Forbidden topic or How to deal with procrastination

July 1, 2022
About 7 min

There is such a topic among us, IT people, which is usually avoided. The fact is that we are not able to work productively all day long. On the one hand, this is no secret to anyone. On the other hand, it is not customary to discuss it, and for some reason we think that no one but ourselves is in the know. In an ideal world, a programmer with good experience, thirty or forty years old, is quite capable of working a couple of hours a day with great efficiency, devoting the rest of the time to all sorts of routines: code reviews, communication with colleagues, task analysis, and so on. In the real world, procrastination lurks around every corner. No wonder one of the most popular memes in IT right now are memes about burnout.



The problem lies precisely in the fact that it is not customary to talk about it. With an 8-hour work day, most developers sincerely believe that they must be as productive as possible for all 8 hours. Or they are sure that their superiors think so. As a result, we either really try to work much more productively than we can, or we diligently pretend that we are.

An anecdote

If a programmer quickly answers in a chat, it means that he is currently busy with work.

The taboo nature of this topic leads to an almost complete absence of materials about it in the public domain, which is why we have to get out of the hole we dug ourselves. And if it doesn’t work out, that burnout follows. Are you familiar with this?

  1. I procrastinate and can't do anything
  2. I'm angry at myself for not being able to do as much as I want, or resenting uninteresting tasks/incorrect guidance/outdated tools.
  3. Performance is declining, self-flagellation is rising
  4. Complete burnout

Yes, a lot of articles about burnout tell how to prevent it. But at the same time, almost nowhere is it said about procrastination, although it comes long before burnout. And the funny thing is that articles about burnout are read by those who have already fallen into it. As a rule, in the first few years of work in the profession, a couple of burnouts happen to most of us. Of course, we get a wealth of experience as a result, thanks to which it becomes easier to avoid such crises next time. But, nevertheless, rarely anyone manages to avoid them completely. And even more so - few people think of sharing their experience with younger colleagues.


After all, "if I burn out, it's my own problem". This is an indication that "I’ve failed". At least that's what society thinks.

And at the same time, procrastination is something that happens to absolutely all people. Sooner or later, anyway. Usually, we are closely acquainted with procrastination at school. And if at this age it is customary to blame the education system and our teachers, then in the case of a favorite job, everything turns out to be much more complicated. The person is again faced with the feeling of being unable to continue his work, while experiencing a sense of responsibility to himself and the employer, as a result of which he makes the worst possible choice: begins to blame himself.

Here, I'm late with the deadlines for the submission of the task. After all, I love this job so much, why can't I do something for its benefit?

I confess, I myself am a sinner. I still haven't been able to get rid of that reflex. And yet, it is nothing more than a reflex. Procrastination is a state in which many people fall into many times during their lives. So, it has certain mechanics. It has determined causes and remedies.


I guess I love my profession, but not this job. Hey HRs, I'm free!

How to fight procrastination?

No way.

How does procrastination work?

It is important to understand that this is a defense mechanism. There is no need to fight it, because it's just a signal that something goes wrong. Although there can be an infinite number of local reasons for its occurrence, in general, procrastination is a signal of fatigue. You are tired and cannot continue to work. Fatigue can be any, including for reasons that are not quite obvious: physical, moral, from forbidding yourself to be yourself, etc. Of course, the first thing for you to do is to relax. Go on vacation or devote at least one or two evenings to yourself beloved instead of any “have to”.

But what to do, if after a rest the fatigue does not go away? First of all, check to see if you're really resting while you're resting, or are you continuing to build all sorts of systems in your mind (not necessarily in terms of development) and to think about your “have to”. Or maybe you switch from one job to another? In this case, have a rest. For real. And if even this does not help, try the following options.

Causes and solutions to procrastination

Too have to

Our mind is designed in such a way that we are always forced to choose between "I want" and "I have to." And for maximum efficiency, they must be alternated. If you keep postponing your desires until later, after “more important things”, after “have to”, then procrastination and burnout await you. No matter how unnecessary and stupid your desires may seem - allow them to yourself, regularly allow them to yourself. For example, work on the yii3 framework was an outlet for me for a long time. I wrote work tasks as "I have to", and wrote the framework as "I want". This also includes computer and sports games, hiking, music, movies, etc.

