Is laziness a learned behavior

What procrastination means and how to overcome it

Independent work is the dream of many people. Complete tasks regardless of time and place, in your own way and on your responsibility. For many self-employed people, freelancers or freelancers, however, this freedom often means that tasks are unnecessarily postponed. Instead of tackling things and doing them right away, you look for alternative tasks that distract you from your actual work. In the end you get under time pressure, cannot meet the agreed deadline and deliver too late, poor quality and, in the worst case, not at all. Anyone who dismisses this behavior as laziness is wrong. Psychologists call this pathological procrastination as procrastination, in German Procrastination, a pathological disorder that usually shows up in school and has serious effects on well-being and the quality of work.

Around Procrastination avoiding a good one helps Appointment and time management as well as a few simple tips and tricks to get your work done in a concentrated and efficient manner. But what are they causes the procrastination, how is that different "Procrastination" of simple laziness and what can you do to overcome procrastination?

Definition: what is procrastination?

Procrastination is not a phenomenon new world of work. Vivien Leigh already tipped with the words "I want to think about it tomorrow." 1939 in her role as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" to Procrastinate. It is normal to put things off that are difficult for us, that are not particularly good for us or that we perceive to be of little value. who dawdles or sometimes gladly lazy and avoiding tasks such as bookkeeping, tax returns or travel expense reports, does not immediately suffer from procrastination. But then what does procrastination mean? However, if you regularly do not complete tasks at all or only after a long time despite existing skills and opportunities, one speaks of procrastination as a disease or respectively pathological disorderwhich usually manifested itself in school. Those affected suffer from the pressure and usually only manage to do the work with great effort. The quality of work suffers, which affects mental well-being and leads to a Self-devaluation of work as well as oneself leads. In the long term, procrastination has serious consequences for both professional and private life.


The opposite of procrastination is precrastination. While some compulsively postpone tasks, others tend to do the opposite and complete tasks immediately. What at first glance sounds like high motivation and productivity does not necessarily lead to better results, but, like procrastination, leads to considerably more stress.

Causes of Procrastination

Procrastination can go through high workload, perfectionism or the inability to break down large tasks into smaller to-dos. Not only self-employed, company founders and owners or executives are affected, but also employees without managerial responsibility as well as schoolchildren and students. Science distinguishes between that Excitement procrastinator and the Avoidance procrastinators. While one of them seems to need the pressure to get things done, the other is characterized by a fear of failure.

The causes of postponing supposedly difficult or unpleasant tasks are accordingly

  • Lack of ability to prioritize
  • Unrealistic planning
  • Deficits in time management
  • Lack of concentration
  • Aversion to a task
  • Misjudgment of a task
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fear of failure or criticism

How can you avoid procrastination?

If tasks seem too big to us or if the deadline is still a long way off, we tend to prefer smaller tasks. This behavior initially brings us short-term success, but does not solve the actual task. So what can you do to avoid procrastination when you realize that you are about to procrastinate?

  1. Find the cause: Everyone has a bad day and puts things off. If these days pile up, find out what is holding you back from a task. To that Breaking Patternsyou have to recognize it first.
  2. Big jobs in smaller subtasks Disassemble: The challenge shrinks and you have small partial successes.
  3. Set priorities: Reduce the pressure to perform by separating really important tasks from supposedly important ones and sometimes delegating tasks - if possible.
  4. Write To-do lists: What you least enjoy, you do first and then reward yourself with tasks that are easy for you.
  5. Step by step instead of multitasking: Those who tackle everything at once are rarely more productive, but tend to get bogged down.
  6. Minimize distractions: Internet, telephone and e-mails distract us and disrupt our concentration. The good news: You can close your browser and your e-mail program and switch off your smartphone so that you can fully concentrate on a task.
  7. Reward yourself: Those who are self-employed usually have to reward themselves for successes or completed tasks. Set realistic goals and allow yourself some time for yourself when you reach them.

Science assumes that procrastination is a learned behavior acts. Accordingly, you can unlearn this behavior again or learn how to deal with procrastination in a healthy way. Learning and practicing the above behaviors have also proven themselves in the therapy proven. The aim of the treatment of procrastination is to prevent the postponement of large or unpleasant tasks by learning new work habits and systematically practicing this work behavior Overcome procrastination.

Is there a test for procrastination?

Very few will claim to be free from procrastination and never postpone tasks. To determine when such behavior is actually pathological, whether you are a Procrastinator or sometimes just being a little lazy is therefore difficult. However, the behavior of people with procrastination is determined by certain factors that affect how they do their jobs. These include:

  • Current mood
  • Effect of aversive activity on mood
  • Constant weighing of the consequences and the benefits of postponement
  • Expectations: do you expect a positive or a negative result?

If the consequences of such behavior lead to physical and emotional discomfort through dissatisfaction and feelings of guilt, as well as deterioration in personal performance, it is probably procrastination and should be treated. The Westfälische Wilhems-Universität Münster offers an anonymous self-test online, which can give you an initial indication of whether it is procrastination or laziness. Of course, it does not replace professional diagnostic work-up by a psychiatrist or medical psychotherapist. Procrastination has not yet been included in the current classification systems of mental disorders. Nevertheless, there are therapies that aim to eliminate the causes.

Where can you find help with procrastination?

Anyone who detects a tendency to procrastinate or has reached a point where procrastination has already become a serious threat to your mental well-being and your professional existence will find professional help in the form of, for example, at the procrastination outpatient department of the Westphalian Wilhems University in Münster Diagnosis, consultation and Therapy bei procrastination.

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