Why Do We Really Procrastinate?

Procrastination is a buzzword nowadays. It hit me especially hard when I was writing my bachelor thesis. Ughh those days… In any case, why do we do it? Are we dumb? No. I know tons of remarkably smart people who are procrastinators, some of them are even PhD students…Are we lazy? Hmm not really, cuz you could also be successful and prosperous, but still, procrastinate on many things that you’ve longed to do.

There are so many opinions, biases, and even memes over this word. But is it all that fun?


True Reason

As I mentioned before, laziness doesn’t play a key role in procrastination. Most of the time it has nothing to do with it. The pivotal reason for procrastination as described by numerous psychologists is an issue within emotional regulation. Those who suffer from chronic procrastination are struggling with unpleasant emotions that are associated with the task, it could be anything like fear, anxiety, boredom, self-doubt, and many others.

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Timothy Hodgkinson/shutterstock.com

The human mind is brilliant, but oftentimes our hardly manageable thoughts torture us with many untrue beliefs like “you would fail anyway” to protect us from the negative feelings that we have. Most of us know that we would feel bad under pressure while getting stuff done at the last minute, we indeed get disappointed in ourselves afterward. But we don’t work on what bothers us. It’s like we are trapped from all sides of anxious thoughts where there are perfectionism and negative feelings involved with subsequent dissatisfaction with the work done, all of which exacerbate procrastination. It is a vicious cycle and we start to think that this ‘slowness’ or ‘laziness’ is a part of our identity which is not. Also when we start to ponder over how big this task is, it discourages us from doing it.  As you can see procrastination comes from excessive overthinking and problematic emotional management.


What You Can Do About It

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Christian Horz/shutterstock.com

First off be self-compassionate, don’t let those anxious thoughts and poor results of your work that you made at the last minute define you. The job done turned out to be crap because you did it under pressure and had a little time, not because you are a loser, do separate those things, and once again don’t make it a part of your identity. Try not to think and visualize too much about your task and the process of doing it, just start doing it. Some things that we need to do in our lives are not fun and easy, but they need to be done for our long-term well-being. And it’s true, I noticed that once I finally work and silence my anxious thoughts, I start to feel engaged with the task, I am finally in a flow of work, and then I even begin to feel proud of myself. It’s like going to the gym, you start analyzing how cold it is outside, how you’d have to get up, change clothes and then spend an hour on the treadmill and you already begin to feel exhausted. Instead, just by going there and not overthinking about it, you’d feel great after a good workout session and the more you go, the more your brain starts to build those neural connections of associating working out with happy feelings. Additionally, even if the task is quite huge, don’t think about its size or length, start small and you would get a feeling of flow and engagement eventually.

However, remember that various methods that are supposed to help us to do stuff are very individual as well. For example, I don’t like setting up a timer for 10 or 20 minutes the so-called Pomodoro technique. When I use that, I feel pressured and exhausted and I think more about the time running, rather than the quality of the task itself. So when you’d want to look for time-management techniques, implement what suits you in particular.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You just need to figure out what it is that makes you procrastinate. Find the roots and deal with them accordingly. Try not to make instant assumptions that this is your laziness, time management, or anything like this which will only lower your self-esteem. At the end of the day, if you already care about your procrastination problem and you are reading this article, you are a tiny bit less…  lazy. Kidding.

Photo: Dvoevnore/shutterstock


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