Why Do We Procrastinate?

I was going to write this post the other night, but I decided to put it off until later. I’ve noticed that I’ve been doing that with a lot of things in my life lately — paying bills, filing my taxes, responding to emails, writing blog posts. Why is this happening? Why do we procrastinate?

Well is you look to science, the same type of psychology comes up a lot. Studies show that some of the most common reasons for procrastination include:

  • Fear and anxiety of the task
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Bad time management
  • Lack of confidence that you can succeed
  • Fear of failure
  • The quest for perfectionism
  • Personal issues (love life, finances, etc.)

That seems like a pretty comprehensive list of the human experience. I’m guessing that most of you have experienced at least one or, more likely, all of the items listed above at one point or another in your life. If not, then you might want to see a doctor to make sure you’re not a robot. The truth is we all procrastinate.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
— Mark Twain

There are plenty of resources online about what is going on when we procrastinate. One of the best ones I have found is Tim Urban’s TEDtalk on the mind of a master procrastinator.

He discusses what actually going on in a procrastinators brain when they procrastinate. It’s also really funny (spoiler: there is three characters and one of them is a monkey!). His basic thesis is that if you are a terrible procrastinator it is important to acknowledge it, embrace it and break down the processes it. You can watch the whole thing below on TED’s youtube channel.

Another awesome resource for people that want to learn to stop procrastinating is the subreddit Get Disciplined.

I must admit that I have some fear and anxiety about doing my own taxes for the first time, which may explain why I still haven’t finished them yet. The fact that I already know that I’ll owe the IRS some more money when I do file my taxes may be another reason I’ve been putting them off.

Procrastination is really just a battle against yourself. The obstacles that keep us from getting things done are all in our head. How many times have you used the “I just don’t have enough time” excuse? Have you ever spent so much time trying to make something perfect that you never actually get it done?

The key to overcoming these obstacles is turning your irrational thoughts and fears into concrete goals and tasks. If you set more realistic goals for yourself, then you’ll be less likely to get stuck on trying to make something perfect before moving on. If you prioritize the tasks to reach your goals, then you’ll see that there is enough time to get most, if not all, of your tasks done.

With that being said, what’s the point of trying to overcome procrastination? If we all procrastinate, then won’t we just put off overcoming procrastination too?


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