Procrastination: What it is and its causes 

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  • June 4, 2022
  • Soft Skill

Procrastination: What it is and its causes

What is Procrastination? 

Remember the last time when you had a week’s time to finish a task and when you thought of the task the next time there was only a day left for it? And how about that time when in the afternoon you finally decided not to start cleaning 

up your house because since morning you had been convincing yourself to start it but could not start it? You know that you must do that particular task. It is essential but yet you become so complacent. That is called Procrastination; delaying or postponing tasks for a later time even if they are important. This problem is not just limited to a region or a country; people are suering from it the world over. 

Procrastination is the behaviour wherein one keeps delaying or putting o the tasks until the last minute, or even crosses the deadline of the task. Some research workers have tried to elucidate procrastination. They suggest that procrastination is distinguished by the inexplicable delay of tasks due to lack of control over oneself in spite of probable negative consequences. 

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Joseph Ferrari, a prominent professor of Psychology who works at DePaul University in Chicago, has opined that around 20% of the adult U.S. population are long-time procrastinators. 

Irrespective of how well-organized or talented you are, it is very likely that you have been in a situation where you could have done something productive such as your school/oce work or some other activity. However, you spend your time doing an unproductive thing like, watching TV, using a smartphone, etc. 

We often also miscalculate that the task will not take that long which in reality it does. It contributes to a false sense of security that we have plenty of time to complete the task. This sense of security, however, proves to be fatal in the long run. Be it delaying finishing up the oce task, putting o your homework, or turning a blind eye to the household chores, procrastination can have a devastating eect on you and your life. In the due course, it also aects the people around you.

One of the major reasons contributing to procrastination is the common perception that there needs to be some sort of inspiration or motivation to start working or excel at one particular thing. 

The real deal is that procrastination has a co-relation with our emotions in contrary to the notion that it has to do with laziness or being incompetent. There is a deeper meaning to it. Inside, we actually procrastinate to give ourselves happiness in that moment. And, that makes complete sense since we all are working to attain continuous happiness. 

Procrastination is nothing but an emotional response to something that we want to avoid. It is referred to as “mood repair” by many researchers, wherein we steer clear of some work because we have some uncomfortable feelings associated with that work. Instead, we immerse ourselves in some other mood-enhancing activity such as playing games or listening to music. It is a way to control our mood; to avoid the task and hence avoiding the bad mood. And of course, this mood-lift is temporary and it eventually only increases negative feelings. In the first glance, a procrastinator would seem less stressed and a cool person who is chilling but they are the ones who are in an even more stressful situation when the deadline of a task comes. 

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Why do we procrastinate? 

Okay… Well, knowing the definition and the technicalities of it is great but what about the solution to it? Why do people procrastinate? 

If we get to understand why we procrastinate in the first place, it will empower us to work and formulate some eective strategies to incorporate before getting started with the tasks. 

So, now we will have to bring science into this. Behavioural psychology research has explained this phenomena. The tendency of the human brain is that it is only looking for a moderate reward in the present rather than a much bigger reward in the future. This is the root cause of Procrastination. There was a study conducted at Stanford university. It threw light on what part of our brain is engaged when we think about our present selves and our future selves.

As a matter of fact, when people think of their future selves the brain pattern is exactly like when they think of an unknown celebrity. This is the cause of procrastination, i.e., our brain makes decisions dierently for the present and dierently for the future. Our brains are wired to care more about the present. 

If you imagine you have your present self and your future self and then if you set a goal for yourself like learning a new language or building muscles. You envision yourself in the future speaking that foreign language or you have that muscular frame. Your brain knows that it will add value to your personality and eventually your life. However, the catch comes when it comes about taking the action. Because, the future-self can set a goal but to have that future it is the present-self who would need to work for that. And, the present-self does not want to be put into dicult and uncomfortable situations. The present-self wants gratification and hence the person ends up Doing something unproductive but pleasurable or relaxing. 

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A person who thinks he is procrastinating generally ends up cursing himself and gets into self-loathing. However, if the science behind this is understood then it can be overcome and resolved.


Amit Diwan

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