It’s a “sin” most everyone has been guilty of at one time or another. Studying for examinations, project deadlines, losing weight; you name it, we have all put off doing something at some time.

We put doing something off because we don’t want to do it, or maybe we have a lot of things on our plate at the moment. Maybe we’re not interested. Maybe we’re just lazy, too. There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate, but the most common reason is fear.

People are afraid of making a mistake or not getting it right or somehow failing along the way. If you are afraid that a particular task could possibly not turn out well, it’s easier to avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling the fear. The chances of failure are then eliminated.

There’s also the fear of success. You would think that wanting to succeed would actually propel a person to work, and work hard. On the contrary, to some people, success can be seen as a tradeoff for human relationships or a social life: if they start working on a project, and eventually succeed, this may lead them to doing more projects, which in turn would eventually put a damper on their social lives and relationships.

People also procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect. It’s no surprise that procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. Perfectionists are extremely insecure people. More than their expectation that everyone and everything around them be perfect, they expect themselves to be perfect all the time. Hence, they’d rather put off doing a project, than to start it and then see it not meet those high standards they set for themselves. It appears to be a mind thing. Procrastinators sometimes think that it is better to give a half-hearted effort and maintain the belief that they could have done an awesome job, than to give a full effort and risk criticism from other people. Procrastinating guarantees failure, but it helps perfectionists maintain their belief that they could have excelled if they had tried harder.

What these people need to realize is that no one pleases everyone all the time. No one EVER gets it right every single time. At best, we need to aim for 80-90% precision, because we are human, after all, and are bound to make mistakes, even accidentally. Regardless, even if we did get it 100% right in our own eyes, there would always be someone who would certainly see it as less than presentable and be critical about it!

How, then, can procrastination be avoided?

We need to know exactly why we procrastinate. Is it really because we’re lazy? Or is it any of the other reasons mentioned above?

How and when do we procrastinate? Do we do it when we have examinations, when we need to pay the bills, when we need to hit the gym? Do we suddenly feel physical pains that we didn’t feel ten minutes ago? Do we totally ignore the task we’re supposed to be doing, hoping it will go away? Do we do something else that we also deem important, in lieu of the immediate task at hand? Do we take longer breaks than necessary? Figuring out exactly when and how we procrastinate can help us stop the behavior. Too often, we don’t even realize that we are procrastinating—until it’s too late.

It’s important that we create an environment that’s conducive to working and completing the task we’re supposed to do. This means a place where there are no distractions (no internet or WiFi connection, for example).

Consider your peak times as well, meaning the time when your body and mind are at their optimum. Schedule your task within that time, when you are most alert and productive.

If the task seems insurmountable, break it down in little, doable parts. This makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And the feeling of actually having accomplished something can get you pumped up for the next little, doable part.

Never hesitate to ask for help. This is where your family and friends come in, as you will need their support.

Give yourself a break. You can’t expect to kick the habit of procrastination overnight. The habit developed and evolved over time, undoing it would also take time. Congratulate and reward yourself for every little hump you’ve managed to overcome, but don’t beat yourself up too much if you fell off the wagon. Just get up and pick up where you left off.