Why procrastinate?

Procrastination is putting tasks that we should be doing on hold by getting ourselves distracted.

But maybe a more technical definition would be: Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.

Most of us would agree to have experienced the stress that comes out of not having enough time to complete an assignment, at least once in our lives.

procrastination_illo_300And our distracting factor doesn’t have to be twitter in particular. We may be more easily distracted by other things such as watching t.v. or funny YouTube videos about cats falling down or being scared to death…

There is science behind everything, and procrastination might be one of the human behaviors we might have thought to be much more simple than thinking of it as a scientific inquire. It is actually more of a deep and complex explanation than just being lazy.

The Neuropsychology of Procrastination

Recently the behavioral research into procrastination has ventured beyond cognition, emotion, and personality, into the realm of neuropsychology. The frontal systems of the brain are known to be involved in a number of processes that overlap with self-regulation. These behaviors — problem-solving, planning, self-control, and the like — fall under the domain of executive functioning. Oddly enough, no one had ever examined a connection between this part of the brain and procrastination, says Laura Rabin of Brooklyn College.

BBC Magazine had this article about procrastination a while ago where it showed many real-life procrastination tales from people around UK and America. These are some examples of the cases BBC published:

•”I bought a book called 52 Steps To Defeating Procrastination. I’ve still never read it- it was over 10 years ago, and I’m not even sure where it is now.” -Craig, Bedfordshire, UK

•”A client sent me a cheque for £6,000. I lost it. I always intended to ask them to issue another but never got round to it.” -Ian Bain, Edinburgh

•”A friend of mine, who I’ll call “Dave” (because that was his name) said he would do anything to avoid A-level revision. At one point he infamously found himself weighing the cat, convinced that he would only be able to settle down to work if he had that data to hand. As a result, some 25 years later, the act of procrastination is referred to by my family as “weighing the cat”. -Ian Whitten, Sittingbourne, Kent

So as we see, procrastination can seem pretty harmless at first-hand, but as time goes on this simple tasks can become embarrassing stories.

If we want to keep our lives straight and achieve goals we set for ourselves we might want to seriously consider getting rid of our procrastination habit. But for breaking this habit, we must first understand some of the psychological reasons why people procrastinate.

Why do we procrastinate?

  1. Lack of motivation
  2. Fear of failure
  3. Fear of success
  4. Unskilled
  5. Being a perfectionist
  6. Lack of self-control

Lack of motivation:

To believe that you must feel motivated in order to begin a task has the order of events in reverse. People often have this pattern of doing things only when they are feeling at least a little motivated in doing them.

A way to overcome this issue is by simply starting the task, don’t matter how small the progress is, motivation can begin to build, therefore making the task at hand feel easier to accomplish.

Fear of failure

Fear of failing can be also a very common reason why people tend to put things off for later. Many people who identify with this reason might have found themselves saying this: If I really try hard and fail, that is worse than if I don’t try and end up failing.”

A way to change this around is by tackling the kind of attitude and approach towards failing the standard set. Instead we could be thinking that it is not in our control to perfectly accomplish the unrealistic standards set for us to fulfill without any flaw.

Fear of success

Some of us may feel that if we do succeed, it may be to overwhelming to keep up with that standard. Or perhaps you are more comfortable being in the back, cause success tends to put you on the spotlight.

Procrastination of this kind may indicate an internal identity conflict. If your self worth is tied to your level of achievement. If your self worth is tied to family acceptance, then how much more does it take for them to be satisfied? We may try to first understand were we stand, and what our real identity demands from us. We should be thinking of doing this for ourselves and not to bring about the satisfaction of our family’s expectative of us.

Unskilled

There are tasks were we are great at doing, but there are always others we can’t do as well. This is nothing to be embarrassed about, because at the end skills comes after practice and we might just have been handed a task to carry out which we’ve never done before. This goes from practicing a new sport to learning a new concept in your math class.

Putting off this type of tasks for later, which we are not very familiar with, will not make you better at them thereafter than when you first encounter them. So begin now, on building that new skill.

Being a perfectionist

Being a perfectionist can have its perks the moments when you are actually doing stuff, however it is more often than not that perfectionists are tempted to put things off, or delay completing tasks simply because you’re worried about the outcome being less than perfect.

Best argument against having this kind of approach is quite simple: a completed, albeit imperfect, task is better than an uncompleted task.

Lack of self-control

Self-control is a skill that varies from person to person. Often insufficient self-control might make a person procrastinate. This type of procrastination comes more often to people who do not have a discipline towards doing tasks in a organized and timely manner.

However this issue can be tackled by building up your discipline towards approaching the tasks handed out to you with a better attitude. As discipline is built by repetition, by committing to perform each of the next tasks given to us in this way, will help of get over this lack of self-control problem.

song-chart-memes-procrastination-homework

If you don’t want your life to continue to be as stressful as the chart above portrays, take some of the advice on this blog to know how to overcome some aspects of procrastinating you might identify with, and START TODAY…

Citations

  • “9 Common Reasons Why We Procrastinate.” Lifehack RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/9-common-reasons-why-procrastinate.html>.
  • “Six Reasons People Procrastinate.”  Academic Success Center, OSU. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://success.oregonstate.edu/six-reasons-people-procrastinate>.
  • “Procrastination.” – Academic Skills Center: Study Skills Library. Student Academic Services, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html>.
  • Jaffe, Eric. “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association for Psychological Science RSS. Observer, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/april-13/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination.html>.
  • Spencer, Amy. “The Science Behind Procrastination.” Real Simple. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/time-management/procrastination>.
  • “Following the Thought Paths of My Mind.” : Procrastination Distraction. N.p., 6 Apr. 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <http://thoughtpaths.blogspot.com/2011/04/procrastination-distraction.html>.

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