The Language of Procrastination Decoded


  • I was one of those ‘maddening' people at College who always completed assignments way ahead of time. While others ‘burnt the midnight oil' to finish on time, I would get a good night's sleep having submitted my assignment days ago. What others failed to understand was that it was my fear of failing to complete an assignment on time that evoked paralysing anxiety and therefore motivated me to be so over- prepared. On the other hand, I have been procrastinating over my Wine and Cheese night ( I finally set the date on March 21st 2013) out of a fear of being overwhelmed and the fear of drawing attention to myself. As a counsellor I generally promote the concerns that other people experience, as opposed to promoting myself.

Procrastination is part of the experience of being human however what you procrastinate about and the reason underlying your procrastination is uniquely your own. Procrastination is a  language that decoded, will tell you alot about yourself.

Here is your procrastination decoded:

1. Fear of Failure

If you have a tendency to over-think and analyse everything then this may be you. The fear of failure, the fear of making a mistake and embarrassing yourself breeds procrastination. Careful planning is your strength however with any strength there is a corresponding weakness. In this case, your weakness is that you often get ‘stuck' in your planning, second guessing yourself, trying to anticipate for every conceivable scenario

 2. Fear of Being Overwhelmed

For some people, when a task requires more energy than you have at the time, even the thought of the task de-energises and de-motivates you. On the surface of things, people may perceive you to be ‘lazy', unmotivated and unemotional. Under the surface you often feel overwhelmed by the chaos of thoughts and emotions that run around in your mind. The task of keeping this emotional chaos contained requires significant energy. Typically, addictive behaviours such as substance abuse, gambling and pornography are all unhealthy behaviours that you may resort to, in order to remain feeling settled and ‘in control'. In your experience, procrastination is necessary to your survival.

3. Fear of the Consequences

The fear of change and how it will impact you can be a powerful deterrent to action. Ask your self these questions: Will it create more work for you? Will it expose you to others judgement of your work? Will it draw attention to yourself? How will it impact others? Will your actions upset, anger or disappoint others? When you anticipate the fear of how your actions will impact you or other people, your brain produces two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, that interact to lower the activity of the brain regions involved in goal- directed behaviour.

4. Fear of Commitment

Procrastination can also be indicative that you are not ready to make the commitment that a particular action requires. Working with young couples, a familiar scenario that creates major conflict is that of the male partner procrastinating about marriage or having a baby. This procrastination is frequently acted out by an affair which recalls the heady experience of being in love without the pressure of a larger commitment. Procrastination of this nature may suggest that you are not ready for the next developmental stage of your life. In some aspect of your experience, be it mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, you are unprepared for this next step and the commitment it requires.

5. The Thrill of Working at the Eleventh Hour

For some people, procrastination is a habit satisfying the need to experience the adrenaline high that your brain produces under the stress of having to complete a task at the ‘eleventh hour'. Viewed this way, your procrastination has become a thrilling addictive experience that is difficult to break. Consequently, you are easily distracted, even bored whenever you attempt to apply yourself to the task at hand.
How did you do? Do you recognise yourself in any of these scenarios? Take some time to reflect upon instances of procrastinating in your life and what procrastinating specifically achieved. What were you avoiding? Failure, being overwhelmed, more responsibility, other people's strong emotions? Do you usually undertake a action at the last minute and if so, what is that like for you?

For tips on strategies to assist you to overcome procrastination go to my article published by Australia Counselling:

I encourage you to seek out a professional counsellor who can facilitate a conversation that will raise your self awareness around the procrastinating behaviour that sabotages your well being and growth.

If you want to grow, experience wellness and reach toward your full potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you.

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