The Psychology Behind Procrastination

Now that people world-wide have their own personal computers, cell phones, access to the internet and video games of every variety, procrastination has arisen as a top cause of stress in our lives. I’m no exception. It’s difficult even for me to open up a Word document and start writing an Economics essay when I have a whole world of information, games, and social connections at my fingertips.

We come in many forms (we’re a highly evolved breed!) ranging from those who simply seek the excitement of working under pressure to those who refuse to make decisions as a way to avoid responsibility for the outcome of a task.

Psychologists believe procrastination has three recognizable traits: the task must be counter-productive, delaying, and needless.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Sometimes, when I think of writing my weekly essay, my stomach ties in a knot. I worry about how long it will take and if I’ll write it well. Then I think of everything else I could be doing instead of writing this paper. Important tasks we do not do daily usually come with some kind of anxiety when starting or finishing. Psychologists believe procrastination is a coping mechanism for this anxiety. It is a fear of failure. Maybe even a fear of success.

Checking your email while there’s a report to be written or a room to be cleaned is the perfect example of procrastination. We actively look for distractions that don’t require much thought. Television is also another enabler. Procrastinators yearn for this distraction to normalize their feelings of anxiety.

How does it start?

Some procrastinators come from strict parents. Having parents who control everything will lessen a child’s ability to regulate his or her self in the future. It can even be a form of rebellion! Conversely, parents who procrastinate, do their Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, and don’t pay their bills on time can rub-off on children as well.

Why is it so bad?

Speaking from personal experience alone, I have spent long and sleepless nights writing papers or completing entire projects I pushed until the very end. Just recently I put off my entire English portfolio until a FEW HOURS before it was due, and instead of an easy “A”, I received a “C” for the class. My work was not up to its potential had I have given it time. Getting no sleep can also affect your immune system and you’ll get sick easier and feel groggy. It’s obvious what kind of affect it can have on your grades. Just think what path my life would be heading down if I did this for every class and every assignment! These affects only get worse over time.

How do we stop?

People all around have published countless strategies to banish this bad behavior and different people call for different strategies. I implore you to visit some of my favorite webpages of ways to quit procrastinating and find one that fits you best!

These are just  few of many different ways to overcome procrastination and to finally make time your friend. Many books, essays, articales, and pamphlets have been published on the matter. Keep searching until you find a solution that fits you!

photo credit: spigoo | aaronescobar | sorbor
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25 responses to “The Psychology Behind Procrastination

  1. We could also just not want to do work. As students especially we have an aversion to do work and just want to have fun.

    Is it possible to procrastinate on something such as playing a game? What are the limits? You said it has to be counter-productive and needless, but you then need to explain what that means. I could be very productive in a video game and it could be needed to help beat it, yes its not helping my schoolwork but then again you never specified that it had to be procrastination of school work. Sorry if I am going in circles here, just trying to play a devils advocate and counter what you are saying.

    • That’s true too. I was focused on those who want and mean to do the work, but let the anxiety get to them. I’m definitely that type of procrastinator.

      I meant counter-productive and needless regarding the task at hand that you intend to do, but just can’t. It’s all about the intended task whether it be video games or a paper.

      It’s fine. I like the different perspectives you’ve given. It’s comments like this that help writers to improve. :) Thanks!

      • When I procrastinate, which is a lot (you can ask my roommate and he will say that I never study and I always wait until the night before to write papers), it’s usually not because of the anxiety of failing its because I am unmotivated/experiencing some form of ADD. I can concentrate just fine and writing papers can be fun (nothing like that feeling of finally completing your first draft, if you write multiple drafts) but I just hate having to sit down and actually do it. I would rather be doing something else be it playing games, watching tv, or browsing the internet. I rarely ever do other important tasks when trying to procrastinate (like cleaning and what not).

      • I procrastinate a lot too. It’s cost me many letter grades in high school. The anxiety implies the negative feelings towards having to sit down for long hours to do something. It’s a broad term.

        And yeah, completing your first draft is amazing. I think being stuck on the last paragraph of a long paper is the worst though! Haha. I’ve never been good at conclusions.

      • Tell me about it. I spend a lot of time on the title and introduction and then as my paper progresses the coherence of it sort of goes down hill until the conclusion where I probably make a statement which has nothing to do with my paper.

  2. This post and the links really help me with procrastination. Now if only I could find a way to stop procrastinating.

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  9. Hi, there. I would suggest you continue writing more posts, this would make your blog even more interesting, plus I guess you will get more visitors.

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  11. I like the way you put out things. It would be nice to read more posts from you. Bookmarked.

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