Page published on 6th February 2024
Page last modified on 6th February 2024


On 18 January 2024, IP Inclusive and Jonathan’s Voice co-hosted a webinar “Procrastination Frustration”. Jonathan’s Voice mental health expert Penelope Aspinall talked about the internal drivers that lead us to put off doing important tasks, the positive and negative consequences of procrastinating, and how to try and break the cycle. Penny also helped us to consider our own procrastination tendencies and to create an action plan.

A recording of the webinar can be accessed here and the slides can be accessed here. Penny has also kindly shared a Workbook to accompany this webinar which can be downloaded here. Read on for our summary of the highlights.



Procrastination is a common part of human behaviour and is not the same as laziness. It means to decide, for no apparently valid and in spite of potential negative consequences, to delay or not complete a task you’ve committed to. We procrastinate over both personal and professional tasks, anything from hanging a picture to filling out a form, writing a response to making a phone call.

Instead we either do nothing or do something that is lower priority or more pleasurable (eg. socialising or daydreaming). To avoid guilt we may generate excuses to help us feel justified.

But, of course, the task doesn’t go away. It just becomes bigger and/or more urgent, which can lead to more procrastination. We may end up caught in vicious cycle.


What are you procrastinating over at the moment?

What are you doing instead?



Penny shared with us a short TED-Ed video “Why you procrastinate even when it feels bad” which was helpful in explaining procrastination as a response to threat. That is, when the thought of the task ahead evokes negative feelings (such as shame, insecurity, aversion, guilt, fear, overwhelm), then we perceive this as a threat which may activate the fight, flight or freeze stress response. It is in the midst of this response that we may decide to avoid the task in favour of some less stressful task. This protects us from having to deal with the difficult feelings.

It was particularly interesting to hear that some individuals are more susceptible to procrastination than others. People who have difficulty regulating their emotions and those who struggle with low self-esteem are much more likely to procrastinate, regardless of how good they are at time management. Many people procrastinate because they care too much or are perfectionists. Procrastinators are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, ongoing feelings of shame and physical ailments associated with high stress.



Penny explained that there are benefits to procrastinating! These include avoiding difficult feelings, relief from discomfort and pleasure from alternative activities. However, these are pay offs that can keep procrastination going.

Negative consequences of procrastinating include creating more discomfort, increased self-criticism, shame and guilt, build up of tasks, and external consequences (such as loss or punishment). It can also contribute to maintaining unhelpful rules and assumptions, such as the belief that you don’t have enough time, you can’t bear failure, or you’re not good enough.


Thinking of one of the tasks above, what are the positive and negative consequences of your procrastination?

How do these keep you procrastinating?



So how can we break the cycle of procrastination? Being hard on yourself can actually make things worse, by increasing the stress response. So self-compassion is key and can help us deal with things more effectively. Think of how shouting at a child or an animal doesn’t help!

Instead, change the critical and negative language you use when talking to yourself into something more gentle and accepting. Imagine how you would speak to, encourage and comfort someone you care about, and treat yourself in the same way. Notice how touch can be beneficial in self-soothing and find what works for you, eg maybe the warmth of your hand on your arm soothes you; maybe you like the sensation of moving your thumb over your wrist or arm, or maybe you prefer the warmth of a hot water bottle.

Penny recommended the website of Dr Kristin Neff for a variety of practices and resources.

Other strategies to reduce the stress response include breaking the task into smaller elements, journalling about the stress, addressing the underlying concerns, and removing nearby distractions. Also it can be helpful to acknowledge that whilst you may be suffering, suffering is a part of life, and that you are not alone.


What self-compassion and self-soothing strategies work for you?



Awareness of when, how and why you procrastinate will be helpful in enabling you to break the cycle.


Where you get stuck. Do you procrastinate over thinking about the task, getting started, or keeping going?

What makes you lapse and how does that make you feel?

How you get going again?



Try applying this knowledge to a specific task you’re procrastinating over by following the steps below.


Think of a specific task.

On a scale of 1-10 (1=not started; 10=completed), where are you now with this task?

What is your next step towards completion? Be specific and realistic.

What skills, strengths and resources do you have to help you achieve this goal?  Don’t be modest.

Think about times in the past when you’ve achieved a similar goal – how did you do it then?

How did achieving it make you feel?

What might stop you getting on with it and what can you do about this?

What will be your reward / pay-off – in the short term and in the long term?


Now go and do it! But remember to be kind to yourself and get help if you need it.



Please see the final two slides for information on various sources of help and resources that are available. Jonathan’s Voice also has a range of free downloadable resources on their website.



Jonathan’s Voice would be delighted to hear from you if you’d like to discuss your own organisation’s needs in more detail. They can provide free advice, seminars, workshops, talks and other forms of support and are happy to visit you in person: contact them via their website or email [email protected].

You can contact IP Inclusive by email [email protected].


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