Procrastination Cycle

After reading the last few blog posts about procrastination, hopefully you’re starting to see that procrastinating is more than just being “lazy.” Now that we’ve talked about the different forms of procrastination, let’s look at them all now in a cycle.

The Procrastination Cycle


To start of, there must be a task or goal which is a priority in your life. You may approach this goal by thinking about what you have to do, planning for it, or actually attempting to complete it. The task or goal could be related to literally anything such as work, family, study, finances, relationships, etc.

Unhelpful Rules and Assumptions

When you approach this task or goal, you’ll likely have an unhelpful rule or assumption activated. These rules/assumptions could relate to needing to be in charge, pleasure seeking, fearing failure or disapproval, fearing uncertainty or catastrophe, low self-confidence or depleted energy. These rules and assumptions will begin to guide your thoughts and feelings about the task, making the task appear aversive to you, thus arousing some form of discomfort about doing the task.

Discomfort Driven

Once you notice that you’re experiencing discomfort when approaching this goal, you’re much less likely to want to actually complete this task. The more discomfort you experience, the more difficult it will be for you to approach and complete the task that needs to be done.

Procrastination Excuses

Once you identify the discomfort, you’ll likely start to think of excuses as to why you shouldn’t engage with this task or goal. You often pick out some truth about the situation, and conclude that you are better off doing the task at a later date. For example, “I am too tired, I am better off doing it tomorrow when I am rested”.

Positive Consequences

The positive consequences you may experience from procrastinating, such as relieving the initial discomfort you had about the task/goal, feeling good for having stuck with your rules and assumptions, and having gained some pleasure from the procrastination activities you carried out, will just strengthen your procrastination because it had a pay-off. As such, you will be more likely to procrastinate next time.

Negative Consequences

The negative consequences you may experience from procrastinating also make you more likely to procrastinate next time round, because they make the task/goal even more unpleasant for you and hence you will want to avoid it even more.

Stopping the Procrastination Cycle

In order to stop procrastination, it’s important to identify and consider a few things. The more you understand why you personally procrastinate, the easier it will be to challenge. Try asking yourself the following questions…

  • Being a procrastinator, what do I get out of it that is negative? What are the disadvantages? How does it hurt me? ƒ
  • Being a procrastinator, what do I get out of it that is positive? What are the advantages? How does it help me? ƒ
  • If I do change and no longer procrastinate, what will be good about that? How will my life be better? What will be the benefits of change for me? ƒ
  • If I do change and no longer procrastinate, what will be bad about that? What will I have to give up? What will be the costs of change for me?

Hopefully the hurt procrastination brings you and the good you think will come from changing, outweighs how much procrastination helps you and the bad you think will come from changing. During the times that it is hard to stick with your commitment to changing your procrastination habit, reflect on the ways procrastination hurts you and the good things you expect from change, as a way of motivating yourself to keep going and stay on track.

Stay Tuned…

Want to learn more? Stay tuned next week, where we’ll discuss how to dismiss excuses related to procrastination, and how to be less self-critical.

Nicole Paulie is an author, Counselling Psychologist and co-founder of MyMoodandMe. She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

This blog post was adapted from Module 3: Changing Procrastination.

The Procrastination Cycle, and How to Stop It
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