WHY YOU DO IT
When procrastination causes trouble, it can be hard to understand why people
don’t take action to avoid bigger problems. The common
myth about procrastination is that it’s due to laziness
or poor time management. So, if you want to stop putting
things off, you should “just buckle down and do it.”
But if you could, you would. Why can’t you?
You can’t “just do it” because putting things off may serve an important
psychological purpose. In other words, procrastination
can also work for you, to protect
a vulnerable sense of self-esteem.
For example, when you procrastinate,
- your best is never produced and therefore is never
put to the test;
- your ability to handle greater success remains unknown,
- you can feel powerful, autonomous, or righteously
angry, indirectly through avoidance.
Your biology and your brain can also contribute to your procrastination. For
- ADD. People with attention deficit disorder are likely
to procrastinate because they’re easily distracted and
need constant stimulation.
- Executive Dysfunction. People with ED are likely to
procrastinate because it is difficult to organize, prioritize,
concentrate, and follow through.
- Biological “clock genes” may lead you to relate to
time in your own idiosyncratic way that has little to
do with the clock or the calendar.
- Depression. If you are depressed, it may be hard for
you to get yourself going on much of anything.
Interpersonal and Cultural Roots
- Family history and current family relationships:
Your procrastination says something about your role
in your family.
- Social and romantic relationships: If you stopped
procrastinating, how would your social and romantic
- Your place in your current culture: Moving into a
new culture economically or geographically can lead
But these issues don’t have to doom you to a life of
procrastination, because you can help your brain change:
your brain has the potential for change throughout your
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
We think it’s essential to understand the reasons why you put things off and to know yourself, psychologically, biologically, and in relationships, past and present. That’s the first step in doing something about it — BUT all the understanding in the world won’t stop procrastination.
You have to take action to do things differently. For example:
- Combat perfectionism with behavioral goals
If you scratch the surface of a procrastinator, you are likely to find a perfectionist. Procrastinators push themselves to produce something grand and impressive to meet high expectations and to make up for the time they’ve lost, hoping that being perfect will help them feel ok. But lofty goals are overwhelming and intimidating and can lead to more procrastination.
WE SUGGEST PROCRASTINATORS IDENTIFY ONE REALISTIC GOAL AT A TIME AND BREAK THE GOAL DOWN INTO SPECIFIC, CONCRETE STEPS.
Procrastinators either underestimate or overestimate how long things will take.
WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU PRACTICE TELLING TIME, MEASURING YOUR PROGRESS IN 15-MINUTE INTERVALS, AND KEEPING TRACK OF TIME SPENT WORKING TOWARD YOUR GOAL.
Most procrastinators don’t reward themselves until they have completely finished a task, so they suffer along the way and may never get to the end.
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO REWARD YOURSELF FOR PROGRESS MADE, NOT JUST FOR COMPLETION. SHORT-TERM INTERIM REWARDS CAN HELP YOU REACH YOUR GOAL.
Some procrastinators hesitate to try new behavior or to think about why they’ve been procrastinating because they will blame themselves for what they’ve done.
EXPERIMENT WITH A BEHAVIORAL GOAL WITHOUT SELF-CRITICISM OR BLAME AND LEARN FROM YOUR DIFFICULTIES AS WELL AS YOUR SUCCESSES.