What is Procrastination?
Some of us might think that procrastination is laziness and lack of time management skills. But in reality, it’s neither laziness nor a disciplinary issue. Procrastination is an emotional hurdle blocking you from getting up, making the right decisions, and living the dream life. When we procrastinate, we waste our useful time that could be spent on something meaningful. As a result, a feeling of guilt, regret, and self-hatred stimulates the realization of missed opportunities. It suggests that we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we have done.
The key part of procrastination is self-awareness, while we are procrastinating we are well aware of the fact that we are not doing what we are supposed to do and that doing so is a bad idea.
For many people, procrastination is strong and it causes people to delay urgent tasks. It results in a victim’s poor school grade, inefficient work performance, and plenty of delayed work. If you are a procrastinator (which probably you are, because you are a human too) you must have asked yourself at some point in your life “why I procrastinate so much?” or “I know I feel bad about it but why do I keep procrastinating?”
Why Do People Procrastinate
Why do people waste their time in this way? Essentially, the following are the basic reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work-life and then shut it down.
The Task is Unpleasant
One reason why we procrastinate is that the task we are doing isn’t enjoyable. An unpleasant task brings stress and burden; we get tired more than ever and as a result, we procrastinate. Look around and observe do you procrastinate the things that make you happy? Like food, watching Netflix, and listening to music. Honestly, No.
We only avoid the tasks that are not of our choice or if it lacks purpose.
Reward is Far away
We are humans who work on the basis of instant rewards. We try not to take responsibility for the tasks that don’t pay off instantly. Accordingly, people often display a present bias when they choose to engage in activities that reward them in the short-term, at the expense of working on tasks that would lead to better outcomes for them in the long term.
People usually procrastinate that task whose reward will be paid after a while from its completion. The disconnection between the present and future selves can cause people to procrastinate in a variety of ways. Similarly, it can cause them to think that their present-self shouldn’t have to bother with getting things done now if their future self will be the one who reaps the rewards of their actions. This type of thinking can result in long term procrastination.
People sometimes procrastinate on tasks because they are optimistic about their ability to complete those tasks in the future. This optimism can depend on two main things; one is the amount of time which will be available for the completion of the task, and the other one is the person’s ability to complete the task. The people who procrastinate tell themselves that things will get better next time. But it is important to consider that they have been doing this for several days in the exact same manner.
When a person avoids a task that is due a few weeks from now thinking that he has plenty of time to do it. In such situations, optimism comes from underestimating the amount of time available. Some people also claim that they can’t be motivated to do something until the due date kicks in and they are under high pressure to complete it. In short, they think that they work best under high pressure.
However, scientific studies show that the opposite is true. Putting things off until the very last moment creates opportunities for stress, guilt, and ineffectiveness.
You are a Perfectionist
Sometimes, some people procrastinate due to their perfectionism. They tend to start throwing off a task when they are afraid to make mistakes. They think that it is better not to work at a project at all than making a lot of mistakes in it. Seeking perfection is essential when you are striving for big goals but the desire to work flawlessly can be a major demotivation that can lead to avoiding the task. It leads to issues that cause people to unnecessarily delay things because they feel anxious about their work not being flawless.
In this regard, also keep that in mind that perfectionism does not always lead to procrastination. Sometimes a person’s perfectionism can make them less likely to procrastinate, by pushing them to do a good job and complete their tasks in a timely manner.
Try visualizing the completion of the project in a Positive Way to help you out.
Too many Negative Emotions
If we say that procrastination is about managing emotions and not time, it won’t be wrong. Studies show that there is an association between negative emotions and procrastination. This issue can be attributed to several psychological mechanisms, such as people’s preference for short-term mood repair at the expense of long-term goal achievement, and the interference of negative emotions with people’s general motivation.
Being able to predict situations where you’re more likely to engage in procrastination, as a result of expected negative emotions, can also help you figure out when and where you should try to control your emotions and have to find motivation. You can reduce procrastination by dealing with underlying negative emotions that lead to it.
Fear of Failure
People often procrastinate because they’re afraid of failing at the tasks that they need to complete. This fear can promote procrastination in many ways, such as it can cause people to avoid finishing a task or may stop them from starting a new task.
People with low self-esteem and low confidence issues are more likely to develop a fear of failure in them. Also, fear of failure is a problem that mostly occurs to people with self-doubts. How afraid a person is of failing is generally related to how important the task is, more important tasks are often associated with higher levels of procrastination, in such cases ‘fear of failure’ is causing work delay. In some situations, procrastination can result from the combination of fear of failure, low self-esteem, the desire to have everything perfect and negative emotions. A person might get influence by a combination of these factors.
Remind yourself that it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all. Trying but not focusing on the results can help you decrease the emotions around the risk of failure.
Sometimes people procrastinate as an act of rebellion. That is generally against an authority, by postponing a task that they resent being given. This is an attempt to express anger, fight back, and declare your cause. It may sound strange to think that one part of you could react this way to another part of you, but this is a fairly common underlying dynamic, and it is almost always unconscious.
In this situation, we react almost in the same manner as the kids do; when they do exactly opposite of what their controlling parents ask them to do.
Lack of Self-Control and Perseverance
Perseverance is the ability to maintain your focus on the goals in the face of hurdles. Lack of perseverance causes you to stop working on a task because you think that with every step ahead it is getting difficult and challenging. Lower perseverance increases the chances of distractions. Someone might delay finishing various projects just that he started working on because he thinks that he no longer can complete it. At this stage, he will keep getting distracted by ideas for exciting new projects.
Likewise, lack of self-control can cause people to procrastinate in itself. And can also make them more likely to procrastinate as a result of other issues, such as an unpleasant task or fear of failure. A person with low self-control will always go for the things that are easy and less challenging. It can be a student who is not preparing for the exam but happily browsing social media. Or can be an employee who should be working on his project but instead he’s busy watching TV.
Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and always try to work on it with perseverance and don’t pay heed to distractions.
The Bottom Line
Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, Dr. Brewer said, “that in the case of procrastination, we have to find a better reward than avoidance — one that can relieve our challenging feelings in the present moment without causing harm to our future selves. The difficulty with breaking the addiction to procrastination, in particular, is that there is an infinite number of potential substitute actions that would still be forms of procrastination. That’s why the solution must, therefore, be internal, and not dependent on anything but ourselves.”