Procrastination is one of the most prevalent forms of self sabotage, and it can be devastating to your relationships, your career and your peace of mind.

Procrastination is the habit of putting tasks off to a later time. It isn't just rescheduling tasks; it is a pattern of behavior that has at its heart the desire to avoid something. Usually people procrastinate about tasks that are unpleasant to them, or on tasks that require a lot of time. The reasons people procrastinate are varied and usually unconscious. They may not make logical sense. In this, people are driven by their feelings--they want to avoid whatever is waiting for them.

People sometimes procrastinate because of a fear of failure. They may be afraid that they can't do the task, or that their efforts won't be good enough. The procrastination becomes an effort to avoid that failure.

Procrastination may be fueled by a fear of judgment about our performance. What if the people we want to please don't like it? In order to avoid being judged, we often avoid doing the work or don't turn it in when we have done it.

People can also avoid because of a fear of success. Although this may be difficult to understand, the fear is that success will bring with it unwanted results. For instance, you may be afraid that if you work at your full capacity and achieve what you are secretly capable of, you will turn into a workaholic. You might be afraid that you will forget to have fun. You might worry that you'll become someone who is so driven that they are mean. Or, you may worry that if you perform at your full capacity, others will begin to expect this level of performance from you.

There may be a fear of losing your autonomy. If maintaining independence is important, the procrastination may be a type of rebellion. "You can't make me do this" becomes the underlying expression of the desire to avoid this type of fear. Procrastination is a way of feeling more in control of a situation in which you believe others have too much authority. Sound familiar? If it isn't a pattern for you, it may be for your teenager. Procrastination becomes a passive-aggressive way of rebelling against authority.

Procrastination is sometimes used to deal with intimacy issues. It may reflect a fear of getting close. Avoiding things and the havoc that it wreaks becomes a way of keeping people away or at arms length. Rather than deal with the real issue of closeness, people find another approach to driving others away. Conversely, procrastination often ensures that others stay connected to you. Because someone jumps into rescue the procrastinator, it keeps them involved, although not in a particularly healthy way.

It isn't always fear that drives us to avoid things. Sometimes we want to avoid the realization that we can't be perfect. Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. As a perfectionist, your standard may be unreasonably high. There may be the concern that you can't meet those expectations. In order to maintain the belief that you could be perfect, you may procrastinate until there isn't time to do the sort of job you would like to do. Then you can maintain the belief that "If I HAD the amount of time I needed to do it, it would have been an exceptional job."

Sometimes procrastination is an effort to avoid a goal that is too big. The size and scope of the task or project may be overwhelming. For instance, sometimes people who think about starting their own businesses become so overwhelmed by everything that may entail, they procrastinate until they have missed the opportunity. The goal is so daunting that it becomes easier to postpone it.

Procrastination becomes second nature when you are trying to avoid too many demands. Sometimes there just isn't enough time to do everything that is on our plates. There may be practical demands that interfere with the best of our intentions. Although there may be some truth to this, if, in the face of all the other demands, you find yourself procrastinating with "time-wasters" it is probably a sign that you are avoiding meeting a number of demands. You may need to look at your commitments to see what is realistic.

People also procrastinate in an effort to avoid their self-judgment. They may have poor self-esteem or may have limiting beliefs about themselves. For instance, someone might believe "I'm not good enough," or "I can't," but not really want to get confirmation of that by attempting the task. They have beliefs that keep them from attempting it, such as "This is impossible." At the same time, they don't want to test the belief. It is easier to avoid it. That way they can continue to believe that if they had tried, it would have reinforced the belief.

The final reason that people procrastinate is that it works. When we procrastinate, we DO avoid something, although usually only temporarily. In place of doing something we DON'T enjoy, we often substitute an activity that we DO enjoy. As a result, we are reinforcing our procrastination. We are rewarding ourselves for our own bad behavior. When we "get away with it," we increase the likelihood that we will do it again next time.

What are YOU avoiding? The first step to handling your own procrastination is to understand what you are avoiding. Once you figure that out, you can begin to take some steps to change your behavior.

(c) 2010 Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Linda Pucci, Ph.D. is a psychologist, life coach, trainer and owner of Inner Resource Center, LLC in Maryville, TN. She has 30 years of experience helping people overcome obstacles and self-sabotage by using her solution focused approach. She is dedicated to helping people find the resources they need to transform their lives. For more information and free resources, go to .