Why We Procrastinate


It can be hard to write about procrastination, especially when it is so easy to do :) Much easier than work anyway.

So while browsing the Web for the latest gadgets instead of finishing up an urgent project, we got to thinking about the meanings and the excuses of procrastination. The real ones we mean, not the ”you are lazy” kind of excuses. Because turns out it rarely is because we are just lazy.

By definition, when one procrastinates, they voluntarily postpone an unpleasant task, often against their own better judgement. Whatever the reasons, everyone procrastinates. Since the dawn of time, people have been putting things off. And sometimes it is harmless — such as postponing to do your laundry (no one ever lost their job on wearing the same shirt 2 days in a row). And other times it costs us a lot.

Some psychologists call it self-handicapping — a strategy of intentionally sabotaging your own work and efforts. You might even say that the chronic procrastinator would rather have other people think he lacks effort than that he lacks ability.

Is it because we lack motivation?

Research shows it rarely is. When you have a solid project and a paying client waiting for it (oftentimes good money involved), we should be jumping up and down and be eager to start. But when procrastination hits, what is more fun is reading, googling and ordering stuff online. Email, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix are a procrastinator’s best friends. Because the project can wait until tomorrow, right?

Made, not born

Procrastinators are big sabotagers of… themselves. They put obstacles in their own path. Sometimes you see them not paying their bills on time, missing opportunities for buying tickets to concerts, they don’t use material benefits such as gift certificates or they leave Christmas shopping for Christmas eve.

Wondering why we choose to do this to ourselves, we come across another psychology explanation — an authoritarian parenting style — procrastination can be a form of rebellion, one of the few forms available under such circumstances. So it’s for sure, procrastinators are made, not born.

The downsides

Evidence suggests that the habit of leaving things until the last minute generally results in low-quality work performance and reduced well-being. The downsides of procrastination are many, but here are just a few of the most important in our view:

  • Health. Procrastinators tend to postpone getting appropriate medical treatments and diagnostic tests. To consider one category, students who constantly procrastinate (apart from getting lower grades) have evidence of compromised immune systems — more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. Insomnia also.
  • Expensive. Procrastination doesn’t come with low costs. On the contrary, time is money so losing time translates into losing money. and. In addition, procrastination has a high cost to others as well as oneself.
  • Bad relationships. Procrastination shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who can become resentful. This is why procrastination can destroy teamwork in the workplace and private relationships as well.

Why? Why? Why?

So if the disadvantages are so big, why do we still do it? Maybe we cannot help ourselves?

It might be because of:

1. Fear of failure.

Psychologists say that procrastinators are constantly lying to themselves — I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow or I work best under pressure. But in fact the main reason behind this postponement is their fear of failure. Of course you cannot fail at something when you don’t do it at all, but unfortunately, this is an unproductive way of thinking.

Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.

But what do you say if next time you think about putting something off simply to avoid potential failure, you tackle it head on instead? You’ll grow as a person from the experience.

2. Absence of structure.

Sometimes seeing tasks as one big project can be discouraging. So if you feel like procrastinating because of this, you can just break things into little, manageable parts — you will find projects more doable this way.

Another administrative issue may be the lack of imposed direction at the workplace. Also, an environment that favors distractions is to be avoided. One solution to this is to design your environment in a way that makes your desired goal more likely to happen. For example, if you tend to check your email or Facebook too often, make it difficult for yourself to connect to the Internet.

3. Unpleasant tasks.

This one is classic — if what you have to do does not give you any inner satisfaction and you consider the task unpleasant, boring, or uninteresting (e.g., Christmas shopping, laundry, or exercise), then it becomes difficult to complete your projects and skip procrastination.

Once you divide and conquer and of course, once you dare finding the projects that will really make your time worthwhile, procrastination will slowly fade into the past.

4. Wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.

Do you enjoy tough love? :) Well, apparently some of us procrastinate just to feel the rush, the euphoric rush of doing things at the last moment. Living right on the edge. Those that do have maybe an adrenaline deficit.

The downside might be that the responsibility for the possibly negative outcome of events can shift onto co-workers and that may be frustrating for everyone.

5. Self-confidence issues.

It is not uncommon in our world for people to have low self-esteem. When this „disease” hits us, we are more likely to avoid activities and this way to miss opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Jump to your better self

While the reasons for procrastination may vary, the result is often the same — a seemingly endless cycle of stress and dissatisfaction. Nothing gets done, and you can’t enjoy anything with that guilt hanging over your head. Procrastination doesn’t work like we hope it will, because avoidance doesn’t erase anxiety-it just delays it.

Procrastinators are often smart, capable, hardworking people, but they just can’t get things done on time and can’t seem to figure out why.

However, the good news is that there are effective strategies to overcome procrastination. At TRISOFT, we believe procrastination can be overcome by finding a way to connect to your future self, now, in the present moment. If you’re tempted to procrastinate, find a way to visualize your future self. Focus on the pain that results from putting things off, contrasted with the relief of having completed your task.

If you can do this successfully, your future self will thank you.