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What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or beyond their deadline. Studies define procrastination as a form of failure of self-regulation due to irrational delay of tasks in spite of potential negative effects! Understanding why we procrastinate is important as well!
Imagine this situation: You need to start working on a 10-page report for work or for your school assignment. You decide to start at 11 am and browse social media until then. Before you know it, it’s 10 past 11 am, and you feel like putting it off even more as you’re having fun and the assignment is boring!
For a lot of us, procrastination is our biggest enemy when it comes to productivity. After all, motivating ourselves all the time is hard, especially for tasks that we don’t like. 10 minutes on YouTube seems so much more appealing than reading 10 pages of something boring. And that 10 minutes then turns into 2 hours and by the end of it, you’re guilty even more unmotivated and procrastinate some more. And the cycle repeats itself.
Another classic example of procrastination is when it’s time for an important deadline like a credit card payment. The thought of doing it and checking your spending seems so scary that you’d rather spend 10 minutes doing an online quiz or play a game. And that starts the cycle for yourself. Procrastination, like with everything else in life, becomes a habit over time.
Studies show that amongst college students, around 85% procrastinate regularly and amongst working professionals, while this number drops, it is still a very high percentage of the population that procrastinates, although to different degrees. In small doses, procrastination can actually be a healthy habit. Spending 15 minutes more catching up with your friend or watching another short episode of a funny tv show before starting your work can put you in a relaxed and positive state of mind. However, anything more than that can have negative consequences.
In order to understand procrastination, let’s understand why we procrastinate.
Reasons why we procrastinate:
- Instant gratification
- Fear of failure
- Feeling overwhelmed
Procrastination Reason #1: Instant gratification
This is one of the main reasons as to why we procrastinate. It’s something that affects each and every one of us in today’s digital age and that is instant gratification. You’re surrounded by so many sources of instant gratification whether it’s likes on social media, notifications on messaging apps or short videos on YouTube. Once your brain understands that these activities provide instant pleasure, it keeps wanting more. You even start to secrete dopamine, a pleasure based feel-good hormone, every time you get this gratification. For example, every time your Instagram post gets a new like or comment, your brain is producing dopamine and you feel great!
Let’s compare that to your work or studies. When you work on something important to you or you’re studying, your brain might produce dopamine as well but that is likely to happen after you’ve learnt a new concept or a chapter or completed a task.
Dopamine is like a drug for your brain, your brain always seeks activities that produce dopamine. As a result, when given a choice, your brain would rather you browse social media or play video games than study or work. Thus, you end up procrastinating because if your brain is able to get it’s dopamine from 2 minutes on social media vs 1 hour of working on something important, it is going to trick you into instant gratification which leads to procrastination. If you believe something important you have to do is boring, it could be your brain’s way of tricking you into instant gratification.
Procrastination Reason #2: Fear of failure
Another reason as to why we procrastinate is fear of failure. In fact, this is a common cause of procrastination especially when you’re trying new things or want to start new habits. For example, you might procrastinate going to the gym because you’re scared that even if you put in the effort, what if you fail and don’t lose weight. Or you may be wanting to really start embroidery, but what if you’re not good at it and it doesn’t work out and you fail? You may have seen memes about rewatching your favourite show again rather than starting a new one. That’s also a type of procrastination, where you’re scared you won’t like the new show, so you never give it a chance. That constant agony and fear of failure can keep you stuck in the procrastination zone and prevents you from moving ahead.
Procrastination Reason #3: Feeling overwhelmed
Have you ever looked at your to-do list and felt like this is too much and you need a break. If so, you’re not alone! It’s a common reason as to why we procrastinate! Feeling overwhelmed. When you have too many tasks to complete in a day – you feel so overwhelmed thinking about all of them and you end up procrastinating and end up achieving very little. Has this happened to you as well? When you’re overwhelmed, our brains often go into a state of panic or feeling helpless or stressed. Or you may even feel confused about where to start because there’s so much to get done. And all of this causes us to procrastinate.
Procrastination Reason #4: Self-Sabotage
The final reason as to why we procrastinate is something that can have serious underlying issues related to it and that is self-sabotage. All of us have a negative voice in our head that keeps holding us back. Psychologists refer to this as an inner critic. But sometimes, the negative voices start to control our actions. You believe so strongly that you will not be able to do a certain task, or even be good at it, that you choose not to try it and procrastinate on it. Or you give up starting something new before even trying it because you believe that you are not good enough. These are all examples of self-sabotage.
Do you resonate with these signs or reasons? Are they some of the reasons why you procrastinate? Procrastination can affect your everyday life, productivity and your work life as well! In case you are procrastinating too much, make a conscious effort to overcome procrastination and try habits to get better. It is a very bad habit that can have a lot of consequences and I am glad that you’re taking time to read up on it and become better.
Evolve has a journey designed with life coaches and experts to help you overcome procrastination and become better at facing your fears. It’s an interactive virtual workshop you can try at home today! Evolve helps make your personal growth joyful and simple and helps you balance your stress, anxiety within minutes. The Evolve app is now live globally on Android & Apple, click here to try for free!
With over 300 articles published on Evolve. Jash is one of the most viewed writers on topics such as Sleep, Mindfulness and Stress. Drop a mail at Jash@evolveinc.in to connect with him.