We’ve all been there, the deadline is looming , time is running out yet we find ourselves scrolling endlessly through Tick Tok or Instagram we know that we have work to do, that sense of fear is slowly crawling into the back of our mind yet we still don’t feel like doing anything why is that? what makes us feel like that? In this article let’s take a deeper look at procrastination.

Photo by on

What is procrastination?

From a psychologist’s point of view procrastination can be defined as an intentional, self-imposed delay in initiating or completing a task that needs to be done. It is a complex behavior that involves delaying or avoiding a task despite the fact that there will be negative consequences, and usually human beings try to avoid negative consequences. This behavior is often linked to factors like low self-esteem , lack of motivation and perfectionism. People who procrastinate can go through feelings like shame, guilt, stress and frustration which can further fuel the cycle of procrastination. But its important to remember that not all procrastination is bad, sometimes procrastination is good as it can bring creative solutions to problems. This is because even when we are procrastinating and doing nothing our brain is still working on the solution sub consciously and this can lead to unexpected solutions and breakthroughs. So the key is to find a balance between procrastination and productivity.

Why procrastination can be helpful and harmful

Procrastination can be viewed from two different perspectives, It can be viewed as negative and harmful or positive and helpful. From a negative point of view procrastination can be seen as a destructive habit that can lead to missing deadlines, low quality of work, increase in stress, anxiety and frustration and feeling of low self-worth and confidence. All these are negative results of procrastination.

But on the other side procrastination can be seen as natural and even beneficial to creativity. This is because when we procrastinate we allow our mind to wonder endlessly, this can help us bring “out of the box” solutions to the problem at hand or approach the problem from a different perspective. In this sense procrastination can be seen as a tool for fostering creativity and innovation.

So procrastination has two sides to it’s coin. There is a fine line between healthy procrastination and harmful procrastination. Healthy procrastination involves taking breaks and allowing your mind to wonder, rest and recharge. This gives your brain time to get inspired and come up with original and innovative ideas like a funny name or a thought provoking article. For most procrastinators their best ideas come when they are under pressure. On the other hand harmful procrastination involves constantly putting off work and failing to meet our responsibilities.

Why do we procrastinate?

Ok, so now that we know the meaning of procrastination and the two perspectives of procrastination, lets answer the next question, why do we procrastinate? One main reason for why people procrastinate is, because our brains are wired that way. We always tend to prioritize short term rewards over long term rewards i.e. we naturally look for immediate gratification even if we are putting off something that’s more important in the long run. Neurologically procrastination is linked to prefrontal cortex, which is the part responsible for decision making, planning and impulse control. So reduced activity in this region can make it harder for us to prioritize and make decisions. At the same time procrastination is also linked to increased activity in the limbic system, this is the part responsible for emotion and pleasure. during procrastination we often engage in activities that provide immediate gratification like scrolling through social media, which gives us a dopamine rush and makes us happy.

Another factor that contributes to procrastination is “analysis paralysis”. This is the tendency to overthink and overanalyze a task to a point where it becomes overwhelming and we don’t know where to start. Whenever we have to do a daunting task its natural for us to avoid it altogether.

The reason behind why we procrastinate is multifaceted but by understanding the underling factors that contribute to procrastination we can develop strategies that reduce negative procrastination and find the balance to become more productive in our everyday life.

Strategies to reduce procrastination.

Identify the root cause: Understanding why we procrastinate can help us develop strategies for overcoming it. Some common causes for procrastination includes fear of failure, lack of motivation, and feeling overwhelmed. By identifying and addressing these issues we will be able to reduce procrastination.

Breaking tasks down to simpler steps: Large complex steps can be overwhelming so by breaking them into smaller simpler and manageable steps the task would look doable and procrastination reduces.

Set realistic deadlines: Setting deadlines can keep us on track and hold us accountable. However it is important to set realistic deadlines so that we don’t feel pressured or overwhelmed.

Eliminating distractions: Distractions like social media ,TV programs and so on can contribute to procrastination. By eliminating these distractions we can be focused on making progress in our work.

Focus on benefits: Always focus on the benefits of completing a task, for example completing a work project on time can help you get promotions or other incentives. Similarly finishing a school work early can give you more freedom to go out and play.

Practice self-compassion: Negative self -talk and and harsh self criticism can lead to negative procrastination. Practicing self compassion and developing the ability to forgive ourselves for minor mistakes and imperfections can help build a positive mindset and help progress towards our goals.

In conclusion, finding a balance between healthy and unhealthy procrastination is like walking a tightrope, it requires planning, skills, focus and a safety net. While it is important to understand the negatives of procrastination we shouldn’t overlook its positive sides. So let’s procrastinate strategically.

And if all else fails remember the wise words of author Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Happy procrastinating!