When I think about procrastination in my own life and my tendency at times to procrastinate, I suspect it is likely that underneath the tendency to put things off there are conflicting emotions and desires. As Sigmund Freud said while discussing the "pleasure principle", "We tend to avoid that which causes us pain and gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure". One part of ourselves may consciously set a goal, however, another part is resistant to doing what needs to be done to attain that goal. Frequently the resistant part is unconscious or out of our awareness. In addition the resistant part likely has some motivation of its own which functions in a protective manner, and is trying to help in some way. This sure sounds crazy, and yet we know that there are conflicting parts otherwise there would be no resistance to achieving our goals. Let's suppose that someone needs to go to the dentist to prevent a cavity from getting worse, it is often the case that this task is put off because another aspect of the individual wants to avoid the anxiety or unpleasantness of getting the cavity filled.
Clearly, procrastination can help us to avoid a negative emotional experience in the present, however, it often has a negative consequence, or can produce a negative emotional state in the future. If I am already stressed, the last thing I want is to do something that will cause me to feel even more stress or anxiety.
While discussing "happiness", Dr. Martin Seligman states, "That which gives us pleasure does not necessarily improve our level of happiness". Frequently seeking pleasure may prevent us from feeling happier. On the other hand avoiding unpleasant experiences can prevent more pleasant experiences in the future.
Procrastination is often equated with laziness. I suspect this may be the case at times, but most likely it is related to our desire to avoid anxiety, fear, or some other negative emotional or painful experience, If we look at procrastination as the result of some internal conflict between aspects of ourselves, we are likely to be more successful and consistent while working toward achieving our goals and reducing internal conflict.
What can we do to avoid procrastination or to procrastinate less?
Be more aware of our emotions and internal emotional conflicts.
Become less judgmental regarding our emotional experiences and more self-accepting.
Improve our ability to manage time.
Break down tasks into smaller more manageable parts.
Find creative ways to make unpleasant tasks more pleasurable.
Celebrate our achievements and reduce excessive self-criticism.