Procrastination: Why Do We Put Things Off So Much?

Procrastination: Why Do We Put Things Off So Much?

Last update: 12 April, 2018

How many times have you had something important to do and then just postponed it and kept postponing it and ended up never doing it? Do you think this laziness is justified? Do you think there’s any solution to the problem? Today we’re going to talk all about procrastination, what its repercussions are and how to stop doing it.

Procrastination is directly related to our will, our willingness to act. It is the action of delaying or postponing situations or activities on our to-do lists that we really should be doing. Let’s look into what causes it.

I’ll do it tomorrow… or maybe next month

Imagine that you have to write a report for one of your most important customers. The boss is trying to hurry you up, because closing a very important deal depends on it. Usually you try to do it as soon as possible.

However, procrastination tempts you to postpone it. You even do lots of small, superfluous tasks that really weren’t urgent at all, leaving the legitimately important report for the end of the week.

Another example. Your purse has been stolen and inside it were, among other things, your driver’s license and several credit cards. Normally, you’d report this immediately, cancel your credit cards and make arrangements to get new ones. To not do this would not only be pretty dumb, but it would also be another form of procrastination.

Bored man yawning out of procrastination.

Consequences of procrastination

Procrastination produces anxiety because you just don’t seem to have the willpower to finish things. You feel so helpless and powerless! Think about the examples: we postpone things indefinitely despite knowing full well that they’re actually urgent and should be done without delay. Not doing it leaves a heavy burden hanging over us. Delaying the task at hand doesn’t reduce any anxiety, anger or worry that we may feel. In fact, it only makes us feel worse.

These feelings will increase as time goes on and the conflict remains unresolved or the job remains undone. We know something important is pending and that it will be bad if we don’t face it. On top of this, if we do it a lot, it can be a very difficult habit to change.

Procrastinators live for long periods of time in a state of lethargy. They find themselves immersed in unimportant activities while other things they should do are postponed and never done.

Reasons you postpone things indefinitely

When we delay things, we do it for one of two reasons. Either we have replaced it with another activity that is more pleasant or unimportant, or we just simply prefer not to do anything.

If we try to justify the situation by saying that other thing is more important, then we turn into victims of the present. There is a tendency for us to consider our daily to-do’s as more urgent.

But when we do this, the larger projects with long-term rewards or benefits are put on the back burner. Whatever happens to come up that day automatically becomes the most important thing. We totally fail to prioritize.

If we choose to do nothing, then we really turn into our own worst enemies. Although it’s good to rest from time to time, there is a danger of falling into the grip of laziness. We simply don’t feel like it and we’ll pay the consequences in the long run.

Procrastinating is keeping you from reaching your potential.

Woman with feet up on desk

Strategies to stop procrastinating

By asking yourself a couple of specific questions, you can get to the bottom of your procrastination.

  • If I’m going to have to do it eventually, what am I actually achieving by postponing it?
  • Is it something that only affects me or does it involve other people?

When you answer these questions truthfully your attitude will almost certainly change. But you still need more strategies in your arsenal.

2 minute rule: This simple strategy is based on the idea that if you take more than 2 minutes planning to do something, then you should stop planning and do it.

Overcome the resistance: Once you take the first step, your hesitance or fear of doing it will disappear.

Manage your energy: If you’re tired or angry, the chances you’ll put things off will increase.

Divide and conquer: Dividing work into small tasks or concrete steps will help you to see the finish line clearer.

Reward yourself: Once you reach your goal, it’s a good idea to treat yourself. Do something you like or something that helps you relax.

Positive procrastination

There is something called positive procrastination, and it consists of the good intentions that procrastinators may have. For example, a person putting things off that are boring or tedious or will be painful has the good intention of avoiding boredom and pain.

Perfectionists are huge procrastinators. Since they will always want perfect results, they’ll avoid doing anything quickly and sometimes would rather just not start it at all. They won’t start it until they are sure they have enough time to finish it perfectly.

There’s also something called productive laziness. This theory talks about people who look for tricks, solutions or shortcuts in order to do something they need to do with as little effort as possible.

Dodging your responsibilities or hiding in unimportant tasks can turn you into a chronic procrastinator. Our advice to you is to look for a solution to it and change your negative attitude. Make an effort to tackle the more complex problems or tasks on your list first. It won’t be long before you feel better about yourself!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.