18 Procrastination Questions to Help You Stop Putting Things Off

Are you a serial procrastinator? A serial procrastinator who’s ready to turn things around and get things done?

Nearly 95% of people say they procrastinate. That’s according to Piers Steel, the author of The Procrastination Equation. He defines procrastination as purposefully putting off tasks against your better judgment and contrary to your best interests. If this sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place.

Continue reading for several procrastination questions designed to help you examine and tackle your procrastination habit.

Procrastination Questions

We’ve written 18 procrastination questions and organized them into four exercises that you can use individually or with a group.

Exercise #1: Diagnose Your Procrastination Style

The procrastination questions in this exercise are based on concepts from The Procrastination Cure by Damon Zahariades. Zahariades recommends you identify which situations and circumstances lead you to procrastinate and reflect on the mental and emotional factors that might be driving that behavior.

  1. Identify one of the root causes of procrastination that resonates most with you: fear of failure; fear of success; perfectionism; negative self-talk; issues around motivation, rewards, or consequences.
  2. Considering this root cause, what steps can you take to address the issue? For instance, if you procrastinate when you get bored, what games or reward system can you create for yourself? If you get overwhelmed, how will you break down large tasks into smaller steps? If your main issue is perfectionism, how will you change your mindset?
  3. What are your top two distraction activities when you’re procrastinating (such as TV, social media, shopping, etc)? In as much detail as possible, what have you noticed about where, when, and how you tend to start doing these activities? For example, is it a certain time of day, in a certain location, or is it attached to another activity? 
  4. What specific changes could you make to your environment or routine that would make it more difficult for each of these activities to distract you?
  5. What is one way you can involve another person in holding you accountable as you strive to break your procrastination habit? For instance, you might ask a friend to be your accountability buddy, start a writing group, or hire a personal trainer.

Exercise #2: Apply Techniques for Avoiding Procrastination

The procrastination questions in this exercise are based on concepts from The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel. Consider how procrastination affects your everyday life and how you could apply Steel’s techniques to your benefit.

  1. Steel identifies three primary reasons for procrastination: We choose instant gratification over long-term gain, we dislike what we’re doing, or we believe we’ll fail. Which one do you think is most relevant to your habits and challenges? Why? (For example, maybe you always struggle to complete tasks you dislike, your lack of impulse control means you frequently delay important tasks in favor of immediate rewards, or you have trouble believing in your ability to complete important tasks.)
  2. Describe one current situation where you’re struggling because of that type of procrastination. (For example, maybe you’re having trouble keeping your kitchen clean because you hate washing the dishes, you’re procrastinating on saving money because you keep making impulse purchases, or you’ve been avoiding an important work project because you feel like you’ll fail.)
  3. Steel identifies strategies for avoiding procrastination: Manage distractions and impulses, make the task more valuable to you, and build your confidence. Which techniques might be the most effective for your situation? (For example, you might make a game out of washing dishes to make it more fun, you could set up an accountability system that creates negative consequences if you impulsively buy things, or you could break the project into small goals.)
  4. How might reducing your procrastination in this situation benefit you long-term? (For example, doing the dishes more frequently would allow you to cook more, which will save you money. Saving money could allow you to someday fulfill your goal of buying a house. Completing the project efficiently and effectively could raise your status at work.)

Exercise #3: Reflect on Your Procrastination and Identify Solutions

The procrastination questions in this exercise are based on concepts from Procrastination by Lenora Yuen and Jane Burka. According to the authors, we procrastinate to experience short-term relief from our fears. Identifying your fear(s) will help you choose an appropriate strategy for beating your procrastination.

  1. Describe a time you recently procrastinated on an important task.
  2. Which of these fears fueled your procrastination: your fear of imperfection, your fear of losing love, or your fear of restrictions? Describe a few past incidents in which this fear caused you to engage in unhealthy procrastination. (Feel free to name more than one of these fears or identify another type of fear not listed.) 
  3. The next time you experience that fear in anticipation of an important task, how can you overcome your tendency to procrastinate by engaging in a healthier behavior? Consider choosing from these behaviors Burka and Yuen share: engage in mindfulness, exercise, set a goal, manage your time more effectively by developing your sense of time, make the most of short blocks of time, or prioritize life’s most important tasks. 
  4. Now, describe why you think that specific strategy will help you manage the fear you named. (For example, imagine you’ve procrastinated on contributing to your retirement fund because of your fear of time, specifically your fear of aging. Prioritizing life’s most important tasks may help reduce this fear by reassuring you that you still have time to achieve many of your aspirations.)
  5. Finally, identify the first step you’ll take to engage in that behavior—rather than procrastinating on it. (For example, to begin prioritizing life’s most important tasks, you could identify three unhealthy behaviors you want to quit to make those tasks possible, such as wasting time on social media before bedtime, spending time with your overly pessimistic friend, and smoking.)

Exercise #4: Apply Anti-Procrastination Strategies to Your To-Do List 

The procrastination questions in this exercise are based on concepts from A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley. Think about the tasks on your current to-do list. In this exercise, we will review a few of Oakley’s strategies for avoiding procrastination, and you will apply them to your tasks.

  1. Eliminate distractions: Describe one specific distraction that could hinder you from completing the tasks on your list. What could you do to avoid this distraction?
  2. Reframe negative thoughts: Describe one task that you have negative feelings about. How could you reframe your thoughts about the task to feel more positive about it?
  3. Work around others: Sometimes it’s easier to do things that you see other people doing. What is one task on your list that you could do in a setting where other people are doing the same thing? Where would you go to do it?
  4. Positive procrastination: Deferring a task until later isn’t always bad. What is one task that could benefit from “positive procrastination,” that is, something that you shouldn’t rush into?
18 Procrastination Questions to Help You Stop Putting Things Off

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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