Putting the pro into procrastination: why do I put training off and how can I stop that?

Putting things off is something we all do. I even defer things I WANT to do.  

Even if you enjoy training you can find yourself making all sorts of excuses for not doing it. You put a load of washing on, or faff with a playlist for too long, or potter about waiting for when you ‘feel’ like doing it.

So what’s behind this prevaricating? Why do we put off something we know we can do and we know will make us feel good? And how can we stop it?

Interestingly many people who seek my coaching help are successful people who feel they should be doing more. So while on the surface it might seem like procrastinators are lazy with no follow-through, it could actually be that they have high expectations of themselves.

Many athletes set high standards, feeling they have to nail every session and see progress in every effort. Anything less is a fail.

Or perhaps your worry is because you doubt yourself and your ability. If it’s a tough session you’re avoiding maybe you think you’re not ‘good enough’ and will fall short. It’s still the perfectionist mentality at play here: you’d rather avoid doing a task that you don’t feel you have the skills to do, than do it imperfectly.

When we catch ourselves in bad behaviour we tend to get angry with ourselves or feel guilty, ashamed or disappointed in our lack of motivation and drive. Which only makes us feel worse.

So if you’re beating yourself up about endless faffing and not just getting on with it the first thing to do is cut yourself some slack. 

  • Forgive yourself for past procrastinations (self forgiveness means you’re less likely to do it in the future) 
  • Rephrase your internal dialogue. The phrases ‘need to’ ‘have to’, and ‘should’ for example, imply that you have no choice in what you do. This can make you feel disempowered and might even result in self-sabotage. However, saying, ‘I choose to’ or ‘I get to’, implies that you own it and can make you feel more in control and more proactive.
  • Don’t link self-worth with performance. A sub-optimal session doesn’t make you a bad athlete.
  • Congratulate yourself on recognising that you’re procrastinating. The first step to changing behaviour is noticing it and WANTING to change it is they key to success. So well done to you.


We can go much deeper here into why we procrastinate. (Feel free to scroll down to the top tips if you just want to cut to the chase and get going). 

Behind every behaviour there is a positive intention. Humans are designed to move towards pleasure and away from pain. So even if it’s a ‘bad’ behaviour, like procrastination, think about what positive thing you are trying to achieve through avoidance. It may be completely unconscious to you. Examples of positive intentions behind procrastination are: relaxation, fun, self-love, rest etc.

Here’s a way to uncover that.

1. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing

2. When you are completely calm and turned inwards, ask yourself the following question: “What is the positive intention, expressed in one word, that I have in mind by procrastinating training?”

3. Listen carefully for the answer, a positive word! It may even come as a feeling or a picture in your mind. Do not logically try to reason it out. Let any answer come automatically. It is likely it won’t have the same quality as your logical thoughts. Though it is OK to get the intuitive answer, the unconscious answer, and then logically try to make sense of it. However, be careful that your logical voice doesn’t overrule your unconscious voice. It takes practice and development of intuition or quality of our unconscious mind voice to hear it clearly. 

If you hear/see/feel nothing; pretend AS IF it came to you. If so, what would that be?

4. Get a piece of paper, and start writing about the positive intention as it relates to the procrastination,

a. Given the importance of the positive intention, isn’t it understandable that you procrastinate at the same time?

b. How are you (in the long run) not truly meeting your positive intention at all by procrastinating?

c. How important is it to meet the positive intention?

d. If you meet the positive intention in some other way than procrastination, you may as well stop procrastinating, correct?

e. Is there any deeper awareness or positive meaning you can think of around this?

f. How can the positive intention still be met, by some other way than procrastinating. Write down 3 tasks you could start today.

g. Feel free to make up other questions you can ask yourself in this writing exercise.

5. Allow the above discovery and writing to integrate. And read again the next day in a quiet moment. What are the lessons learned?


So now you have a better understanding of WHY you procrastinate let’s look at how to overcome the faff and ‘get it done’? 

For a quick fix, try the ‘Two Minute Rule’; if your procrastination is an ingrained habit try the other technique which aims to change your procrastination habit on a subconscious level making it an automatic behaviour. 

The Two Minute Rule

Often we avoid a task because it seems too daunting or overwhelming. The Two-Minute Rule states “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

  • “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
  • “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
  • “Bike 20 miles” becomes “put on my bike shoes.”

The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. But once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it. A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.

If your end goal is to run a marathon, your gateway habit is to put on your kit and trainers.. That’s how you follow the Two-Minute Rule.

The point is to master the habit of showing up. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, you master the art of showing up, the first two minutes simply become a ritual at the beginning of a larger routine. By doing the same warm-up before every workout, you make it easier to get into a state of peak performance. You may not be able to automate the whole process, but you can make the first action mindless. Make it easy to start and the rest will follow.

Strategies like this work because you’ll invariably end up going longer but also reinforce the identity you want to build. You’re not worried about nailing the session, you’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t procrastinate workouts. You’re taking the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be.

Go deep: changing behaviour on a subconscious level

If you have no joy with the two minute rule, or your procrastination habit is deeply entrenched try this. 

1. Close your eyes, imagine watching yourself riding your bike/on the turbo, doing the session; see the actions that you would be doing all the way towards that moment in the future where the session is already done. See how happy you look and how satisfied you feel – how has this affected you?

2. Then imagine the same moment, but this time you are looking through your own eyes. What would you see, hear and feel at that moment in time?

3. Make the image slightly larger (or move it slightly closer) and adjust the brightness in order for the feelings to intensify. If they subside go back to the original configuration.

4. Consider three benefits specifically that you have obtained as a result of doing the training (focus here on the process, not so much reaching the goal itself.) For instance, we could have learned from the process, practiced new techniques for procrastination, listened to music, exercised. 

5. Consider three benefits specifically that you will obtain as a result of reaching the goal?

6. Consider three benefits specifically that you would obtain if procrastination would never be a part of your life again?

7. Start doing the activity you are procrastinating on immediately after. Even if it is for only a short time.

The ‘subconscious’ processes and techniques work better if you can work with an NLP coach in person (I know, I would say that – but purely because they can observe you and are trained to see if you’re not quite getting there and give help and guidance).

But give it a go on your own and you might find it helps in all areas of life, not just training. It can feel odd doing this but our subconscious is so powerful and it’s often our subconscious issues that are behind our actions. So by working to understand our subconscious drivers better we can change behaviour – for good.

Good luck! 

If you get stuck, have questions or want more details please do get in touch; I’d be happy to help.

Find me on Instagram or Facebook 

Email: themindcoach@btinternet.com

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