Why People Procrastinate

Tuesday, March 15 2022

Benjamin Franklin was correct when he said, “You may delay, but time will not.” If you ask a psychologist why people procrastinate they can give you a few dozen reasons based on the latest neuroscience research. Understanding your own reasons may be harder.

We rarely procrastinate tasks that are exciting, fun and rewarding. Teenagers who justify procrastination of their homework often say it’s boring. But anyone can find themselves dragging their feet when the job is daunting, complex or dreary.

Chemistry and Mindset

It has nothing to do with laziness or lack of self-control and everything to do with brain chemistry and a mindset. When we are excited and happy, serotonin and dopamine get released in our brain. These two chemicals affect not just our mood but also our intellectual abilities, creating a sense of control and power. We feel strong and able to tackle any task. When we lack that sense of excitement or the anticipation of a pleasant reward it is harder getting started.


What Are the Most Common Reasons Why People Procrastinate?

  1. We overestimate our abilities to complete the task quickly, very close to the due date. For some, the rush of doing things at the last minute fuels their creativity and productivity; but for most it only increases stress and induces anxiety.
  2. Fear of failure is another common reason. When we lack confidence in our ability to perform the task we may prefer not doing it at all rather than face the potential failure.
  3. Distractibility is a result of the tremendous amount of information bombarding our brain, and is made worse by technology. When your cellphone is constantly buzzing it’s hard to focus on the task.


Three ways to Take Control of the Procrastination Monster

  1. Have a frank discussion with yourself and determine your main reason you procrastinate. Without knowing the problem, it’s tough to find the solution.
  2. Think of a sweet reward you can gift yourself when the daunting task is over. Sometimes just a nice cup of coffee from the nearest cafe can do the trick.
  3.  Start the task but give yourself permission to stop after 10 minutes if you feel it’s too much to handle. Usually, after 10 minutes, we’ve gained momentum and enough confidence to keep going. After all, despite its complexity our brain is gullible and we can use that  to our advantage.

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