We all procrastinate. 

We’re here to help you overcome any tendencies to procrastinate because WE ALL DO IT! 

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is when we put off dreaded tasks because they make us feel anxious or because we’re tempted to do other things that bring us immediate rewards. The longer we procrastinate, the worse we feel, because procrastination triggers negative feelings like depression, anxiety, and guilt. These, in turn, reduce our motivation and trigger even more procrastination. And it’s one of the most common causes of unhappiness! (What a cycle!)

We’re here to help you break it.

Why do good people (like you and me) procrastinate?

There are lots of reasons and nuances, but here are nine of the most common. Keep reading to learn they why behind your procrastination.

Believing motivation comes before action

This is one of the biggest traps that keep your procrastination alive and prospering. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ll get to that when I feel like it/ when I feel inspired.”

The Mastery Model

An unrealistic view of how a productive person really functions. It’s the assumption that successful people always feel confident and efficiently achieve their goals without having to endure frustration, self-doubt, and failure. Highly productive people have a “coping model” of success; they expect to encounter obstacles, rejections, and failures and persist nevertheless.

Fear of Failure

Success might be overly important to you. Rather than risk failure, you might do nothing at all. When we try too hard and put too much pressure on ourselves we may feel so stressed that we procrastinate. Lowering your standards can be helpful! Compulsive perfectionism is not the same as the healthy pursuit of excellence!

Lack of Rewards

We diminish our work and feel nothing we do is ever good enough. Productive people usually give themselves credit for their work because they think about their work positively and feel excited and involved. Procrastinators often put themselves down.

Should statements

Procrastinators often tell themselves, “I should do____. I ought to do ___” These statements can make us feel guilty and resentful and make us avoid certain tasks

Passive aggressiveness

People who procrastinate are often afraid to express negative feelings openly and directly. Ask yourself if you feel upset or annoyed with someone; this could be the cause of your procrastination.


Many people procrastinate because they agree to do things they don’t really want to do. You may be afraid to say no; you may base your self-esteem on what other people think of you. Your procrastination might be your way of showing some assertiveness.

Coercion sensitivity

You might procrastinate because you feel people are making unreasonable demands on you, and your refusal to do what they ask is a way to rebel and gain back some of your power.

Lack of desire

You might be procrastinating because you simply don’t want to do whatever it is you’re putting off.

Where can I see all of the tools shared over Insta in one place?

Right here :)

Tool 1: Cost-benefit analysis.

  1. Think of ONE thing you’ve been procrastinating.
  2. Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.
  3. On the left, list the advantages of putting off this task (more TV time, etc.).
  4. On the right, list the disadvantages of putting it off.
  5. Weigh them. Are the costs or benefits of putting it off are greater?

Tool 2: Anticipate your problems & find solutions

You know yourself best. How might you be sabotaging YOU? List out all the problems you expect to encounter once you get started and then write solutions for each of them.

Feel like you’ll get distracted by your phone? Maybe you can turn it off for 30 minutes while you work. Know you might get distracted and watch TV? Maybe you can go to a library without your headphones so you’ll be less tempted to watch anything.

Tool 3: Get into the here and now.

Don’t worry about everything else you have to do to complete your task– Break your work down into steps or by time!


Write out every step and make sure each one is reasonably easy to accomplish. (So avoid writing steps such as Step 1: Write a Pulitzer Prize-winning article.)

Try writing:
1. Turn on the computer.
2. Open a new document.
3. Open the assignment.
4. Read the assignment.
5. Highlight the requirements.
6. Write one sentence.

Working on a paper? Try writing one “adequate” sentence. Then try writing another; see if you can complete an “adequate paragraph” or an “adequate page.” You can edit the material the next day and make it better.

By Time:

Pick a chunk of time and work on your task for that amount of time, no matter how much progress you make. For instance, try working on something for 15 or 30 minutes and then stop.

Tool 4: Think positively and give yourself credit

What are you telling yourself when you procrastinate? Write down your negative thoughts. You might be procrastinating because you’re thinking about the task in an unrealistic way. For instance, “I should write these thank you notes, so people don’t think I’m ungrateful and selfish.”

How can you make this thought more positive and realistic? Start by removing any “shoulds” and assumptions you’re making. Instead, maybe tell yourself, “It would be nice if I could get these done; people would probably enjoy receiving them. But if I don’t get to them, it doesn’t mean I feel ungrateful.”

Once you’ve started working on a job you’ve been avoiding, give yourself credit! This will boost your motivation.

Want just one more tool?

We’re all about that bonus content, too :) Try this anti-procrastination worksheet!

In the first column, break the task into small, or even itty-bitty steps, and number them. Make sure each step can be completed between 30 seconds and two minutes. You don’t have to break down the whole task– Just the first four or five steps will do the trick! If you aim to do just a little, you might end up doing a lot more– but if you think about doing it all at once, you end up procrastinating.

After you’ve outlined the first couple of steps, predict how rewarding each step will be in the second and third columns, with 0% being the least rewarding and 100% being the most rewarding. (Do this column before you do your activity!)

Now complete your first step, and note how rewarding it turned out to be using the scale again in columns four and five. Then repeat on your remaining steps!

Okay. I am ready to try. Any final words of encouragement?

Action comes first. Motivation comes second. In other words, you have to get started on some task before you’ll feel motivated. Waiting for motivation is like Waiting for Guffman...it will probably never happen. Once you start accomplishing something, you’ll start feeling motivated, and it will be much easier to keep going. We could borrow Nike’s language and tell you to “just do it.” But if it were that easy, procrastination wouldn’t be such a universal bad habit.

I have procrastination tips and tools to share or feedback. Where can I send them?

We’d love to hear from you– Email us at health.promotion@nyu.edu or drop us a line at hello_hpo!

All these tips and definitions are courtesy of David Burns, renowned psychiatrist at Stanford and author of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.