The Psychology Behind Procrastination

A non-committal “I’ll do it later” could possibly be where it all comes tumbling down


Procrastination, the action of delaying or postponing something, is a challenge we have all faced at one point or another. Delaying, avoiding and procrastinating on issues that matter to us can affect our overall performance of the task given. Whether you’re putting off finishing assignments, avoiding a project for work or studying at the last moment for a test, procrastination can have a major impact on your grades and your life. Despite its negative consequences, procrastinating can be habitual and chronic procrastinators intentionally delay starting or finishing a task. More than 20% of the people are chronic procrastinators and almost 90% of college students across the world procrastinate. No matter how well organized a procrastinator can be, he/she finds some or the other interesting thing to do that gives instant gratification while he/she must have been spending that time doing a task that has a specific deadline.

This leads us to question, why do we procrastinate and wait until the last minute?

The procrastination sweet spot

The most common reason a person procrastinates is because he/she does not know how to do something, or he/she is not completely interested in doing that task. Lacking the initiative to get started, waiting for the right moment and needing time to think about the task also leads to consuming more time and thus keeping things for the last moment. Procrastinators always have the habit of waiting until the last minute because they might feel that they are not in the right mood to do it or believe that they can work better under pressure thinking that they can finish it at the last minute. Procrastinators often assume that the tasks won’t take as long to finish as they really will, which can lead to a false sense of security as it leads us to believe that we still have plenty of time to complete these tasks. One of the biggest factors contributing to procrastination is the notion that we have to feel inspired or motivated to work on a task at a particular moment but you will probably find that the right time simply never comes along and the task never gets completed.

Considering how common procrastination can be a part of our day to day life, overcoming it can bring great benefits. The first thing to note is to find out the right reason why you delay your tasks. If it’s because you seek for temporary satisfaction, try to associate with having a positive outcome after completing your task. Reward yourself with something once you are done with your task. This helps you in not wanting instant gratification and can also help you in realizing the importance of completing the task within the stipulated time. Keep a hard deadline for the given task either a few hours or days before the actual deadline so that you can schedule properly and even if you overestimated the time the task will take, you will have some time to complete it. Always learn from previous experiences and be kind to yourself while following the schedule. Remind yourself of the not-so-good outcomes of not completing the task and work on it until you are done. Finally, if you feel really useless and you are not in the right mood to do the task, try following the ‘5 Minute rule’. According to psychologists, The 5-minute rule is a cognitive behavioral therapy technique for procrastination in which you set a goal of doing whatever it is you would otherwise avoid, but only do it for five minutes. What most people find is that after five minutes of doing something, it’s easy to continue until the task is done. Setting the intention and starting is usually the hardest part but by thinking about the task as something that may take only 5 minutes, it feels much less overwhelming and a lot more doable.  

Pushing on in short bursts will do the trick

Although the steps to overcome procrastination are simple, it might seem daunting to get over procrastinating. But once you are organized and really care about your deadlines, you will feel satisfied about how your tasks get completed right on time. But yeah, as all the procrastinators say, I’ll start from tomorrow.

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Dhiraj Kumar

A knowledgeable, down to earth person with a touch of humour and special interest in traveling, cooking and drawing.

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