Why do we procrastinate?

I spent an entire night procrastinating this blog post. Is it because we’re lazy? I don’t think so because a lazy person wouldn’t be willing to pull 2 all nighters in a row to finish my studio project. Is it because we’re too confident in ourselves? Probably not. I know that I constantly stress about doing well on my work. We know that procrastination is bad for us because it causes stress and we know that procrastination doesn’t always turn out. So then why is procrastination so prevalent in high school, college, and beyond in our careers?

Read my previous blog to learn about the reasons why cramming (by default, procrastination) is bad for you. There has been studies done to measure the costs and benefits of procrastination. The overall consensus is that procrastination is not good for you or your work. One reason that procrastination is bad is that it affects your mental health. A study done in 1984  showed that there was a between procrastination and mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Procrastination inhibits how much time we can put into a certain task. We can run out of time before the deadline and we end up with less quality work that what we could have produced with more time. Andrew demonstrated that by showing us a blog post that was submitted only minutes before the deadline. A observational study done on this subject found that there was a correlation between procrastinators and their scores as well as their stress levels. Overall, it doesn’t seem to make sense to procrastinate.

One of the reasons why we procrastinate, according to Psychology Today, is because of the adrenaline rush that procrastination gives us. When you have a deadline, the only thing your brain knows it needs to focus on is the task at hand. They claim that the idea of achieving the seemingly impossible gives us this rush. According to Forbes, there are 2 reasons why we procrastinate: we don’t have the motivation for the task at hand or focus on our present feelings without regarding our futures selves feelings.

Tim Urban gave a Ted Talk that perfectly and simply demonstrates that mind of a procrastinator and why procrastination is so prevalent. Tim turns the concept of a present-only moment of thinking into what he call the “instant gratification monkey” that controls the actions of the rational thinker in all of us. He calls the mechanism that actually creates the mind shift that happens when we become instantly focused the “Panic monster”.  The “panic monster” becomes triggered by fast approaching deadlines. This is one of the reasons why procrastination can be a source of unhappiness when you have hard tasks that you want to complete that does not have a deadline. A reason why I keep telling myself that I want to go to the gym but I have yet to go this semester. That is why it is so important to understand procrastination and knowing ways that you can avoid it.   np-brainp-brain

One of the best ways to defeat procrastination is to prioritize! Dwight D Eisenhower created a system called the Eisenhower Matrix  which is helpful for knowing when to do something, when not do something, when to schedule, and when to delegate. Other ways to prevent procrastination is being aware of some bad habits that you may do. If you can’t help surfing the internet or texting your friends while you study, turning your phone off will prevent you from continuing the behavior. If the task is urgent AND important, it must be done asap (Studying for an exam that is 40% of your grade). If it’s important but not as urgent, make a schedule so you give yourself time to space out the task (Essay due next month). If the task isn’t important but it is urgent, delegate to others (planning an activity with friends). If the task is neither urgent or important, why even do it (surfing Facebook for the 10th time). Keeping these 4 categories in mind, you can prioritize your tasks easier. Remember to ask yourself: Is it Urgent? Is it Important?


4 thoughts on “Why do we procrastinate?

  1. Kameron Villavicencio

    I’m always intrigued by things that feature the word “procrastination”. I am a procrastinator. Perhaps, it’s genetic because my mom always tells me “Kameron, I’m a procrastinator, too, but you need to get this down. Time management. Blah. Blah. Blah.” There’s actually research that has been done on the link between procrastination and genes. The link is connected to one’s leanings towards being impulsive. I am currently a junior at Penn State. I’d say the biggest difference between freshman Kameron and present-day Kameron is that I care less about stupid stuff, like what I’m wearing, if the people in my class will judge me, and I care more about other things, such as grades. I think I tend to procrastinate only on things that I don’t really care about. My gen-eds usually fall under this category, and I’ve gotten better, but to me, the stakes are not high enough to bust a sweat trying to get an A in GeoSci. My point being, I’m not so sure if I am a procrastinator, or I just care less about certain things and therefore I put less effort into them.


    1. Hannah Marie Helmes Post author

      Just like the Ted Talk in my blog, I believe that all of us are procrastinators in some way. Some people are just better at managing it or hiding it. I’m sure that the less effort is in response to the procrastination without the necessary desire (panic monster) to meet the deadline. People have another name for this: Senioritis. Ironically senioritis can happen to juniors as well. Just remember… C’s get degrees! And read these tips on how to avoid senioritis: http://www.nacacnet.org/studentinfo/articles/pages/senioritis.aspx

  2. Francis Patrick Cotter

    You mentioned the phycological science article (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/2013/april-13/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination.html). The article goes into much further detail than just stating that it was bad for your health. It mentions a study done by Dianne Trice and Roy Baumaster. In the study, they tracked college students and monitored their study habits.The result was that during the actual procrastination period, the students had less stress. However, these students also suffered from lower grades. So stress isn’t the key component. Rather, performance decline is the primary result.

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