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No More Excuses! Helping Your Teen Overcome Procrastination

As a teen life coach and parent, I've seen first-hand the challenges that come with procrastination and how it can impact a young person's ability to achieve their goals.. It's a common problem among teens, and it can be frustrating for both teens and their parents.


But why do teens procrastinate? And what can they do to overcome it?


Fear of Criticism: The Root of Procrastination

One of the main reasons why teens procrastinate is fear of criticism. It's natural to want to avoid negative feedback, but when it becomes a reason to put off work, it can become a problem. Fear of criticism can be paralyzing and make it hard to take any action at all. This fear of criticism can be particularly strong when it comes to creative or personal projects, where teens may feel particularly vulnerable.


If you find yourself procrastinating due to fear of criticism, it's important to recognize that this is a common issue. You're not alone in feeling this way. One way to overcome this fear is to seek feedback. Whether it's asking a friend or teacher for input on a project or getting constructive criticism from a mentor, feedback can help build your confidence in your work.


For example, one of my clients, a high school senior, was struggling to finish her college application essays. She knew she had good ideas, but she kept putting off writing because she was worried about what her peers and college admissions officers would think of her work. We chatted through what was holding her back and worked on strategies to manage her anxiety. We created a plan where she could get feedback from trusted mentors, and she ultimately found the courage to submit her applications.


Research shows that fear of criticism can be a powerful motivator for procrastination. One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who had low self-esteem and were highly sensitive to criticism were more likely to procrastinate on a task when they expected to receive negative feedback. By recognizing that fear of criticism is causing procrastination, parents and teens can take steps to build confidence and gain feedback that can help them improve their work.


Perfectionism: The Enemy of Progress

Another cause of procrastination is perfectionism. Many teens set impossibly high standards for themselves and feel the need to achieve perfection. This can lead to a constant cycle of procrastination, as you wait for the "perfect" idea or the "perfect" moment. This kind of procrastination can be particularly frustrating because it can feel like there is never a "good enough" time to start.


To overcome this, it's important to recognize that perfectionism is not achievable, and striving for it can be harmful. Instead, set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate small successes along the way. Break down big projects into smaller steps and focus on making progress each day, rather than waiting for the perfect opportunity.

For example, I had a client who was struggling to begin his history research paper. He had a clear topic and plenty of research, but he was stuck in the planning phase because he felt like he needed to find the perfect thesis statement before he could start writing. We talked about how there is no such thing as a "perfect" thesis statement, and that it's okay to start writing even if it's not perfect. He ultimately began drafting his paper and found that his ideas flowed more easily once he got started.


Research has shown that perfectionism is strongly linked to procrastination. A study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that people who had higher levels of perfectionism were more likely to procrastinate on academic tasks. By recognizing that perfectionism is causing procrastination, teens can set more realistic goals and expectations for themselves and take action to build momentum.





Lack of Direction: Finding Your Path

Finally, not having a clear direction can lead to procrastination. When you don't know where to start or how to proceed, it can be overwhelming and cause you to put off work. This lack of direction can be particularly challenging for tasks that require long-term planning or decision-making.


To overcome this, it's important to break down big goals into smaller steps. Create a plan of action and a schedule that works for you. This will help you stay organized and focused. Additionally, seeking guidance from a teacher or mentor can help you gain clarity on your goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them.


For example, I worked with a client who was struggling to study for their final exams. They felt overwhelmed by the amount of material they needed to review and didn't know where to start. We talked about breaking down their study schedule into smaller chunks, such as reviewing one chapter per day, and creating a to-do list to help them stay organized. They found that breaking down the material into smaller pieces made it easier to tackle, and they were able to make steady progress over time.


Research has shown that lack of direction can be a major cause of procrastination. A study published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality found that people who had lower levels of self-efficacy (i.e., confidence in their abilities to complete a task) were more likely to procrastinate. This lack of confidence can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed or unsure of how to proceed, which in turn can result in procrastination. However, the same study also found that setting specific, achievable goals and breaking down larger tasks into smaller steps can help increase self-efficacy and reduce procrastination. This highlights the importance of having a clear direction and plan of action when working on a task or project. By taking these steps, we can build confidence in our abilities and overcome the tendency to procrastinate


Putting It All Together: Overcoming Procrastination

Now that we've explored the reasons why teens procrastinate and some strategies to overcome it, it's time to take action. The first step is to identify which reason is causing your procrastination. Is it fear of criticism, perfectionism, or lack of direction? Once you know the reason, you can use the specific strategies we've discussed to overcome it.


It's important to remember that overcoming procrastination takes time and effort. It's not a quick fix, but it's worth it in the end. You'll feel more confident in your abilities, and you'll achieve your goals more efficiently.


To help you get started, I've created an action plan. You can use this plan to identify your reasons for procrastination, set specific goals, and create a plan of action. Here's how to use it:


1. Identify your reasons for procrastination. Use the three reasons we discussed (fear of criticism, perfectionism, and lack of direction) as a starting point, and identify which one(s) isa causing your procrastination.


2. Set specific goals. Once you've identified your reasons for procrastination, set specific goals for yourself. For example, if you struggle with perfectionism, set a goal to complete a task even if it's not perfect. Or, if you struggle with lack of direction, set a goal to create a study schedule for the week.


3. Create a plan of action. Now that you have specific goals in mind, create a plan of action to achieve them. Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Schedule specific times to work on each step, and hold yourself accountable.

Remember, the key to overcoming procrastination is to take action. Use the strategies we've discussed and your personalized action plan to start taking small steps toward your goals. And don't forget to celebrate your successes along the way.


Procrastination is a common issue among teens, but it's not insurmountable. By understanding the reasons why we procrastinate and using specific strategies to overcome it, we can achieve our goals and build confidence in our abilities. So let's all work together to overcome procrastination and achieve our dreams!


Take Action: The Procrastination Challenge

To help you overcome procrastination, I challenge you to set a goal for yourself and break it down into smaller steps. Create a plan of action and a schedule, and focus on making progress each day. Share your progress with a friend or family member to hold yourself accountable. And remember to celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how small they may be!



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