Overloaded with plans

How often have you put off a task until later? Maybe they changed priorities? Does it happen that some task is postponed for later again and again? Of course, it happens to everyone. Sometimes it becomes a problem. The problem is that we try to keep a very large number of tasks in our heads. It doesn't have to be big coding tasks. It could be checking email, committing to reply to someone, pending code reviews, and so on. The problem is that the more such tasks we try to remember, the more energy we spend on it. The solution is a to-do list. Personally, I approach it in two stages:

  1. First, I write out all my plans. I mean, all my plans and desires. All that I am going to do in one way or another, both in the near future and later. After that, this list is edited. I remove everything that I consider unnecessary in the current situation. It's not just crossing off an item from the list, it's a decision not to move in that direction, not to spend any energy on achieving the goal. Complete rejection of the target.
  2. And then I sort this list by urgency and distribute it into several categories. For example, household chores and work chores. Plus I mark some cases as urgent. The purpose of this list is to continue to do only what is on it. To remove cognitive load from trying to remember and correctly prioritize all tasks on the go. It sounds crazy, that's for sure. For me, it also looked like strange crap at first. But you should try too. This method will free you up a significant amount of resources, allowing you to work effectively for much longer than is currently possible. And I immediately answer the question about the situation when you need to do something that is not on the list: put this business on the list. Once again: don't do anything that isn't on the list, and if something still needs to be done, put it on the list.

Frequent switching of attention

People have this feature: we need time to switch to different types of tasks. In other words, if you were working and something distracted you, then it will take you up to half an hour to get back to working condition and work as efficiently as you worked before. And this is if you are in a good condition: you slept well, you are not tired, and so on. In a less productive state, this process will take even longer. Thus, a simple recommendation appears: for the duration of work, ensure the most comfortable environment for yourself, eliminate distractions: turn off notifications on your phone, ask your wife not to disturb you, send your children to kindergarten, and so on. Just imagine: if every 10 minutes notifications come to your messenger, it will unsettle you for 10 minutes. And this means that during the working day you will not start working as efficiently as you can. And, I assure you, it only seems to you that the notifications from the chat do not distract you: in fact, for a split second, your mind is distracted by the thought: “Do I need to read this message?”. And it knocks you off the rhythm.

Excessive endorphin bursts

The result of another extreme between "I want" and "I have to". When we fulfill our desires, we get a charge of endorphins directly to the brain. And if we regularly follow our wishes, then over time we get dependent on them and inevitably come to the simplest ways to get a dose of endorphins. These are food and all kinds of feeds: tiktok, instagram, TV series, reading the contents of chats, etc. And, of course, games. Especially - games with short rounds and clickers. All these things are united by one thing: each of them is an easy and affordable way to get a dose of endorphins. And the brain loves them. If you have reached this stage, the path to productivity will be associated with withdrawal symptoms. You will always want more. At least one sandwich, at least one eye to watch the series, just one quest to complete in the game ... Believe my experience 😄 At some point, I realized that I always fill every free minute with my phone. If there is very little time or no desire to do something specific, I scroll through the chats. In other cases - games and TV series. Compared to this, all other pastimes have become boring, including work. And technically, the point is that the receptors in the brain have developed an addiction to endorphins. And the only way is to reduce the dose so that the sensitivity is restored, and the world sparkles with bright colors again. At the same time, a lot of time will be freed up for other things, and the overall tone will increase.


Today, going to a psychotherapist is not such a bummer as it was thought 10 years ago. Don't neglect this opportunity. A good psychotherapist will definitely shorten your path from procrastination to productivity, will help you to quickly and effectively find and eliminate the causes of its occurrence.

Postscript and Literature

There are other reasons for procrastination, as well as other ways to deal with it. The main thing is not to perceive it as something abnormal and try to fight it. This is just a signal from the body. If nothing above suits you, or if you want to understand the issues of procrastination and efficiency better, I recommend this cool man, a professional procrastinatologist: procrastinatology.comopen in new window.
I'm not sure if he has much material in English, but at least look at the given site.

As always, I'd be glad to discuss in the Telegram chatopen in new window. Feel free to supplement the article with your very own experience and ask any questions.

Have a nice day and don't burn out 😊