Education & Career Trends: 7 Tips to Break the Vicious Procrastination Cycle

5 min read

Edition: February 14th, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Breaking the Procrastination Cycle ICS Career GPS
Chronic procrastination can generate feelings of guilt and stress, which worsen the problem. (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Plenty of people postpone important errands, work tasks, ‘dreaded’ chores from time to time. Procrastination is a pretty common problem. That’s because the thought of ‘playing now and working later’ is usually tempting for many of us. But putting crucial tasks off until the last minute can leave you feeling overwhelmed and frequently stressed.

Understanding Procrastination

There are 2 types of procrastination:

  1. Acute Procrastination: Most people have experienced acute procrastination — which is when you occasionally put off something you don’t want to do. This can lead to temporary bouts of stress as you approach a deadline, but it generally doesn’t have any serious consequences.
  2. Chronic Procrastination: Here, your tendency to put things off could begin to interfere with your life. It can get in the way of managing responsibilities, taking care of basic needs, or achieving goals — large and small. Chronic procrastination can have bigger consequences, as you might end up feeling stressed and guilty. This can even increase your chances of falling sick. 

Causes of Chronic Procrastination

Even when you recognise the ways chronic procrastination affects your daily life, you might find the habit hard to break.

That’s because the behaviour often stems from underlying factors, some of which you might find it tough to address alone. 

Causes of procrastination can include: 

  • Anxiety: With anxiety, you might worry too much about making the wrong choice and put off making any decision at all.
  • Pride: You might feel so confident in your productivity, you think you can do it all, only to drop the ball on something urgent. This can send your self-esteem plummeting, which makes you more likely to procrastinate in the future.
  • ADHD: Trouble with time management and executive dysfunction, including organising tasks and getting started, are hallmarks of ADHD that can lead to chronic procrastination and stress.
  • Low self-esteem: If you’re already stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, low self-esteem can intensify these thoughts.

It is possible to overcome both acute and chronic procrastination, but it does take some effort.

Here are 7 tips that can help you overcome procrastination:

1. Trace it to the source.

  • Learning why you procrastinate is a good first step.
  • You need to understand the reasons for procrastination to overcome it.
  • If you don’t understand the source of the problem, you can’t come up with an effective solution.
  • Understanding why you procrastinate can help you notice when you’re repeating behaviours, so that you can focus on breaking the habit.

2. Manage your expectations with ‘chunking’.

  • One method for overcoming procrastination involves chunking, or breaking your tasks into smaller to-do lists.
  • The American Psychological Association defines chunking as a way to break large pieces of information or tasks into smaller pieces, making them easier to manage.
  • This can help you manage your expectations more realistically.
  • Setting manageable expectations can make it easier to build up to bigger tasks in the future.

3. Start with the ‘Two-minute Rule’.

  • Not sure how to break your tasks into individual steps? Try the two-minute rule. This involves committing to just two minutes of any task. 
  • Find a smaller commitment that makes the task feel less daunting and spend two minutes working on it.
  • Two minutes is still better than zero. This can help you build confidence in your abilities to lessen future procrastination.
  • Once you get started on a task, you’re more likely to see it’s not as bad as you imagined. 
  • Telling yourself to work on a task for just two minutes can make your to-do list feel less overwhelming and easier to start.

4. Practise self-compassion and positive self-talk.

  • Chronic procrastination can trigger negative feelings like guilt and anxiety about your abilities.
  • These unwanted emotions can raise your stress levels and make it harder to cultivate self-compassion. 
  • Rather than letting guilt eat at you, try to practise positive self-talk. 
  • If you notice yourself thinking negative thoughts, try pausing to put your hand on your heart, and take a deep breath.
  • You can also try positive affirmations like “I am enough,” or “I can accomplish difficult things.”
  • This helps open your mind to self-acceptance, which can help you consider more possibilities for yourself in the future.

5. Consider the silver linings.

  • Procrastination due to anxiety, ADHD, or perfectionism can stem from worries that the outcome of your efforts won’t measure up. 
  • Try asking yourself instead if there’s another way things might turn out.
  • How would you encourage a friend who was so afraid of failing they had trouble getting started?
  • Talking to yourself in a similar way can help you find a more helpful and realistic approach to getting started on tasks. 

6. Skip your to-do list, start with the day’s biggest goal.

  • Jotting down everything you want to accomplish in a given day could leave you feeling burned out before you even tackle that list. 
  • Instead, try working backward based on the day’s biggest goal.
  • Identify which items on your list are the most important, then focus on completing those.
  • If you have time left after completing those essential responsibilities, you can start on other, less urgent tasks. 

7. Reach out for support.

  • When chronic procrastination begins to affect your relationships, performance at work and school, or general quality of life, seeking professional support from a therapist can make a big difference.
  • If procrastination interferes with your daily routines, mental health experts can identify causes for your behaviour.
  • They can help you replace self-defeating thoughts with productive ones.  


Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Education Trends: How Can Technology Help You Lead a Sustainable Lifestyle?

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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