1-800-382-2377

Why people procrastinate

What Makes You Procrastinate?

All of us procrastinate on occasion. For some people, it's a chronic problem; for others, it's only a problem in certain life areas. Procrastination is always frustrating because it results in wasted time, lost opportunities, disappointing work performance, and generally feeling bad about yourself.

When you procrastinate, you allow less important tasks to take up the time and space that should be devoted to more important things. You do things like hanging out with friends when you know that an important work project is due soon, or going shopping instead of doing your homework. It can also be evident in behavior such as talking about trivial things with your partner to avoid discussing important issues in your relationship.

Why People Procrastinate

There is no simple answer to why people procrastinate; there are many reasons why people put things off. Here are a few of the most common.

  • Avoiding discomfort. Wanting to avoid pain makes lots of people shift into procrastination mode. However, the longer we delay, the worse the uncomfortable problem usually becomes. The rash gets bigger, the tooth hurts more, or the brakes squeak even more loudly.
  • Perfectionism. Those who believe they must produce the perfect report may obsess about uncovering every last information source and then write draft after draft. Their search for the perfect product takes up so much time that they miss their deadline.
  • Laziness. Sometimes people delay tasks that involve fairly slight inconvenience or minor discomfort.
  • Thinking you're not good enough. Some people are certain that they are incompetent. They think that they will fail, and procrastinate to avoid ever putting their skills to the test.
  • Self-doubt. If you second-guess yourself, you probably suffer from procrastination. You may avoid new challenges and opportunities unless you are certain that you will succeed. Perhaps you make feeble attempts to begin a project, and you tell yourself that you could do a better job if you put in more effort.
  • Workaholism. At the other end of the spectrum, many people who work excessively also fall into this category. They drive themselves ruthlessly, fearing that if they stop working, they will not be able to start again. Most self-doubters are driven by the belief that they must meet strict standards in order to see themselves as successful.

Physics Review

Remember the concept of inertia: a mass at rest tends to stay at rest.  For some reason, it is more difficult for most humans to start change than to keep it going.

Why Don't We Just Say No?

Since procrastination produces mostly negative outcomes, why don't we just change our behavior and eliminate these undesirable consequences? The reason for this is that procrastination reinforces itself. For some reason, it is more difficult for most humans to start change than to keep it going. We avoid getting started by cleverly diverting our attention from the things we really should be doing. We do something else instead or make up a story about how we will accomplish the task in the future-when we are inspired, or when we have completed a preliminary step, or some other trick.

Although recognizing how these diversions work won't automatically cure your procrastination, being aware of it is a good place to start working on the problem. Once you are aware of the ways that you procrastinate, you can start to change your behavior.

If procrastination is a problem for you, FirstCALL can help.  Call 1-800-382-2377 to schedule an appointment.

 

  • Print This Page
  • Email This Page
  • Bookmark This Page
  • Smallest Font
  • Medium Font
  • Large Font
  • Extra Large Font
My MLH
  • Sign Up
  • Log In

Online tools to help manage your daily life.
Learn More...

Quick Links


 
©2010 Main Line Health. By using This Web site, you accept these terms of use. Please read our privacy statement. The Web site for Main Line Health, its contents and programs, is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice nor is it intended to create any physician-patient relationship. Please remember that this information should not substitute for a visit or a consultation with a health care provider. The views or opinions expressed in the resources provided do not necessarily reflect those of Main Line Health or its staff.

FIRSTCALL Employee Assistance Program 1-800-382-2377
Copyright ©2014 FIRSTCALL