Time Management: Avoiding Procrastination And Self-Sabotage

by Ben Richardson
3rd August 2020    
Image of hourglass to represent time management

One of the keys to good time management is avoiding procrastination.

There are a number of well-understood drivers for procrastination.

In this post, I want to look at the issue of self-sabotage. A number of experts believe that for many people procrastination is actually a form of unconscious self-sabotage. At Development Academy we agree with them. For some, but definitely not all, people this can be a driver of poor time management.

They believe that this self-sabotage is driven by people’s unconscious mind which doesn’t believe that they truly deserve whatever they are aiming for.

They believe that everyone has a ‘deserve level’ set in childhood. This is effectively the same as self-esteem and determines how much someone believes they deserve from life. If someone then goes above their ‘deserve level’ they start to feel uncomfortable and will often start self-sabotaging until they come back to the level that they feel they deserve. Many self-sabotaging behaviours manifest themselves in very ineffective time management.

Are You Self-Sabotaging?

Let’s have a look at some of the signs that you might be self-sabotaging as a result of low self-esteem.

If any of these thoughts sound very familiar to you then this may well be the case.

  1. I must be perfect / If it’s not done perfectly then it’s not worth doing at all.
  2. There is a perfect solution out there. I’ll start when I’ve found it.
  3. If I succeed then it will hurt [insert someone else].
  4. If I’m doing [insert task] correctly then it should be easy and problem-free.
  5. If I show my real self then I’ll be disliked.
  6. I can’t do it the same way as other people. I need to find a new better way to do [insert task].

What all of these sentences have in common is that they come from a fear of being judged by other people or by ourselves.

Ironically, the procrastination that this leads to can then lead to more self-condemnation and poorer self-esteem. And so the circle goes round further compromising your ability to use your time efficiently.

If having looked at the above you aren’t sure. Another thing to look at is your past behaviour. If any of these past behaviours are familiar to you then you are probably self-sabotaging which can cause big issues for your time management:

1. Stopping before you reach your target.

Do you frequently stop before you reach your stated target? People who pause on the threshold of their targets often don’t believe that they genuinely deserve to achieve their targets.

2. Negative Self-Talk

Do you frequently talk yourself out of doing things or completing things because you’re convinced that they won’t work out? If so you are well on your way to failure before you’ve even started.

If you have ever declined to put yourself forward for a contested promotion or avoided other competitive situations you should look at this carefully.

3. Denial

This is where people will avoid or deny inconvenient or unpleasant truths because it causes them too much pain to acknowledge them.

Their low self-esteem sees the issue as something that people will criticise them for and so they tend to avoid difficult subjects.

However, in practice, this can often lead to issues being left to fester and grow. Ironically often generating the criticism that they feared so much in the first place.


How Do I Break The Vicious Circle Of Procrastination And Effectively Manage My Time?

If procrastination and low self-esteem go hand in hand how do you break the cycle?

There are a number of key points that will get you moving in the right direction and in better control of your time.

1. Remember that you have a choice.

You are only a slave to your sub-conscious when you’re not aware of what is going on.

Remind yourself that you have a choice to make when you are looking at a project. You can choose to act or to delay. It is your choice.

2. Set concrete goals and build your motivation

To get beyond your self-defeating feelings you need to replace them not try to suppress them.

You need to replace your negative feelings with excitement and motivation.

Concrete goals (for more see our post on goal setting) combined with a concrete plan ( for more on planning see this post) to achieve them are a great way to build your excitement and generate some motivation.

Similarly when you are setting yourself goals to maximise your energy and enthusiasm you should:

  • Be specific about the timeframe you’ve given yourself.
  • Be clear about how you will measure if you have achieved your goal and your progress along the way.
  • Write your goals down so that they are concrete and not nebulous ideas in your head.
  • Visualise your goals clearly and in detail to make them as real and exciting as possible.

3. Enjoy yourself and smile

Low self-esteem has a way of removing the joy and excitement in life. A great way to overcome it in the short-term is to smile and so something that you enjoy. A burst of fun and delight will put you in the right positive frame of mind to get started on your goals. See this article for more tips on improving your time management by increasing your self-confidence.


There is far more to time management than simply overcoming procrastination ( as we show delegates attending our time management workshops) but for chronic procrastinators doing so will be a big step in the right direction.