I’ve always struggled with starting on tasks. I keep procrastinating and distracting myself until I start to feel crippling guilt, and once I do start – there is no stopping me.

I’ve experienced this painful process in many areas of life – from exercising to writing these lines. Since I know plenty of people, who are fighting the same battle, I decided to investigate, “What makes us procrastinate?”.

The consequences of procrastination

I can still remember the words of my 3rd grade teacher, as if she said them to me 15 minutes ago, rather than 15 long years in the past: “Liya, you are like those old heaters – you can barely muster up the energy to start, but once you do – you just can’t stop.” The classroom filled with laughter, and I squinched my eyes in disapproval. I admit, with reluctance, that my teacher must have been quite perceptive. That or my tendency to procrastinate was obvious, even at 10 years old.

As they say, shared pain is half the pain, and ever since, I’ve met many others, who share my struggle. For most of us, once we get started, the task no longer seems tedious, in fact, we begin to enjoy it and forget why we’ve procrastinated for so long…until the next time.

We all sometimes struggle with procrastination

According to prof. Joseph Ferrari, a psychologist, who deals with the issue of procrastination, there are 3 main types of people who like to put tasks off: 1

The thrill-seekers: they enjoy the adrenaline rush of crises and experience an almost euphoric feeling, upon doing their work at the last minute.

Those who fear failure/success: fear of success is almost as widespread as fear of failure. In both cases, however, these people subconsciously prefer others to think that they are lazy, rather than incapable.

The decision-avoiders: avoiding decisions leads to both procrastination and lack of responsibility for one’s own life.

Of course, we don’t make these choices consciously – they are subconscious processes. However, if we try to find our own pattern, we’d be able to break it.

We, the procrastinators, are not lazy – after all, once we manage to start, we do a good job. So what is so strong that it makes us procrastinate and disregard our own wellbeing?

The vicious cycle of wasted time

According to a study, which compared 691 factors with procrastination, the is answer is found in 7 main ingredients: task difficulty, allotted time (the more time we have, the more we procrastinate), self-efficacy (how well we believe we can do), self-control, distractibility, and motivation for success. 2

Another study looked at 342 college students and further proved that it’s not just the task that matters, but also our own confidence. Researchers found that the factor “fear of failure” is one of the main triggers for procrastination 3. The same study demonstrated that people who had more cognitive distortions (which will be discussed in a future post) were also more scared of failing.

Although some people tend to procrastinate more than others, the good news is that you can change that quite easily! Here you will find 5 well-tested methods of coping with procrastination.

What do you think is your reason for procrastinating?

References

  1. Ferrari, J. R. (2010). Still procrastinating: The no-regrets guide to getting it done. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  2. Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65
  3. Solomon, L. J., & Rothblum, E. D. (1984). Academic procrastination: Frequency and cognitive-behavioral correlates. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31(4), 503-509. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.31.4.503