We all procrastinate sometimes (or a lot), even though we don’t want to.

We might even be fully aware how much it is hurting us.

So why do we do it, when rationally it makes no sense to do so?

Emotions… While we like to think of ourselves as rational beings (thanks prefrontal cortex!) our emotions still greatly influence our behavior.

When a task elicits negative emotions in us, we want to avoid the task. It is our natural instinct to avoid things that trigger negative emotions. The whole point of negative emotions is to help us avoid danger and problems.

We are driven to do what feels good to us in the moment. That is the basic and ancient motivation mechanism of our brain.

Unfortunately for us there are lots of ways a task can make us feel bad and trigger that age-old avoidance instinct, even though most tasks have no risk of actually killing us or harming us.

Sometimes it’s the actual task that is unpleasant and makes us feel bad. Other times it’s the potential outcome of the task that triggers a negative emotion. It can even happen that we just have a negative association with that task.

Most often it’s a mix of things that triggers the negative emotions.

Usually, we are not aware of exactly why we are avoiding something. We just experience the resistance. That gnarly feeling that just makes you want to do anything but the dreaded task. Some people are very aware of the resistance and others just avoid things instinctively without even realizing they are procrastinating.

If there is a task we procrastinate again and again it can help to try and uncover what about this task triggers negative emotions in us. Sometimes that is enough to make us realize how irrational our instinct to avoid the task is and we can then consciously override it and get started on the task.

Other times, being aware of what exactly triggers the negative emotions provides valuable insight into something we should work on: our mindset or an unresolved problem.

And sometimes we realize that we actually have a really good reason for not wanting to do a task and we should not attempt to do that task in the first place.

Below you will find a list of 127 nuanced reasons why a task might trigger procrastination. If there is a task you are avoiding right now, go through the list and see if something hits a nerve.

100 reasons why we procrastinate
100+ reasons why we procrastinate

100+ reasons why we procrastinate

Which ones resonate with you?

This task is not bringing me closer to my goals.

This task is not important to me.

I don’t care about this task.

I don’t gain anything from doing this task.

This task feels like a waste of my time.

 

I am not sure this task is what I should be doing right now.

I am not sure this task will bring me closer to my goals.

I am not sure this task is what I want to do.

I am not sure this task is a good idea.

I am not sure this task will have the effect I want.

 

This task is boring.

This tasks is tedious.

This tasks is annoying.

This tasks is frustrating.

This task is gross.

This task is painful.

This task is uncomfortable.

 

I have so much to do I don’t even know where to start.

I can’t focus on doing this, because I am so stressed about all the things I need to do.

If I do this task now, I can’t do this other task that also needs to get done.

 

If I don’t do this task, there will be negative consequences.

If I don’t do this task on time, there will be negative consequences.

If I don’t do this task correctly, there will be negative consequences.

If I don’t do this task well, there will be negative consequences.

If I don’t do this task perfectly, there will be negative consequences.

 

This task is difficult and I worry that I won’t be able to do it.

This task is difficult and I worry that I won’t be able to do it right.

This task is difficult and that makes me feel stupid.

This task is difficult and that makes me feel incompetent.

This task is difficult and that makes me worried that it will never get easier for me.

 

This task is so complex, I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

This task is so complex, it makes my head feel funny trying to figure it out.

This task is so complex, I worry I am not approaching it the right way.

This task is so complex, I need to understand it all first before I can get started.

 

This task is frustrating because it is very difficult.

This task is frustrating because it never works the way I want it to.

This task is frustrating because I can never get it quite right.

This task is frustrating because I always try to do it perfectly.

 

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will lose hope for a better future.

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will have to give up on my dreams.

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will never live the life I want.

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I am not sure that my life will be worth living at all.

 

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, what does that say about my abilities?

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, what does that say about my intelligence?

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, what does that say about my worth as a person?

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I am worthless.

 

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will let (insert person you care about) down.

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will disappoint a lot of people.

 

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will look like a fool.

If I don’t manage to be successful at this, I will feel very embarrassed.

 

If I succeed at this, will my friends be envious of me?

