THE REASON YOU PROCRASTINATE SO MUCH
“Let’s watch one more episode before I start with the paper.” This seems intense, let’s do this tomorrow when I am more relaxed.” Sounds familiar?
Procrastination is a complex problem and is often detrimental to people’s ability to successfully pursue their goals. Different people experience it for various reasons. Sometimes it is psychological and many times just habitual. But before we dive into how to stop procrastination and learn some anti-procrastination techniques, you need to understand what is it and why do you do it in the first place.
WHAT IS PROCRASTINATION?
Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example: You need to finish a presentation, but instead you end up wasting time scrolling through your phone unnecessarily, even though you know that you need to work. This means that you’re procrastinating.
WHY DO YOU PROCRASTINATE?
We often think that procrastination is simply a result of low willpower, but in reality, the situation is far more complex than it seems. It’s not a weakness or a flaw and it’s actually very predictable once you understand the real reason. So, it’s really important to figure out what is the real reason that causes procrastination & which one applies to you. Try to be reflective and honest with yourself whilst figuring out the underlying cause as it is really crucial for you to know how you can overcome it. Note that not every reason here will apply to you so skim through the ones that don’t.
One is more likely to procrastinate when the way the goals are defined are vague or abstract.
For example, goals like getting a beach body or getting fit are vague and are more likely to lead to procrastination. A goal such as going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the morning and spending atleast 15 min on treadmill and cardio” is a concrete goal and more likely to motivate you to do it. We’ll discuss more such techniques in the “How to ensure you don’t procrastinate”?
You have to wait a long time for the rewards
We often procrastinate on tasks that are associated with future rewards than immediate ones. This phenomenon of discounting the value of rewards that are far in the future is called temporal discounting or delay discounting.
For example, it’s easier to avoid studying for good grades for a test which is far in the future as compared to when it’s only days away. This is one of the reasons why we insist on burning the midnight oil right before the deadline to complete the necessary task.
Disconnect from future self
Sometimes we procrastinate because we feel that our future self will handle it. This disconnect from our present self is called temporal self-discontinuity.
For example, we might delay eating healthy thinking that the harmful effects of unhealthy eating will start to show up only after a few years. We might see this happening with someone else now but for us it is our future self’s problem and not happening to us now.
This disconnect can cause you to procrastinate in a variety of ways. For example, it can make you think “why should I worry about the future now if I have to anyways do it later” or “If I have to worry about this later, let me enjoy as if now”.
Future options always look better
Sometimes we avoid taking action in the present because we feel we’ll have more and better options in the future. This thinking leads to long-term procrastination and often the person ends up never following through on their plans.
For example, a person avoids exercising at home thinking they’ll join a gym and that they will follow a proper plan in the future. Even though starting today will benefit them and wouldn’t stop them later from joining a gym.
People procrastinate sometimes because they are unable to make decisions in time. This becomes a problem as without deciding on the course of action, he/she can’t move ahead in the process, thus stalling the entire process.
For example, a person wants to start on a job but can’t decide what they really want to do. So instead of finding their interest, they delay the entire process of looking for a job as they don’t know what they want to look for. In fact, the more important the choice is, the harder it will be for you to choose.
Sometimes we start planning and get overwhelmed about all the tasks and details we need to finish and lose sight of the bigger picture. This can cause us to procrastinate the whole task or even feel paralyzed when we start. This leads to a lot of half-baked plans and unfinished projects.
Anxiety and task aversion
Sometimes people procrastinate because there is a lot of anxiety attached to the task in question.
For example. like paying bills can be quite stressful for some or doing maths homework, or making an unpleasant phone call. So they put off such tasks for later. In some cases, the problem worsens as the anxiety increases with the delay.
Perfectionism/ Fear of failure/fear of negative feedback / Self Handicapping
This is fairly common amongst bright students. They often attach their self-worth to their achievements and when a task at hand (a test, new project, a start-up the idea, important game, etc) challenges them, they often procrastinate thinking “What if my idea is not good enough” “What will people say?” “What if I don’t get it right”, What if I fail, people will think I am not that smart”. In a way, not doing the task is their way of preserving their self-worth and that the failure can be attributed to their procrastinating behavior and not their lack abilities.
Sometimes people have a tendency to engage in self-defeating behaviors, meaning they actively sabotage their own progress.
For example, one might delay applying for a job or hope that the deadline is closed because they feel they don’t deserve it. Such people also engage in other related behaviors like pushing away people who treat them right.
Rebels and sensation seekers
Some people like to procrastinate a task just as an act of rebellion or insubordination. Like delaying a task just to prove it to your boss that you are not a pushover. Sometimes people do this for thrill too,
for example, some people think that working on a project at the end moment really gets them going and increases their efficiency with the increased pressure and thrill.
Inability to Focus
The inability to focus on one task at a time or for a longer duration seems impossible for a lot of people. This lack of focus leads them to procrastinate one task for another or just lose their focus with every mobile notification they hear.
A perceived lack of control
Sometimes we procrastinate thinking that even after finishing the task, the outcome is dependent on various other factors which we can’t control so why give in to the hope.
For example, one might delay getting started on a project thinking that his/her boss will pick their favorite person for the final presentation so there’s no point putting so much effort.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Research has shown a significant correlation between ADHD related behaviors and procrastination.
For example, a person with ADHD might find it hard to concentrate on a single task at a time for long, especially the ones that don’t excite him/her, hence they jump from one task to another without finishing any of them.
However, it’s important to note that not all forms of ADHD are equally associated with procrastination.
Underlying depression can often cause people to procrastinate. This is because it can lead to issues like, reduced interest in activities, fatigue, inability to concentrate, etc. which in turn can cause them to procrastinate.
For example, if depressed we might continuously postpone cleaning our rooms or basic life activities that keep us going.
This type of procrastination happens when one acts on a whim and without planning ahead for consequences.
For example, we see an advertisement for a gadget that will solve our weight loss problem and buy it instantly without thinking of the effort that it would require from our end and upon realizing the same we procrastinate using it altogether.
Lack of Perseverance
Perseverance is the ability to maintain goal-driven attitude during the entire course of a task including facing the possible obstacles.
For example, a lack of perseverance can cause one to stop working on a side project upon facing a few obstacles like time management.
After understanding these underlying causes now let’s see how one can stop procrastinating.
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