Why do we procrastinate & what to do about it?

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It’s Monday. A perfect time to make a new beginning and finally start working on your big project that you have procrastinated on. You are rested, you feel good, you open your laptop and start working.

But wait, there is also an important email that your co-worker was supposed to answer by Monday morning. Let’s check it to have more information to start the project.

There is no answer yet, but instead you see an interesting email about a big sale coming in your favorite online shop. It’s only for a limited time, so let’s make sure you don’t miss any great deal.

Some clicks in the online shop. Then you are directed to Facebook. There you see notifications. You wish a happy birthday to your friend’s acquaintance’s mother-in-law. You notice a cool video and end up on YouTube.

Then your friend is calling to ask about your weekend. Then a co-worker wants some help with his task. Then you feel hungry and go take a snack. Then you notice that the trash bin is full and you take it out. Then you meet a neighbor and have a chat. Then you finally remember about your big project and decide to start with it.

But somehow it is so complicated that you have no idea what you should begin with. Then you are invited to have lunch and you decide that anyway you can’t work with an empty stomach. You will start after lunch.

Coming back, there are the next distractions, obstacles, attention grabbers and so on. You procrastinate and procrastinate and finally you are getting stressed and overwhelmed and anxious and so on.

Sounds familiar? In one or another way we have all been there – postponing the important tasks. But why does it happen?


The procrastination equation

When we need to get something done, we rely on our self-control, to make us take action. Self-control is like a competition in ourselves between impulsivity and doing what’s right or beneficial. It’s the ability to control emotions, impulses or behaviors to achieve a greater goal.

Self-control is supported by our motivation – expectation of receiving some reward for our efforts. If we completely lack motivation to do a task, nothing happens. Depending on the complexity of the task, we might get away only with a bit of motivation, when the assignment is easy enough. 

Quite often we also experience some demotivating factors. We might have fear of failure, the task could be unpleasant or we just feel overwhelmed. Besides there can be some other hindering factors like exhaustion, perfectionism or distraction.

Shortly said, when demotivating and hindering factors outweigh self-control and motivation we are going to procrastinate.


What can be done to avoid postponing our tasks?

As we see from the simple equation, we have to make sure that the combination of demotivating and hindering factors is lower than our self-control and motivation.

Like always, if we want to start making some changes, we have to become aware of the situation. In this case we need self-awareness and your understanding about the reasons why you procrastinate. 

The factors that affect you are likely different by the tasks you have to do. For example, you are postponing writing the report because of some reasons and going to the gym for other reasons. Although they both can also happen for instance because of your exhaustion. 

For now, think about one task or situation when you usually procrastinate. Try to figure out what kind of demotivating or hindering factors you have. Is there something that is distracting you? Are you usually too tired to do it? Are you afraid of something? Maybe you don’t care about this task and it is unpleasant for you? Are you lacking motivation or self-control?

There can be a lot of different factors and combinations of them. Also they don’t have to be the same all the time. On some days there can be one distraction, on other days some new obstacles.

So become aware of the reasons you procrastinate. The better you know yourself the easier it is to change something!

How to make these changes and how to use habits to fight with procrastination? You will know from the coming blog posts.