A modern-day plague, procrastination, or in other words, the gap between the intention and the action, is about more than just being lazy or having poor time management skills. Contrary to popular belief, procrastination can have more complex psychological causes at play. Even though everyone procrastinates, not everyone is a procrastinator.
A growing amount of scientific evidence suggests that procrastination has to do more with emotion regulation than time management. Procrastinators tend to have difficulty regulating their emotions, which leads them to avoid tasks that they anticipate will evoke negative emotions. People procrastinate for various reasons, such as an aversion to a task, a fear of failure, frustration, self-doubt, and anxiety. Procrastination can be defined as an avoidance strategy and a coping mechanism for dealing with negative emotions. There have been many scientific studies that have attempted to understand why procrastination happens. Some of the key findings from these studies include the following:
Procrastination is associated with poor self-regulation, which is the ability to control impulses and delay gratification to achieve long-term goals. Studies have found that procrastinators have lower levels of self-regulation and are more likely to give in to immediate impulses and distractions (Steel, 2007).
1) Procrastination is associated with negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have found that people who procrastinate are more likely to experience negative emotions in response to tasks, which is a major factor in their procrastination (Pychyl et al., 2000).
2) Procrastination is associated with perfectionism. Studies have found that people who are perfectionists tend to procrastinate more than those who are not perfectionists because they are afraid of making mistakes or not achieving their high standards (Ferrari & Tice, 2000).
3) Procrastination is associated with impulsivity, characterized by the tendency to act impulsively without considering the consequences of one's actions. Studies have found that more impulsive people tend to procrastinate more than those who are less impulsive (Sirois, 2014)
4) Procrastination is associated with a need for more interest in the task at hand. Studies have found that people who lack interest in the task at hand tend to procrastinate more than those who are more interested in the task (Tice & Baumeister, 1997)
How to Overcome Procrastination
Importance of Self-Awareness: First, to overcome procrastination, you need to understand all the reasons why you procrastinate and the function procrastination serves in your life. Understanding the root of the problem is important when trying to solve a problem. To overcome procrastination, it is crucial to identify the underlying reason and the emotions for the behavior and to develop strategies to address them. Some strategies that have been found effective in overcoming procrastination include:
1) Making to-do lists and prioritizing tasks by using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix (a tool that helps to organize tasks based on their importance and urgency)
2) Setting realistic goals and deadlines
3) Eliminating distractions such as social media
4) Using positive self-talk and visualization
5) Remember, rest is not procrastinating!
6) Finding ways to increase your interest in the task at hand
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65–94.
Pychyl, T. A., Lee, J. M., Thibodeau, R., & Blunt, A. (2000). Five days of emotion: An experience sampling study of undergraduate student procrastination. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 15(5), 239–254.
Ferrari, J. R., & Tice, D. M. (2000). Procrastination as a self-handicap for men and women: A task-avoidance strategy in a laboratory setting. Journal of Research in Personality, 34(1), 73–83.
Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). Longitudinal study of procrastination, performance, stress, and health: The cost and benefits of dawdling. Psychological Science, 8(6), 454–458.
Sirois, F. M. (2014). Procrastination and the priority of short-term mood regulation: Consequences for future self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(2), 94–106.