Procrastination Busters 2: Face Uncertainty and Make Progress

Sometimes procrastination results from uncertainty. If that’s your problem, this article will help you make real progress.

This is the second in a series of procrastination busters in which we look at the reasons for procrastination and explore potential ways in which we can overcome the difficulties that we face. You can find the first part here.

Reason: I Don’t Know What Is Expected Of Me

Sometimes, the reason we don’t just get on with a task is because we’re not actually clear what the task actually is. Asking the following questions may help to clarify things a bit:

What Exactly Don’t You Know?

You might need more clarity here. Do you know:

  • What the task actually consists of?
  • What the time-scales are?
  • How well it needs to be done?
  • The purpose for which you’re doing it?
  • Who you’re doing it for?

Who Can You Ask?

Someone else may know what is expected of you.

  • Is the person who assigned the task able to clarify it?
  • If that’s someone different from the person for whom you’re doing the task, can they offer clarification?
  • Do you know someone who has done it before?
  • Is there anyone else who can shed light on it?
  • Can someone help you with part of it?

Can You Make it Up?

Sometimes, nobody knows what is expected of you. In that case, you may have to get creative.

  • What makes what you’re doing useful?
  • What are the success criteria?
  • What resources are available?
  • What is the bare minimum you can get away with?
  • What would a perfect solution look like?
  • If you wanted this done for yourself, what results would you expect?
  • What part of this will make people frown if it is wrong?
  • What part will make them smile?
  • What aspect do you find most fun?

Reason: I Don’t Know How to Do It

Once you’ve established what you need to do, you need to move on to the how.

Can You Learn It From Someone?

Sometimes you can get help with figuring out how things can be done.

  • Can someone show you?
  • Is there someone you can ask?
  • Have you tried Googling it?
  • Is there a book on it?
  • Can you go on a course?

Can You Explore Possible Solutions?

Sometimes you just need to just start trying things and see where that takes you.

  • Can you build a prototype?
  • Can  you conduct an experiment?
  • Or do some kind of proof-of-concept?
  • Is there something you can try?

Could You Do the Part That You Do Understand?

  • Can you at least make a start?
  • Is there a bit you do understand, even if it is a small part?

At least if you do the bit you do understand then you’ll be seen to be making an effort. Moreover, you may find that by doing a bit, the next part becomes clearer. By analogy, consider navigating unfamiliar terrain. As you explore, so the next area to explore comes into view.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.Martin Luther King, Jr.

Can You Just Make a Decision?

Sometimes you don’t know what to do because there is more than one way to get to what you want. In that case, you may just need to pick one.

In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.Theodore Roosevelt

  • Is someone else better placed to decide?
  • Do you need to involve someone else in the decision?
  • Can you enumerate all the alternatives?
  • Can you eliminate obviously bad choices?
  • Does one way to do the task play to your strengths?
  • Is one way cheaper / easier / more fun / less risky?
  • Is one alternative a great learning opportunity?
  • Could you just toss a coin?

If more than one alternative appears to be equally desirable, it it is often best to pick the one that is most fun. You will, after all, get more done if you’re enjoying a task, and you’re likely to do it better, too. So, go on – go get started, and enjoy what you do as much as you can!


  • Image under licence.