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Stop Procrastinating

Stop Procrastinating

We’ve all been there, the deadline is approaching and yet you haven’t even started working on your project or paper. We all do it, and we know when we’re doing it. So why do we do it? Recent research shows there’s an actual scientific reason for why we procrastinate and that we CAN work to grow out of this self-sabotaging behavior.

Procrastination is a tendency, attitude or behavioral trait described as an indecisive state lacking in will power and vitality to do the work (Shah, 2000). It’s a form of “self-regulation” characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences (Prem, R., Scheel, T. E., Weigelt, O., Hoffmann, K., & Korunka, C., 2018). Research shows a majority of college students consider themselves to be procrastinators but also one in five adults consider themselves procrastinators (Steel, 2007). Studies have shown chronic procrastinators perform overall more poorly and don’t feel as satisfied with their work.

So, if we know it’s so bad.. Why do we procrastinate? Research shows procrastination might actually be in our genes and the tendency to procrastinate can run in families (Gustavson, D. E., Miyake, A., Hewitt, J. K., & Friedman, N. P, 2014). But don’t let that deter you from trying to work on your procrastination habit. Here are a few reasons why we might find ourselves procrastinating and how we can combat the urge.

You Don’t Find the Task Urgent

Usually, we tend to focus on something that’s right in front of us whether that is a crying baby or a ringing phone. It might be harder to feel urgency to complete a task that doesn’t need our attention right this minute.

Solution: Focus on the bigger picture. A human phenomena called temporal discounting says humans are wired to consider the needs of the present more strongly than the needs of the future. Try to look at everyday tasks through the lens of your bigger picture. For example, if you’ve been thinking about going back to school but never seem to get around to applying, think about what this might mean for your future life. Would having this specific degree help you improve your life by getting you a better job and in turn making more money? Once you look at things through a new perspective, you might be more compelled to take action.

You Don’t Know How to Start or What Comes Next

Sometimes things fall to the waste-side because we simply don’t know where to start or what to do next. Maybe you’ve completed the first step and are thinking to yourself “now what?”

Solution: Build confusion into the task. Start by acknowledging that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or confused when you’re just starting out. You can build confusion into the task by adding in steps like “figure out steps” or “go for a walk and think about steps” anything that will simply get you moving in the right direction

You’re Afraid You Might Fail

For some of us this might be a no-brainer. Failing is never fun and is a potential outcome when trying anything new so you might have adopted the mindset “can’t fail if you don’t try.”

Solution: Let go of the idea that your performance, or success equals your self-worth. There is so much more to you as a person than what you achieve-your passions, experiences, friends, knowledge, how you treat other people, etc. Allow yourself to have self-worth that is not tied to your achievements.

You Just Don’t Want To

The oldest reason for not doing something or putting it off, you simply don’t want to. Maybe it’s boring, or difficult, or you’d rather be doing anything else than working on that report.

Solution: Set time aside to procrastinate. This might sound silly if you’re trying to NOT procrastinate. But if you’re a chronic procrastinator, this might be your saving grace. A study conducted by the European Journal of Personality found that many college students who procrastinate did so simply because there was a fun alternative to studying at the time- but they intended to study later. According to the study, they actually did study and studied MORE than the non-procrastinators. In other words, if you KNOW you’re going to procrastinate, allow yourself some time to do so but be strict on the amount of time.

If you have trouble with procrastinating and think you might benefit from receiving professional help, request an appointment with one of our therapists today!

Shah, A.S. (2000). Exploring The World Of English: A Practical Course In Composition, Lahore: Markazi Kutub Khana.
Gustavson, D. E., Miyake, A., Hewitt, J. K., & Friedman, N. P. (2014). Genetic Relations Among Procrastination, Impulsivity, and Goal-Management Ability. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1178–1188. doi: 10.1177/0956797614526260

Hendriksen, E. (2018, August 15). 5 Ways to Finally Stop Procrastinating. Retrieved March 5, 2020, from
Hussain, I., & Sultan, S. (2010). Analysis of procrastination among university students. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 1897–1904. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.385

Prem, R., Scheel, T. E., Weigelt, O., Hoffmann, K., & Korunka, C. (2018). Procrastination in Daily Working Life: A Diary Study on Within-Person Processes That Link Work Characteristics to Workplace Procrastination. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01087

Shah, A.S. (2000). Exploring The World Of English: A Practical Course In Composition, Lahore: Markazi Kutub Khana.