Personal Finance

What triggers your procrastination?

New research highlights one of the common causes of stalling and postponement as anxiety.
New research highlights one of the common causes of stalling and postponement as anxiety. PHOTO | COURTESY 

I’ll finish it…tomorrow…next week…next month…next year…maybe never. Delay. Dither. Dally. Dawdle. How do we know if we fall among the ranks of the world’s procrastinators?

Continuing in Business Talk’s miniseries on procrastination, we investigate solutions for anxiety-based lagging, stalling, and delaying. Start by taking the below modified self-assessment for procrastination famously developed by Bruce Tuckman.

So, get a paper and pen or phone calculator, take the self-assessment and also give it to your spouse, friends, and work colleagues so you can commiserate together. Rate each of the 12 statements on a five-point Likert scale utilising the following point numbers: disagree strongly (1), disagree (2), neutral (3), agree (4), and agree strongly (5).

I needlessly delay finishing jobs, even when they are important. I postpone starting in on things I do not like to do. When I have a deadline, I wait until the last minute. I keep putting off improving my work habits.



I manage to find an excuse for not doing something. I am a time waster now, but I cannot seem to do anything about it. I promise myself I will do something and then drag my feet and not do it.

Whenever I make a plan of action, I do not follow it. Even though I hate myself if I do not get started, it still does not get me going. I never finish important jobs with time to spare. I get stuck in neutral even though I know how important it is to get started.

Putting something off until tomorrow is the way I usually operate.

Now, add up each of the twelve scores. If you total 25 or lower, congratulations! You hold virtually no procrastination tendencies. If your score falls between 26 and 35, then you retain moderate procrastination habits.

Between 36 and 45, then you woefully join the ranks of hundreds of millions of procrastinators around the world. But if you score over 46, then you gloomily suffer from extreme procrastination and need peer, professional, and family support to move beyond crippling affects on your life and career.

Unfortunately, most people believe that procrastination revolves around poor time management skills. Time wasters, lazy, and apathetic exist as common insults for extreme procrastinators. Many assume that procrastinators either underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete tasks or subside as overly lazy workers who fail to recognise their own detrimental behaviour.

But new research highlights one of the common causes of stalling and postponement: anxiety. When treating anxiety linked procrastination with time management techniques, one gets no improvement or benefit.

In fact, failed misguided corrective steps often enhances the anxiety and makes procrastination even worse.

Psychologist Alice Boyes developed four anxiety induced procrastination identification triggers along with recommended solutions.

First, if you feel anxiety about a task that you actually hold experience in doing successfully in the past, then to break the cycle, ponder what makes the present time different from your prior times completing it. Remind yourself of your past successes with that task.


Second, sometimes you may retain anxiety about a small aspect of a larger project that proceeds to block your progress on the entire project.

In such situations, distinguish that specific anxious part from all the sections that do not cause you any anxiety. Compartmentalise those non-anxious parts and attack them first.

Third, often times, you may feel the urge and practice of blaming other people for your own inaction.

However, be alert for when anxiety manifests itself as anger or hopelessness.

Fourth, many people find that their task anxiety leads to their own perfectionism. So, rephrase your anxiety in your own mind to realise that your desire for perfection actually lowers the overall quality because tardiness usually comprises a bigger component of perceived success on a task than does perfection in that task.


Consider that wanting and desiring to get it right and perfect might lead you down a path of becoming completely and utterly overwhelmed.

In summary, know where you fall on the procrastination scale. Then understand whether anxiety causes your stalling.

If so, follow the above steps in order to start improving.

Next week, Business Talk will discuss when procrastination can actually prove positive to work quality.