenge Cognitive Distortions: Identify and reframe irrational thoughts that fuel procrastination, such as overgeneralization or catastrophizing. Consider alternative, more rational explanations for your worries.
  3. Step-by-Step Approach: Focus on small, manageable steps rather than the entire task. Breaking down tasks makes them less daunting and more achievable.
  4. Create Obstacles and Rewards: Set up physical barriers to procrastination triggers, like turning off your phone while working. Pair your efforts with rewards to reinforce positive behavior.
  5. Seek Professional Help: Consider consulting a therapist if chronic procrastination significantly impacts your life and mental health. They can offer strategies to address underlying emotional triggers and mental health issues contributing to the behavior.

Empower Yourself: Conquering Procrastination with Mindful Strategies

Deserving kindness starts with recognizing the impact of cognitive distortions on procrastination. Challenge false beliefs that fuel avoidance. If you’re overgeneralizing or catastrophizing, reframe with alternative perspectives. For instance, consider others’ feelings in a conflict rather than dwelling on negativity.

Taking things slow is critical. Focus on one step at a time, breaking tasks into manageable chunks. For a research paper, concentrate on obtaining sources before worrying about the introduction. Often, progress in one area naturally leads to improvement in others.

Implement obstacles and rewards to boost productivity. Minimize distractions like turning off your phone during work. Celebrate achievements with breaks, enjoyable activities, or small prizes. Shift your mindset from punishments to positive reinforcement.

Maintaining a balanced approach to tasks and responsibilities is critical to overcoming chronic procrastination. By understanding its roots and implementing effective strategies, you can regain control over your time and productivity, leading to a more fulfilling and stress-free life. Remember, addressing procrastination is a journey; small, consistent steps can lead to significant changes. Start your journey towards overcoming chronic procrastination with the guidance and support of a therapist.




Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.