Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now

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Overall, we procrastinate because our self-control and motivation, which might be hindered by factors such as lack of energy or delay between the present and the time when we expect to be rewarded for our efforts, are outweighed by negative factors, such as anxiety or exhaustion.

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This causes us to fail to self-regulate our behavior , which means that we postpone things unnecessarily, even when we know we should be doing them, which is why procrastination often leads to a gap between how we intend to act and how we act in reality. Note : there are some exceptions to this, in cases where procrastination is driven by some other factor , such as rebelliousness or the desire to add excitement to otherwise boring work. However, for the most part, the mechanism outlined above is the main one which explains why people procrastinate.

Procrastination-Why You Do It And What To Do About It Now By Jane B Burka and Lenora M Yuen

This section contains a comprehensive list of the specific reasons why people procrastinate, based primarily on the psychological mechanism which was outlined in the previous section. Try to be reflective and honest with yourself while you do this, since figuring out the underlying causes of your procrastination is crucial if you want to be able to successfully overcome it. Note that not everything here will apply to you, so feel free to skim through the list, and read primarily about reasons that you think could apply in your particular situation.

People are more likely to procrastinate when their goals are vague or abstract, compared to when their goals are concrete and clearly-defined. Furthermore, note that in addition to a lack of a clear definition, there are other factors that can make a goal feel abstract. This means that if a person finds it unlikely that they will attain a certain goal, this can cause them to view that goal as abstract, which in turn can increase the likelihood that they will procrastinate on it. Note that the relationship between the time it takes to receive a reward and the perceived value of that reward is usually inconsistent, as the rate of discounting decreases over time.

For example, while there is a big difference in how we value a reward that we can receive now compared to a reward we can receive in a week, there is a much smaller difference in how we value a reward we can receive in a year compared to a reward we can receive in a year plus a week. Similarly, while there is a big difference between receiving a reward in a day compared to in a year, there is less of a difference between receiving a reward in a year compared to receiving it in two years.

Finally, note that the same concept can also apply to punishments , in addition to rewards. Essentially, this means that the farther in the future a potential punishment is, the less it motivates people to take action.

Procrastination – 7 Steps to Cure

This disconnect between the present and future selves can cause people to procrastinate in a variety of ways. This mindset can lead to long-term procrastination, and persist even in cases where the person who is procrastinating never ends up following through on their intended plan. People sometimes procrastinate on tasks because they are optimistic about their ability to complete those tasks in the future. For example, a student might decide to postpone getting started on an assignment that is due a few weeks from now, because they feel that there will be plenty of time to get it done later.

Similarly, a person might decide, after struggling to get started on a task, to postpone it to the next day, because they believe that tomorrow they will be able to bring themself to work on it, even if they have postponed the same task in the exact same manner several times in the past.

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  5. The main factors to consider, from a practical perspective, are the following:. People sometimes procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed with regards to the tasks that they need to handle. A feeling of overwhelm can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as having a single task that feels huge in terms of scope, or having a large number of small tasks that add up.

    When this happens, a person might simply decide to avoid the tasks in question, or they might attempt to handle them, but then end up feeling paralyzed before those tasks are completed. For example, if you need to clean up your entire house, the fact that the task will take so long and involve so many parts might cause you to feel overwhelmed, in which case you might avoid getting started on it in the first place.

    People sometimes procrastinate because they feel anxious about a task that they need to handle. People often procrastinate because they are averse to the tasks that they need to perform. This occurs because, in general, the more people find a certain task unappealing, the more likely they are to want to avoid it, and therefore the more likely they are to procrastinate.

    For example, a person might procrastinate because they perceive a task as frustrating, tedious, or boring, or they might procrastinate because they believe there is a gap between the difficulty of the task and their own competence, which means that they feel that the task is too difficult for them to handle.

    Why fight procrastination?

    People sometimes procrastinate as a result of their perfectionism. For example, someone might delay working on their book, because they want every line that they write down to be perfect from the start, which causes them to not write anything at all. Whether the influence of this fear is positive or negative depends on a variety of factors, such as how anxious a person feels about the upcoming evaluation, and how confident they are in their ability to successfully handle the task at hand.

    This fear of failure can promote procrastination in various ways, such as by causing people to avoid finishing a task, or by causing them to avoid getting started on a task in the first place. For example, someone might be so worried that their business idea will fail, that they end up continuing to work on it indefinitely, without ever making it available to the public.

    Conversely, when people feel that they are well-equipped to deal with a certain task, fear of failure can serve as a motivating factor, that encourages people to avoid procrastinating.

    For example, someone might be confident in their ability to perform a task well but still worry about receiving unjustified negative feedback from others, or they might worry about failing at something even if no one else will know about it. For example, a student might procrastinate instead of studying for a test, because they prefer knowing that they failed due to their procrastination, instead of knowing that they failed because they were unable to understand the material well. As a result of this defense mechanism, certain procrastinators spend more time procrastinating if they believe that they are likely to fail when it comes to the task at hand, especially if they feel that a failure will reflect badly on them.

    Note that people can have different levels of self-efficacy with regards to different domains in their life. For instance, a person might have high levels of academic self-efficacy, but low levels of social self-efficacy, which means that they believe in their abilities when it comes to tasks that are academic in nature, but not when it comes to tasks that are social in nature. Furthermore, self-efficacy can relate to specific tasks or abilities. The most notable among these, in this context, is self-efficacy with regard to your ability to self-regulate your behavior , in order to get yourself to complete tasks in a timely manner.

    This is because the belief that you will be unable to avoid procrastinating could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which encourages you to procrastinate in situations where you might have otherwise been able to get your work done on time.

    Procrastination (Audiobook) by Jane B. Burka PhD, Lenora M. Yuen PhD |

    People sometimes procrastinate because they feel incapable of controlling the outcomes of events in their life. For example, a person might delay getting started on an assignment at work, if they feel that their boss will criticize it regardless of how much effort they put into it. Though this perceived lack of control can play a role in specific, isolated cases, some people are more predisposed to feeling a general lack of control than others. The locus of control is described on a spectrum of internality and externality :.

    Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It

    Individuals who are internally oriented tend to get started and complete tasks on time , while individuals who are externally oriented tend to procrastinate more , perform worse on tasks, and experience more anxiety. For example, a person might procrastinate because their ADHD makes it hard for them to concentrate on a single task for long, especially once it gets boring, so they constantly jump from one task to another, without finishing any of them.

    In general, research shows that there is a significant correlation between engaging in ADHD-related behaviors and procrastination. Usually delivered in 3 weeks? Burka Jane B.

    How I Beat Procrastination By Doing This 1 Thing

    Atlantic 3. Based on their workshops and counseling experience, psychologists Jane B. Burka and Lenora M. Yuen offer a probing, sensitive, and at times humorous look at a problem that affects everyone: students and scientists, secretaries and executives, homemakers and salespeople.

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    8. Procrastination identifies the reasons we put off tasks,fears of failure, success, control, separation, and attachment,and their roots in our childhood and adult experiences. The authors offer a practical, tested program to overcome procrastination by achieving set goals, managing time, enlisting support, and handling stress.

      Burka and Yuen even provide tips on living and working with the procrastinators you may know. Wise, effective, and easy to use, this new edition shows why for 25 years Procrastination has been an immediate must-have for anyone who puts things off until tomorrow. Frequently Bought Together.