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Why Procrastination Is One of Our Internal Enemies, and How We Can Fight It

Procrastination means postponing, setting aside what we should do today to a hypothetical tomorrow. Who hasn’t done that at least once in their life?

Studies revealed that procrastination affects one in five people. It could concern only some areas (for example study or work) or all the actions of one person.

What is procrastination?

Steel’s 2007 studies tell us that procrastination must be considered a real self-destructive psychic disorder, like other known addictions.

The impression of relief that we feel when we decide to postpone acts is a reinforcement in motivating us to repeat this experience.

At the origin of the problem there can be various reasons, which can be classified into:

  • Arousal – the approach of the deadline means that the procrastinator maximizes their activation and with it the connected emotions (sensation seeking);
  • Avoidance – try to avoid the state of discomfort given by the idea of not being able to face a certain task or to fail;
  • Decision making – the procrastinator postpones because they have little confidence in themselves and in the ability to make good choices.

Why do we procrastinate?

Today, we are obliged to do too many things, sometimes we shall be able to multitask or to perform in a short time and with tight deadlines.

Sometimes, however, the priorities we set leave out or don’t consider at all tasks that we believe being less important, or we find less interesting, or that gives us anxiety.

We often choose what to do and what not to do based on the emotions that this action arouses and not on what would be urgent and important like the Eisenhower Matrix teaches us.

After a first moment of apparent relief, postponement generates a negative perception that leads us to question ourselves by limiting our presumption of ability to succeed, so that as a consequence our self-esteem and self-efficacy may decrease.

The effects of procrastination

Procrastination can have a high impact on our well-being. When we find ourselves completing a task at the very last moment, sometimes we manage to actually complete it but in some other cases we do not. And we promise ourselves we won’t do it again. But it happens very seldom. Most probably, we would repeat our pattern.

Often procrastination goes hand in hand with perfectionism. Demanding perfection and fearing poor performance indicates deep insecurity and fear of judgment. It does not matter if our true values depend on several aspects, we are often unable to distinguish what “we are” from what “we do” and we end up evaluating ourselves based on specific behaviors or patterns.

Sometimes it also happens that postponing until the last moment is an excellent excuse for not having reached the expected quality, we justify ourselves thinking that we “had little time” but it was often our choice.

How to fight procrastination

Knaus in 2010 theorized that procrastination is a learned attitude and not an innate tendency, and, as such, it is modifiable.

Obviously, for this to happen, we shall be willing to change, and this includes a process of self-awareness.

Certainly, the problem should not be underestimated because the consequences can become very serious and may corrode our self-esteem and have an impact on our daily lives.

We must then first try to develop two skills: time management and setting priorities. We can divide the task into many smaller chunks, and realize that we shall at least try to see if we have all the necessary resources. And the next time we will do better. We can also learn to delegate, when we think a task is not interesting.

Do men or women procrastinate more?

In conclusion, a curiosity: are there differences related to gender?

Procrastination was found to be more present on males than on females and it seems to be reducing with increasing age as over time we learn how risky this pattern is.

One explanation may be linked to the fact that women are historically responsible for child care, making it necessary to organize time and choose the essential and non-postponable priorities.

I would like to finish off this post with good news. There are cases in life when procrastinate may do good to you.

Would you try this test to see if your are a procrastinator and let me know in the comments?

Thank you for reading, and please, visit my blog crisbiecoach.

13 thoughts on “Why Procrastination Is One of Our Internal Enemies, and How We Can Fight It

  1. I’m laughing about the test, Cristiana. Good one! My dad was someone who just launched in a got things done and I’m grateful to have learned a little bit of that same approach from him. It helps me be more efficient as well because when I put things off, I tend to have to handle them more than once. If I can answer the email when it comes in or write down the notes right after the meeting, it helps me work faster. Great post!

    1. Thank you Wynne! I agree with the notes taken during a meeting. My problem with the notes is that my handwriting is so bad that sometimes I cannot read them 🥹. And about the emails, I also tend to reply asap but sometimes I procrastinate a bit because maybe the senders would abuse of my efficiency 🤣

  2. Linking procrastination to addiction is quite new for me. Yes it makes sense, it creates a sense of relief or pleasure for temporary time and yeah it is like dopamine. I think it is necessary to treat this similar to that of any other addiction

  3. Great post! It was interesting to read about why people procrastinate. I used to do it quite a bit as a kid, but as your article suggests, stopped as I got older. There are still sometimes when I put off doing a task or project but that usually happens when I don’t feel as though the thing is important or valuable, but am somehow required to do it anyway.

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