Why do people procrastinate?
Research has shown that people procrastinate for different reasons and about different things. For example, some people delay paying their bills while others delay going to see a doctor even though they feel unwell. In general terms, people engage in less important tasks at the expense of urgent ones and often the excuse is that they perform better under pressure. But why do they really do that?
One explanation that has been put forward is that people who procrastinate obey the pleasure principle. This was described by Freud as people’s constant attempt to seek immediate gratification while at the same time trying to postpone pain and discomfort. In this view, procrastination is a coping mechanism used to delay the anxiety associated with the task at hand, which is far from the claim that they perform better under pressure.
Alternatively, it has been suggested that the tendency to procrastinate is inherited, as monozygotic twins showed a greater concordance rate for procrastination than dizygotic twins.
Another explanation is that some people are more likely to procrastinate than others because of their personality. Procrastination has been associated with both perfectionism and irrationality. Perfectionists are at a greater risk of procrastinating because they have a strong fear of failure and of being evaluated by others; therefore, they keep putting difficult tasks off. With regards to irrationality, people who procrastinate often underestimate the time that the task will take and think along the lines “it will only take a minute to do it!” For such people, poor planning and poor time management lie at the roots of procrastination, even though the real issue might be the fact that they perceive the task as daunting and hard to accomplish.
According to a large-scale study, there is no single explanation for procrastination. On the other hand, it depends on the interplay of 4 different factors:
- the individual’s need for immediate gratification;
- the expectancy of success;
- how impulsive the individual is; and
- the value given to the task.
What are the effects of procrastination?
Needless to say, procrastination has a negative effect on several aspects of life. Firstly, it can hinder self-development and can prevent someone from making good progress in his career. Secondly, it increases stress and anxiety because it reduces the chances of completing the task in time and/or well. In its turn, stress and anxiety have negative repercussions on the health of the individual: due to the increased levels of stress hormones, the immune system shuts down. Furthermore, if you consider that people who normally procrastinate might also be reticent to seek medical help if they feel unwell, procrastination might put one’s health at risk. So all in all, procrastination is not good.
6 tips to stop yourself from procrastinating
So how can you stop yourself from procrastinating? Here are 6 tips that you might find useful:
- Fight irrationality: be realistic about how much time you will need to complete a task and make sure that you take contingency time into account.
- Learn delayed gratification: reward yourself only when you have completed a task.
- Set yourself a meaningful goal: if the goal is meaningful, you will experience satisfaction in completing it. Also, if you are clear about why you want to do the task, this intention will motivate you all along.
- Make the task concrete: break the task down into smaller steps and have clear in mind how to carry out each step of the task, there should be no uncertainty. For this purpose, it might be necessary to make a list of everything that you need to get done.
- Exercise your willpower: willpower, like a muscle, has the ability to grow and to become stronger and stronger. Set yourself progressively more difficult tasks and work for increasingly longer periods of time so as to build your attention span. Unless a task was initially planned in your to-do list, be resolute and avoid getting sidetracked by it.
- Manage your stress: in many cases, stress becomes associated with a given task due to our perceived inability to cope with its demands. The stress experienced impairs our ability to carry out the task. It is therefore essential to counteract the negative effects of stress with stress-management techniques such as relaxation and deep breathing.
How do you stop yourself from procrastinating? Share your strategies with the readers of Healthynewage!