Procrastination and Stress: Why Do I Always Put Things Off

Procrastination is considered to be nothing short of ordinary laziness, for which an effective cure is a formidable shout. In fact, procrastination is a dangerous problem akin to an addiction, which causes a lot of guilt and shame, and can destroy the personality over time. Why is it so dangerous and rarely treated by an attempt to “pull yourself together” and how to do things you don’t aspire to do? 


The history of procrastination goes back for millennia. Even the ancient Egyptians wrote about the counterproductive habits and endless delaying of things for later (well, not exactly wrote, but rather scratched on the walls). Moreover, they had two hieroglyphs to designate such a delay: with negative consequences – and with positive ones.

The term “procrastination” itself appeared already in ancient Rome as a result of the addition of two words: the preposition pro (“towards, forward”) and crastinus (“tomorrow”). Thus, the word is found in the writings of historians and a positive context. Procrastination back then was the talent of wise politicians and military leaders who do not make hasty decisions. So, intelligent macro time management and procrastination were synonymic.

In modern history, the term appeared only in 1682, in a sermon which in a way was a collection of proto-work life balance quotes by the Reverend Anthony Walker. Procrastination was declared a sin – after all, people were figuring out how to increase productivity. The word stuck. In the 18th century, it got into print and even entered the slogans of the industrial revolution. Since then, laziness and the compromised Latin term have never been parted. 

What’s the difference? 

It’s crucial to comprehend that procrastination is not the same thing as laziness. While laziness is a character trait, procrastination is instead a symbiosis between the behavioral model and neurosis. Indeed, with constant tendencies of putting something off here procrastination causes stress. And though stress is not inherently harmful, constant exposure to it – is. You may also need a stress app to tell how to measure stress levels, but with a stress management app, you will only fight the effect, so the need to learn how to fight procrastination remains.   

Learning the enemy 

To understand the difference, check the modern definition of procrastination. It was formulated by Professor J.R. Ferrari, head of the Procrastination Research Group (PRG) at Carleton University in Ottawa. Procrastination is: 

  1. the habit of putting things off, 
  2. which are unconditionally perceived as important, 
  3. gradually becoming a neurotic pattern of behavior and 
  4. causing persistent frustration or guilt in the procrastinator. 

Ferrari emphasizes that awareness is the most critical sign of procrastination due to anxiety. It is not enough to disrupt the deadlines and do the work badly – this can be done by anyone who overestimated his strength or did not understand the problem. It is also necessary to realize that you are deliberately doing nonsense until the last moment, although you could have worked. Therefore, procrastinative actions are counterproductive, needless, delaying.  

What does productivity mean?

Productive action is an action that helps you reach your goal and improves your position. In other words, productivity means doing important things that should be done (including routine things you have to do throughout the day) whether you like it or not. Consequently, it is essential to realize how to force yourself to do something unwanted. In that, productivity apps can be helpful.

The causes of procrastination

Is procrastination a sign of depression? – mostly not. Procrastination is the currently available way to adapt to the situation and somehow help you cope. But what is procrastination trying to protect us from? Many things, and it is best to get rid of them.

Anticipation of the problems…

Imagine that a manager or a client is very critical of you, and you know that as soon as you show the result of your work, he will definitely find something to dig into to criticize you hard. Thus, delaying the execution is a perfectly reasonable strategy, and procrastination comes to the rescue. 

…and fears of success

Interestingly enough, the premonition of success can be as disturbing as the premonition of failure. To become successful means to become visible, to take on more responsibility and risk. All of this can be scary as hell. As a result, it is much easier to postpone important tasks that can take you to a new level and create new problems. 

Mental mutiny

Imagine that your boss gave the position he promised you to another person, without due explanation. You will likely feel that you have been mistreated and will seethe with anger and resentment. Of course, it’s good if the situation can be discussed with the manager directly. Still, if not, there is a beautiful way out – to sabotage the hated project, for example, by reading the entire Internet – from cover to cover. 


The perfectionist sets the bar so high that he has a well-founded fear of screwing up. And screwing up for him is mortally dangerous because it will hit his self-esteem, and he will drown in shame from his own worthlessness. And here procrastination comes to the rescue because “it is better to do it perfectly, but never, than somehow, but today.” 

The lack of sense

Some people just dislike mindless tasks. They spend their time wondering how to measure productivity in order to improve upon it, but the most helpful thing that can be done is just to abandon senseless tasks altogether. Be honest in your judgment, though.


Another reason for procrastination is commonplace overwork since it is difficult to complete tasks when there are no resources for it. Not everyone can allow themselves to honestly relax if they have not done the tasks that they planned.

You can list other reasons, but the essence is clear. There are good reasons for procrastination, and therefore all sorts of appeals and shouts “Pull yourself together!” work badly. It is better to have an intelligent approach when fighting the cause of procrastination, removing the procrastination-inducing things from your life altogether.