If I succeed at this, will my life change and I can never go back to the way things were?

If I succeed at this, will I lose my values and become a different person?

If I succeed at this, can I handle the responsibility that comes with that?

If I succeed at this, people will have very high expectations of me. What if I can’t meet them?

 

This task has a tight deadline and makes me feel stressed just thinking about it.

 

This task takes a really long time, I don’t have enough time to do it.

This task takes a really long time, if I do it then I won’t have enough time for other tasks.

This task takes a really long time, it feels overwhelming.

 

I don’t know how to start this task.

I don’t know how to do this task.

I don’t know how to do this task well.

I don’t know how to do this task perfectly.

 

I am not sure I can do this task.

I am not sure I can do this task well.

 

I don’t think I can do this task.

I don’t think I can do this task well.

 

This task takes a lot of energy, I’m exhausted.

This task takes a lot of energy, I don’t want to spend energy on this.

 

Someone else wants me to do this task. I don’t like when people tell me what to do.

Someone else wants me to do this task. I don’t like to please that person.

 

This task causes me anxiety.

This task makes me sad.

This task makes me angry.

This task will put me in a bad mood.

 

I don’t feel ready to do this task, I don’t have all the information yet.

I don’t feel ready to do this task, I haven’t thought it all through.

I don’t feel ready to do this task, I don’t have the perfect plan yet on how to do this.

 

I am worried people will criticize what I create.

I am worried people will not love what I create.

I am worried people will not like what I create.

I am worried people will hate what I create.

 

This task is not interesting to me.

This task does not challenge me.

This task does not stimulate me.

 

This task reminds me of someone I don’t like.

This task reminds me of a bad time in my life.

This task reminds me of something I would rather not think about.

 

This task does not align with my values.

This task is not good for my health.

This task is harmful.

 

I am not good at this task and I hate not being good at things.

I am not good at this task and it makes me feel incompetent.

I am not good at this task and it makes me feel stupid.

I am not good at this task and I have to be good at everything.

 

I don’t feel prepared enough to start this task.

I don’t feel prepared enough to do this task.

I don’t feel prepared enough to do this task well.

I don’t feel prepared enough to do this task perfectly.

 

I don’t have enough skills to do this task.

I don’t have enough skills to do this task well.

I don’t have enough skills to do this task perfectly.

 

I hate that I have to do this task, the world is not fair.

I hate that I have to do this task, just because someone else messed up.

I hate that I have to do this task, it’s so pointless.

 

If I can’t do this task, I will be very angry at myself.

If I can’t do this task well, I will be very angry at myself.

If I can’t do this task perfectly, I will be very angry at myself.

 

If I can’t do this task, I will be very disappointed in myself.

If I can’t do this task well, I will be very disappointed in myself.

If I can’t do this task perfectly, I will be very disappointed in myself.

 

I am embarrassed that I want to do this task.

I am worried what people think of me when I do this task.

I am worried people will judge me when I do this task.

Other people are making fun of me for doing this task

I am worried about the criticism I might receive when I do this task.

I am worried what it says about me when I do this task.

 

I don’t have enough information about this task yet.

I don’t have enough information about this task yet to do a good job on it.

I don’t have enough information about this task to do a perfect job on it.

 

This task takes physical effort and I am exhausted.

This task takes mental effort and I am exhausted.

 

This task takes physical effort and I am tired.

This task takes physical effort and I am in pain.

 

This task makes my heart beat faster. It’s uncomfortable.

This task makes my stomach flip. It’s uncomfortable.

This task gives me a cold sweat. It’s uncomfortable.

 

Share in the comments

What makes you procrastinate? Anything missing from the list?

Thank you for your vote!
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2 Comments

  • Michal Polat
    Posted July 19, 2018 8:51 AM
    Thank you for your vote!
    Rating 0 from 5

    Wow! So useful!!! I’m going to use this list in a workshop I’m giving about procrastination (with credit to you and Marvin, of course). Thank you!

    • Christina Willner
      Posted August 9, 2018 3:26 PM
      Thank you for your vote!
      Rating 0 from 5

      I feel honored! 🙂 When is your workshop?

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