The Definition of Procrastination and How to Break the Habit

Whether you’re a student putting off a final paper or a professional delaying urgent deliverables, you’ve probably experienced a lack of motivation in completing your daily tasks.

Despite popular opinions, procrastination isn’t laziness.


Here, we’ll tell you what procrastination really means (according to its English dictionary definition and in the real world) and how to put a stop to this bad habit.

Dictionary Definition of Procrastination: It Doesn’t Mean You’re Lazy

Based on its dictionary definition, the English word “procrastination” is derived from the Latin pro, which means “forward”, and crastinus, “of tomorrow”.

Put together, it refers to when you intentionally and habitually put off doing something that needs to be done.

For example, people who procrastinate often find themselves performing other activities (or nothing at all!) instead of focusing on the important task at hand.

Procrastination isn’t the same as laziness, though; there is a desire to take action, but a lack of motivation to do so.

What do we mean by that?

We can all agree it’s not that we’re lazy to perform a task. It’s just that our heart isn’t aligned with what’s asked of us.

Consequently, this intentional delay usually causes feelings of guilt and/or helplessness afterward.

In the dictionary, common synonyms for the word “procrastinate” include dawdle, delay, and dally—words that are associated with slowness and an aimless wasting of time.

Effects of Procrastination

Unfortunately, procrastination has a lot of negative effects.

It doesn’t just have tangible harms, such as missed deadlines and poorly-performed tasks, but it also has intangible impacts on the people performing this action.

  • First of all, procrastination destroys your productivity. Everything you cast aside builds up one by one, and you lose a lot of time and opportunities in your life because of this.
  • Second, you’ll feel overwhelmed to reach your goals, and you may even ruin your name and career long-term.

Any of these ring a bell?

  • The time you decided to watch 1 episode of How I Met Your Mother only to find yourself watching an extra 2 to 3 hours in the day binge-watching?
  • Or…spending countless hours God-knows-what scrolling through cat memes, Reddit threads, or even your Facebook feed?

Over time, you might fall victim to chronic procrastination, which can also be dangerous to your mental health.

People who have trouble with procrastination often experience chronic stress, depression symptoms, anxiety, and psychological distress, among others.

Causes of Procrastination

Knowing all this, why do we keep procrastinating if it harms us in the long run?

Well, it’s not as simple as a lack of self-control.

Remember, before we can act on a solution, it’s important to name and understand any underlying issues we may have. Only then can we attempt to stop procrastinating altogether.

Fear of Failing

Fear of failure is normal.

Just read J.K. Rowling’s story and you’ll know…even the best-selling author felt it too.

However, when this fear interferes with your ability to take action on something, it can quickly become detrimental to your personal development.

In these situations, we have to remind ourselves that making mistakes is THAT 1 THING we shouldn’t avoid.

Wait what?!

Yes – humans fail all the time.

We’re not saying PURPOSELY FAIL and make a mistake. We’re saying…stop trying so hard to succeed every time.

Fail. Have the courage to get back up. Learn from your mistakes. And try again.

We’re more likely to succeed in things the next time around.

Procrastination may sometimes be our shield against the potential of failure, but if we don’t try, then there’s no chance at all that things will change for the better.

Low Energy and Motivation

One other issue is low drive, which could be caused by having low energy levels or the wrong type of motivation.

When you’re sluggish and tired all the time, it’s only natural you want to delay certain difficult tasks. – says the person who’s 1-second away from watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s 7th season

Although your mental energy is somewhat high, you cannot physically keep up with all the different demands in life.

If this sounds like you, then you should reevaluate your lifestyle choices:

  • Are you sleeping enough?
  • Are you consuming a healthy diet?
  • Do you get enough sunlight and exercise?

Satisfying the basic things your body needs can often work wonders for your energy and motivation.

People who lack intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, will find it hard to take action without the promise of a reward.

If you don’t see purpose in the things you do in life, your actions will never be sustainable.

Therefore, to avoid procrastination, it’s vital to find meaning in every single thing you attempt to do. Well…in this case, start with 1 thing first.

Lack of Focus

When was the last time you set goals for yourself? (even if you start with just one!)

If you don’t have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, it’s easy to fall into the procrastination trap.

However, if you have direction and purpose, it’ll be much easier to define the actions you need to take to achieve success.

Something that has helped a lot of people boost productivity is setting SMART goals. This technique makes you more accountable and aware so you don’t delay something that needs to be done.

Then again, that’s only 1 out of the million goals you could set for yourself.

Lack of Discipline

Why is it that despite expecting to be worse off for the delay, we continue to procrastinate?

Sometimes, we succumb to procrastination because we lack self-discipline.

Forming healthy habits should be a priority in our lives—although motivation can always fluctuate depending on your mood and circumstances, discipline will keep you going even when things get rough.

4 Ways to Stop Procrastination

#1 – Find Your ‘Why’

One way to stop procrastination is to find your personal vision in life. What drives you to do something, and what makes you most content?

When you find your ‘why’, it becomes easier to focus your effort on tasks that lead up to your ultimate goal.

You’ll quickly realize that procrastination will not only waste time and opportunities, but it’ll also delay you from achieving what you truly want.

#2 – Learn to Prioritize

For some, the issue lies in time management.

If you’re easily overwhelmed, try and break up your to-do list into smaller, less intimidating clusters spread out over a longer period of time.

You can also create subgoals leading to your end goal; this way, each thing you need to finish seems more manageable and attainable.

#3 – Form Habits

Social media and other forms of distractions are also big sources of delay.

Watching Youtube videos or scrolling through your Facebook feed in the middle of work might seem like harmless procrastination, but it can add up to a lot of time wasted.

So why not try forming healthy habits? Some examples include: limiting screen time and setting aside a strict period within the day to be productive.

Creating a routine can also stop procrastination—when our bodies and minds are wired to do the same thing every day, it quickly becomes second nature to continue this trend.

#4 – Keep Improving

We shouldn’t expect this process to be easy.

Even if you resolve all your procrastination issues and follow the tips above, you may still get tempted to delay your work or studies.

BUT don’t beat yourself up if you end up procrastinating from time to time.

What’s important is you learn from it and commit to improving yourself in the future.

Figure out why you slipped up, find a way to address the problem, and apply the solution so you don’t repeat the mistake again.

Over time, procrastination may become less of an issue, and it may even disappear from your life!

To Sum It Up

Knowing the dictionary definition and synonyms of the word doesn’t make procrastination any easier to solve, but we hope that the guidelines/examples above help you boost your productivity and break your bad habits!

It may not seem easy now, but it’s definitely possible to beat procrastination. Good luck!

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