Angela Leong
Written & Posted by Angela LeongRegistered Clinical Counsellor, Founder of AEM

How to Overcome Procrastination: Effective Strategies for Timely Success

12 Mar, 2019
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Here’s A List Of Reasons To Avoid Procrastination:

  • the stress of waiting until the last minute
  • the possibility of having to skip out on preferred activities because of the time crunch
  • the risk of not finishing in time
  • the risk of submitting rushed work

But the thing is, I am 100% sure that you are all intelligent and capable beings who are to some degree aware of the trade-offs of procrastinating… but find yourself procrastinating anyway.

Procrastination is hard to break because it is a vicious cycle: the more of procrastinating you do, the harder it is to break out of the cycle. Often our procrastination behaviours are a preferred activity such as scrolling Instagram, online shopping or other things that feel pleasurable in the moment. It’s innocent at first but over time adds to this ever-increasing dread of starting the necessary task.

Let’s first talk about what procrastination is and is not. Procrastination is not a time-management, lack of discipline or laziness problem. Procrastination is an avodiance behaviour, indicating that at the root of the issue is anxiety.

Everyone Has Different Procrastination Triggers:

  • Task aversion: “I don’t want to do this”, “this is boring”
  • Self-doubt: “I don’t think I can do this”
  • Perfectionism: ‘All-or-nothing’ thinking, it has to be perfect
  • Interpersonal Rebellion: supervisor/manager feedback is contradictory or vague.
  • Waiting for Motivation. You actually don’t need motivation to complete a task, you just need enough to start the first keystroke.
  • Values Conflict: you are not sure if you want to be a researcher, engineer or etc.

The first step is to check out with a counsellor or an unbiased trusted peer what the automatic thoughts are regarding a task or goal. Perhaps it’s “I can’t do this”, “I’m not smart enough” or perhaps it’s feeling as though the stakes are high and mistakes are unacceptable (perfectionism) or that there’s no point because “I’ll fail anyway”.

Not sure what kind of thoughts are getting in your way? Try a guided meditation with a therapist which allows you to simply sit and observe your thoughts. Keep in mind that perfectionism or self-doubt can lead to task aversion.

To battle the dragons of self-dbout, spend time talking to supportive colleagues, friends and family members who will remind you of your strengths, who will work alongside you to boost your morale. It’s also valuable to isolate the voice of criticism and de-personalize it from your self concept. You might work with a therapist for this part.

For issues of interpersonal rebellion or values conflict, it is also valuable to bring to light the narrative around these issues with a counsellor, a coach or a mentor. You might realize that you need to seek more clarification around your supervisor’s feedback. You might need to explore the bigger picture attachments behind the task. Perhaps this lab report is just a big reminder of how much you don’t want to be a scientist. And if so, what do you care more about? What are you here on this earth to do? What are you hopes, interests and dreams for the future?

Paulo Coelho, author of ‘The Alchemist’ and many other loved novels reportedly spends about three or four hour hours every morning procrastinating in every possible manner: reading the news, checking his emails before getting down to the writing process. The take-away? Be realistic about the time that you need to complete an assignment. Accept the fact that you’re going to procrastinate and schedule it into your day.

Paulo Coelho then says to himself, “I’m going to write for half an hour”. “And I do. Of course, this half an hour becomes 10 hours in a row.” The second take away? Set really small goals for yourself. Something you can easily achieve. Naturally, you’ll feel good about doing and keep going for more.

Start Where You Are. Use What You Have. Do What You Can — Arthur Ashe

To overcome the stagnation of ‘perfectionism paralysis’ or task aversion, remember that it’s important to start and gain traction than be fixated on how things will turn or how much you’d finish. Alex Abdel-Malek, MSW, RCC says think of a car pulling out of a snow bank, if you gas hard you spin out and don’t go anywhere. If you gas slowly, you ‘get traction’, which allows you to get moving!

And finally, it’s important to have environmental considerations! Limit visual cues and distractions. You might not fare well with sitting in front of a big open window. Every bird, person or vehicle that passes by might grab your attention. Also, put your cell phone in a different room. If you need to take calls throughout the day, leave the ringer on.

Also, if you’re sitting for long hours, give yourself a 10-min stretch break every 1 to 3 hours so that your body doesn’t give out from sitting for so long. (Trust me, it takes longer to recover from that than taking a 10-min break!) Set a timer and tell yourself that you deserve it even if it feels like you don’t.

Something else that wasn’t addressed? Still struggling? contact us at or 604-800-9285 to see what else might be getting in the way of your work.

Learn more about Anxiety Counselling at An Elegant Mind Counselling in Vancouver, BC.

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