A Guide To The Procrastination Meaning And How To Fight It

Updated August 26, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We all procrastinate from time to time. However, if not managed properly, procrastination can disrupt lives. It can lead to poor performance at work and school, and can even negatively impact home life and relationships. Most people realize that procrastination is a problem, and know that they are guilty of procrastination, but are unsure of how to conquer it.

Before we get into how to fight and overcome even the worst procrastination habits, we first must understand the procrastination meaning.

What is Procrastination?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the procrastination meaning is: "to intentionally or habitually put something off that should be done…"

We might argue that procrastination is "intentional." Procrastination is the willingness of putting something off that we know needs to be done. We do this because there is something about doing a particular task that we don't enjoy or that we avoid. But procrastination can also be caused by a lack of motivation. Depending on lifestyle and other factors, we might not be 100 percent at fault for procrastination.

When you have a mountain of work that continues to stare you in the face or a to-do list that is a mile long, it can be difficult to find the motivation to tackle it. In fact, this is often when we experience procrastination the most.

But we DO have the ability to change our lifestyles that increase motivation levels and overcome procrastination.

How to Fight Procrastination

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If you know that you are a habitual procrastinator, and you have suffered the negative consequences of procrastination more than once, then here are some tips you can try to help you fight procrastination:

  1. Your Best Work Time. Everyone has a time of day when they do their best work. Some people are "morning people" and do their best work before noon. Others need the morning to wake up and get into the groove before they even think about work. Others are night owls. You get the point. Find when works best for you and save your hardest tasks for that time.If you work a 9-to-5 job, then you have no choice but to be up at the crack of dawn and in your office chair at what feels like the wee hours of the morning. If this is the case, then try starting your day off with easier tasks, such as checking email, organizing your desk, or making that phone call that you didn't get to yesterday. Then, use the afternoon as your "productivity period" to really get things done.

2. Focus on the WHY. If you notice a task on your to-do list, and you think "WHY do I have to do this?", it might be helpful to write yourself notes as to why a certain task or project needs to get done. Focus on why it is important, and what you will get out of it.So, when writing out your to-do list, get into the habit of writing your WHY reasons next to each task. Therefore, when you look at your task list, you will instantly be reminded why each task needs to be done.

3. Take a Walk. You might wonder how taking a walk can help conquer procrastination… After all, isn't it a little counterproductive? Not necessarily. Taking a walk will allow you to clear your mind, remove other distractions, and relax. In fact, according to an article published by Business Insider, taking a walk can increase productivity levels by 20 percent!Also, walking is a form of light aerobic exercise. Exercise increases endorphins in the brain, which lead to increased happiness and enjoyment levels, both of which are motivation boosters.So, once you return back to your office, your desk or the task at hand, you will likely feel more refreshed and ready to power through your to-do list.Remember, sometimes we need to walk away from what we need to do. This allows us to return back to the task and tackle it at a different angle to get it done.

4. Remove Distractions. There are so many things that can interrupt our flow during the day-and technology is one of the biggest culprits. Not only have our attention spans decreased to below that of a goldfish, but there are also all kinds of pop-ups and notifications that deter our attention away from the task at hand.Shut off your email, Facebook, chat applications, silence your phone, get off social media and spend a few solid hours getting work done. If you need to check email for your job, then set aside certain times a day to do this.

This could be first thing in the morning when you log on or the last thing you do before you leave for the day.There are also a number of apps that you can download to your device or your computer that will track the time spent on tasks or projects. There are also apps that keep you from logging onto social media during certain times throughout the day.You will be surprised at how "freeing" it can be not to be bothered every few seconds with notifications, emails, chats or text message. Not to mention, it can help you feel relieved and fulfilled that you actually got things done.

5. Learn to Prioritize. Another big problem that causes procrastination is a lack of prioritization. Sometimes we have SO much on our plates that we feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. This can cause stress levels to increase and productivity levels to decrease.Start by sorting through your tasks and taking note of what needs to get done ASAP. Select the top three highest priority items and focus on getting those done first. Depending on your workload, you might be able only to choose one priority item each day, and that's okay. The goal is to prioritize tasks and focus on those first. Once you conquer those, you will find that it is easier to get through the remaining tasks on your list.

6. Make Lists. Some people are "list" people. They spend time writing down everything that needs to be done that they can think of. After doing that, they review it and think, "I don't want to do ANY of these things." Then, the list inevitably sits there and list items are left untouched.

If you are a list person, try also making a "DONE" list. Write down the tasks you have completed at the end of each day. It will help you to realize how efficiently you are working, where you need to improve, and how to maximize your time the next day.

7. Hold Yourself Accountable. You can set deadlines in your head all you want, but this doesn't necessarily mean you will meet them, especially if you are an avid procrastinator. However, telling a friend or a coworker that you are going to get something done will help hold yourself accountable. A friend or coworker can also help motivate you to get something done.

8. Find a Challenge. Boredom is another leading cause of procrastination. If you are challenged with a task or a project, then you are more likely to feel motivated to get it done. You will need to push yourself to keep your motivation levels up, but it can be done. Find your "motivators" and focus on those to help you tackle challenging tasks.

9. Reward Yourself. Most us focus on getting things done and are often hard on ourselves when we don't. Then, when we finally do get things done, we are the next task. We don't take enough time to reward ourselves in between projects and tasks or a job well done.If you are too hard on yourself, this can kill motivation, productivity, and only worsen procrastination.However, taking the time to reward yourself will help you feel more motivated to conquer the next task on the list. Some examples of rewards include taking a short break or grabbing a snack or beverage that you enjoy. Your rewards can be as small or as big as you like. Whatever gets you moving!

10. Just START. Finally, the most straightforward tactic to kill procrastination is to get up and just start doing it. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Get off social media. Shut your office door. And just DO it. You may find that once you start working on a task that it isn't as bad or as difficult as what you thought. It is often our own minds that get in the way of us actually getting things done.Additionally, simply making mundane, boring, or difficult tasks more interesting and enjoyable will help increase motivation and productivity. For example, listening to music might make a task enjoyable for you. Discover what helps you get things done, and use it every time.

Procrastination Meaning: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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When procrastination keeps us from getting things done, it can end up hurting us in the long run. It increases anxiety and stress levels, and it can also make others angry with us or even make us angry with ourselves. However, before you get too hard on yourself, there is both a good side and a bad side to procrastination.

The Bad and the Ugly Side

Procrastination can impact doing the smallest tasks to the biggest projects. For example, procrastination can affect folding and put away laundry to putting off a large project at work.

Furthermore, procrastination hinders and kills creativity. Perfectionism and procrastination feed each other, and both can kill creativity. So, if you work in a "creative" field, such as a writer, artist, musician or a graphic designer, procrastination can prevent you from creating your next masterpiece. Therefore, find ways to conquer procrastination in order to keep your creativity levels up.

The Good Side

How can there possibly be a good side to procrastination? Psychologists actually argue that procrastination can be a good thing-but only by accident. In some cases, delaying a task or a project may be a good decision, depending on the potential outcome. For example, we might delay tasks or projects because we think something might change or we are waiting for something ELSE to be completed first.

However, there is a difference between delaying tasks because of a legitimate reason and making excuses. Strategic decision making, prioritization, and rationale aren't considered procrastination. But making excuses, choosing not to do something that you know needs to get done or purposely waiting until the last minute to do something all go into the procrastination meaning.


Although there is some argument about the procrastination meaning, we can all agree that procrastination typically puts us in a worse off position rather than a positive one. Therefore, by using the tactics above, you can finally kill your procrastination habits for good.

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