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Powering Through Procrastination: 4 Steps to Getting Focused and Taking Action

What do Leonardo da Vinci, SpongeBob SquarePants, and U.S. taxpayers every spring all have in common?




Throughout his career, Leonardo da Vinci struggled to finish things. And it’s said that at the end of his life he deeply regretted the things he’d left undone – things that might have changed the world if he’d finished them.


Our cartoon friend SpongeBob SquarePants put off writing an 800-word essay on “what not to do at a stop sign”…with disastrous results. 


And every spring many of us in the U.S. put off filing our taxes right up until the week before the deadline of April 15. 


What Is Procrastination?

Procrastination is usually defined as the act of putting off something that needs to be done in favor of doing something more fun or less stressful. 


But I think about it differently. I think procrastination is the act of putting off what you really want in your life – your ultimate dreams and goals – for doing what’s easier or more pleasurable in the moment. 


In other words, procrastination is the act of cheating yourself out of the life you really want, by putting things off until tomorrow. “I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow…” 


Procrastination can cause you to waste your life one day at a time. And, like Leonardo Da Vinci you can end up at the end of your life regretting the things you didn’t start, or do, or finish. 


Procrastination can destroy relationships, cause problems at school and work, and over time it can even affect our health. Worst of all, procrastination can leave us feeling lazy, guilty, full of shame, and like we’re somehow “broken.”


But here’s the good news.


Procrastination is something you do. It’s not who you are.


And we can always change what we do. 


 Let’s start by taking a look at what’s causing your procrastination.


5 Reasons You May Be Procrastinating

  1. You have a “to-do” list a mile long. You’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t have a single minute to fit in anything else.

  2. You’re worried you’re not going to be able to get it all done perfectly. 

  3. You love that adrenaline rush that comes from working under pressure. You believe you do your best work at the last minute and so you’re waiting until then.

  4. You’re not sure exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. You have no idea where to start, or what the finished project is supposed to look like.

  5. You don’t want to do it. Or you want to do it on your own terms. No one is going to tell you what to do. You’ll do it when you get around to it.


Maybe you recognize some of those reasons for not getting things done, or maybe you have some reasons for procrastination that are uniquely yours. 


Either way, all of those things are just symptoms of what’s really going on with us. They’re not the cause.


In the end, there’s only one reason we procrastinate. 


The real cause of our procrastination is the fear that we’re not good enough – that if we fail at a task, if we make a mistake or do it wrong, other people will discover our secret shame.


That’s all there is to it. 


What’s keeping us from taking action is fear.


And to put an end to procrastination all we need to do is step past that fear. 


4 Steps to Overcoming Procrastination

1. Tell Your Story Differently. 

Stop scaring yourself with stories of failure and disaster. Stop telling yourself “I can’t,” “I don’t know how,” or “It will never be good enough.” And start reminding yourself of the times you showed up and got the job done. Relive the moments you’ve succeeded in vivid detail. 


Think back to the times you felt confident and took action. Remember how good it felt to stand up in your life and take control. Take a minute or two and remember the times you were bold, you showed courage, or had the stamina or ingenuity to get the job done.


Well, if you did it even once, you can do it again. You’ve proved that you’re capable of stepping up and doing what needs to be done. And it’s time you started telling yourself that. 


The story you tell yourself about who you are will become what you believe about yourself. And a strong, positive believe about who you are and what you can do is more powerful than any fear or self-doubt. You’ve got this.


2. Focus on What You Really Want. 

Motivation comes from keeping your focus on your goals. Imagine how good you’re going to feel once you’ve done the work. Imagine the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that will come from finishing. 


Visualize how it will feel to achieve that goal. And, if you need an added incentive, come up with a reward for finishing that motivates you. Make it something you really want and imagine how wonderful it will feel to have it. To find your mojo all you have to do is get excited about what’s waiting for you at the finish line. 


3. Get More Information. 

If you’re still hesitating, it may be because there’s something else you need to know about the situation before you get started. If you’re not sure how to get the job done, if you have no idea where to start, or are unclear about any part of the challenge ahead, it’s important to find some clarity before you get to work. 


Ask questions. Make some calls. Look it up. Do whatever you must to get informed, because being clear about what needs to be done makes it so much easier to take that first step.


4. Break it into Small Steps.

The trick of tackling any task or challenge is to break it up into small manageable parts, and then take one tiny step at a time. The smaller the better. You don’t have to do it all at once. All you have to do is one small step at a time. In the same way you build a wall brick by brick, you build a great life one small act at a time. 


So, let’s agree, no more putting things off. No more making and breaking promises to ourselves about what we’ll do tomorrow. No more allowing what we want in the moment to rob us of the life we were born to live. Let’s instead roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Anxiety and Procrastination Are Linked


There’s no doubt that anxiety makes procrastination worse. If you suffer from anxiety, I’ve written an “Anxiety Handbook” called, Calm & Sense: A Woman's Guide to Living Anxiety-Free. It’s got 300 pages of practical tools and techniques – it’s sure to help you find a set of reliable methods to help you get through each day. 


Book cover: Calm & Sense: A Woman's Guide to Living Anxiety-Free by Wendy Leeds

All of Part Three (Chapters 11-25) is about REFRAMING anxiety, which can help alleviate the worry, fear, and guilt that come with persistent procrastination. I hope it will help you get a different perspective on your anxiety. 


To connect with a great community of women who are managing our anxiety: 

  1. My email newsletter, where I notify you of new blog posts like this one and new episodes of the podcast:

  2. And my Facebook page, where we come together to chat about all things anxiety:

I’m not just a psychotherapist; I understand the challenges of anxiety first-hand. So please reach out any time. My goal in all of this is to be helpful to you.





  1. Catani Marco, Mazzarello Paolo. (June 2019). Grey Matter Leonardo da Vinci: a genius driven to distraction. Brain

  2. Rozental A, Bennett, et Al. (August 2018) Targeting Procrastination Using Psychological Treatments: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisFrontiers in Psychology Journal.

  3. Fred Johansson, MA, et Al. (January 2023) Associations Between Procrastination and Health Outcomes Among University Students. JAMA.


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