Psychologists Explain Why You Procrastinate And How To Stop


We’ve all been there. We’ve all gone through that path. We’ve all done it. It’s called procrastination.

Wikipedia defines procrastination as the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is a habitual or intentional delay in starting or finishing a task despite its negative consequences.

Procrastination means deliberately postponing an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment. Now, the thing with procrastination is that leaving things until the last minute generally results in low-quality work performance and reduced well-being.

According to a 2002 study by Ariely & Wertenbroch, students who routinely procrastinate consistently got lower grades, unlike those who did what they ought to at the right time.

According to David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, “Procrastination is not just avoiding or delaying a task. It also has to include an aspect that’s counterproductive, irrational, or unnecessary.”

So, why do we procrastinate?

In this blog post, we’ll be sharing with you why we procrastinate and how to stop it.

Alexander Rozental, a procrastination researcher and a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, explains that our need to procrastinate falls under one of four factors, which includes; time, value, impulsivity, or expectancy.

Rozental said, “People procrastinate because of a lack of value [associated with the task]; because they expect that they’re not going to achieve the value they’re trying to achieve; because the value is too far from you in terms of time; or because you’re very impulsive as a person.”

According to a 1997 survey by Ferrari, Johnson, and McCown, some of the reasons we procrastinate are;

  1. We overestimate how much time we have left to perform tasks
  2. We overestimate how motivated we will be in the future
  3. We underestimate how long certain activities will take to complete
  4. We mistakenly assume that we need to be in the right frame of mind to work on a project

Well, a little bit of self-doubt can contribute to procrastination. For instance, when we do not know how to approach or tackle a situation, there’s a high tendency that we might put it off and go for something else instead.

How Can You Stop Procrastinating?

There is no one trick to stop procrastination because we all have different reasons for procrastinating. According to Ballard, “The first step is stepping back and figuring out what’s going on. Identify your own habits. Is there one kind of thing you always put off to last? What is it that you put off, and what are your thought patterns around that?”

Once you have figured out the reason for procrastinating, it’s time to find a way to stop it.

  1. Unpleasant task

When a task is considered unpleasant, boring, or uninteresting, we often get tempted to procrastinate. For instance, exercising, doing our laundry, and doing assignments as well.

To overcome this type of procrastination, Andreou and White suggest that you shift your focus from the ultimate goal to a series of easy-to-complete, intermediate tasks. Also, you can try the what-if mode. For instance, what if I wake up at 5 am? I can get some exercises done.

  1. Timing

Timing is another issue we sometimes underestimate when considering certain projects. Some people are more productive at certain times of the day.

To deal with this type of procrastination, Ballard suggests that “If you know you work better in the mornings on certain kinds of tasks, schedule it for that time. Don’t try to do it at a time when you’re tired and it’s harder for you to do.”

Also, when we procrastinate, we postpone tasks without anticipating that when it comes to the time to do them, the required action will be delayed yet again. For instance, a drug addict who decides to quit can go on month after month saying, one last time.

  1. Anxiety

A good number of people get anxious about the outcome of a project and, in most cases, avoidance seems to be the way out.

Studies show that procrastination is associated with high levels of stress. To relieve stress, procrastinators shift their focus away from the future toward more immediate rewards in order to avoid high-priority yet challenging tasks.

To overcome this type of procrastination, Rozental says, “If you don’t believe in yourself enough to actually conduct a particular task, you can try to do it in smaller and more manageable parts to increase your self-efficacy.”

Also, finding ways to reduce stress can strengthen your capacity to handle procrastination.

  1. Unimportant

Sometimes we place little importance on certain projects until they are so close to the deadline. In the end, we are pressurized and anxiety may take over, leading to another form of procrastination.

To stop this type of procrastination, Ballard suggests “finding ways to reward yourself along the way. You get those activities done, you get a break and you can shift your mindset for a few minutes.” 

For instance, you can split the project into smaller units and fill up the distance between each unit with simpler activities like checking your social media platforms or running some errands and chores.

Rozental also suggests that it is wise to “clarify why this task or commitment is important to you. Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’”. Doing this will help you place priority on each task and help you focus better.

  1. Self-confidence

Sometimes, when we are faced with difficult tasks, we begin to doubt our self-confidence. Hence, we procrastinate in hopes that we would be in a better frame of mind the next time we attempt it.

To overcome this type of procrastination, set smaller goals that can help you attain your bigger goal. Goal attainment may raise feelings of self-confidence, which can result in you setting even more challenging goals.

In conclusion, you have to always remind yourself that the only way to go forward is to go forward. Life favors actors, and that’s why you have to act.

We recommend that you read a good book called “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy. It will help you to be more productive.


Thank you


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