Outreach: Why We Procrastinate


Procrastination is a habitual response we sometimes use to delay perceived threats of stress or feelings of discomfort. We would rather feel good now, despite the costs, than face tasks we intend to complete, but do not want to do.

Procrastination creates unnecessary, purposeful delays, which can compound into other issues, rather than just the one at hand. Part of overcoming our tendency to procrastinate may include turning attention to the costs of delayed action: If you put off paying a bill, you can get hit with late fees; if you put off homework and studying, your grades will go down.

Procrastination can be overcome in a variety of ways. The hardest part is not giving in to “feel good now” by putting off a task, rather than feeling the stress of accomplishing the task now to feel good later.

The first step to taking action at the moment of procrastination is to stay put. Develop a plan with intentions in mind—what is the end goal? What are we trying to accomplish? Recognizing the inner desire to succeed can be a great motivator.

Creating a list—or a web—of the anxiety-producing situations is an excellent start. Writing it out extends the anxiety from our brains into something tangible that you can manipulate.

Mapping responsibilities out on a calendar can give you  an opportunity to see the amount of time you need to accomplish a task, as well as writing out the steps that are required to accomplish the goal. For the kinesthetic, it gives the opportunity to physically cross an item off the agenda, aiding in the sense of accomplishment.

Most importantly, be kind and compassionate to yourself. Realize that at some point you may need to re-prioritize; that’s not a mark of failure, but rather a reminder to readjust needs. Trust in yourself and be willing to take the first step.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth age 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.