August 17, 2017

4 Fundamental Reasons Why People Procrastinate

Are you a procrastinator? Do you know why you procrastinate? Why do people procrastinate? It doesn't matter what part of the world you're from each time procrastination strikes it's for one or more 4 fundamental reasons.

It's no secret that we’re all guilty of procrastination. For some of us, it’s a trivial issue. For others, it seems like procrastination is as much a part of life as eating or sleeping. As humans, we procrastinate. It's what we do. But why do we do it? Why do people procrastinate? What is it that keeps us procrastinating? Even when we all know it's a sure-fire way to sabotage our own success? What is it that stokes the fire of procrastination inside of each of us? Below are the four fundamental reasons why people of all walks of life procrastinate.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

The reasons why people procrastinate can take on many different forms. While some forms are more frequent than others, the one common denominator among these is that — we all procrastinate for various reasons. While there's an endless number of reasons people procrastinate, each one can be linked to one of the following 4 fundamental reasons.

1. It's Unpleasant

Quite frankly, if the task is unpleasant, we procrastinate. It's natural to have an aversion to doing things we don't enjoy. For instance, if you have an upcoming assignment that is particularly awful, you'll have no problem coming up with an endless list of more important things to do. In such instances, it's easier to come up with reasons not to or, wait or to tell yourself — "I'll do it tomorrow."

Generally speaking, the more unpleasant the task or activity, the less motivated we are to take action on it. It's a common misconception to believe that we need to be ‘motivated’ to take action. But, as David D. Burns suggests in The Feeling Good Handbook, it’s quite the opposite. David D. Burns writes that to get a task done, you can't wait for motivation or inspiration. You just have to start 'doing'. Once you do, then the motivation will come. It’s the 'doing' that has to come first which then spurs the motivation.

Right now, there's a task that needs your attention. A school assignment, college essay, or business report you should be working on. Compared to all the more pleasant things you could be doing, when you think about doing it, it will seem like an unappealing option. But, if you actually start doing it, as David D. Burns suggests, it won't seem so bad. Try it. Sit at your desk, open the programs, applications, or tools you need to get the work done and just start. Who knows, you might just find it to be more pleasant than you thought it to be.

Pro tip: Make it enjoyable.

2. It's Overwhelming

People tend to procrastinate if a task seems overwhelming. Sometimes, even the thought can be too much to handle. Today, students all over the world will procrastinate over doing an assignment because it seems time-consuming and arduous. Before starting they think about all the things that will be involved. The hours of research, note-taking, critical thinking, writing, formatting, and so on.

It's hard to know where to begin so, of course, it's hard to get the task started. There might be confusion as to what exactly you need to do or how to accomplish it. For students writing an essay, it may be dealing with the forethoughts of: “what should the central premise of my essay be about,” “how do I approach it?”, “what are the critical areas I should cover?”, “how should I structure it?”, “where do I start my research?”. Just the thought of pondering the questions is enough for anyone to say: “that’s a lot to think about it, I’ll come back to it later.”

The trick is, to begin with, the little parts you know you can do. From there, it's usually relatively easy to find your way. And, before you know it, the task will be complete.

Pro tip: Start small.

3. It's Not a Must

Procrastinators, love to use the word "should." Listen out for them. They’re all around us. They say things like: “I should do this”, or “I should do that.” But rarely will you ever find them doing the things they say they “should” be doing. Sound familiar? Instead of using the word “should” what if you replaced it with a “must.” Instead of going around touting statements like “I should do this”, what if you instead said; “I must do this.” Does it change the way you think and feel about that item on your to-do list?

When we make something an absolute must, it becomes a priority. “I [must] spend an hour on my assignment,” “I [must] make that phone call,” “I [must] go to the gym.” When it becomes a priority, it gets done. Life strategist and entrepreneur Tony Robbins is full of quotes that perfectly encapsulate life's hurdles and how to conquer them. Procrastination is no different. As Tony says: "The road to 'someday' leads to a town of nowhere.”

Just like using the word “should”, procrastinators are also good at using the phrase "someday". They'll spend a lot of time planning for "someday" but time taking action on it. Their intentions may be in the right place, but the intention is nothing if it's not followed up with serious hard work. As a result, more often than not, it’s the same people still talking about "someday" years down the track.

Pro tip: Make it a must.

4. We Don’t Have the Energy

Many of us lead busy lives. We have to balance sports with school, school with work and, work with family. As a result, we burnt out. The reality is, with everything that demands our energy every day, it's easy to say there's nothing left in the tank.

We procrastinate by telling ourselves: “I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow”, or “I’m exhausted, I’ll start it later.” We procrastinate because we’re exhausted — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Pro tip: Do it first.

See also: How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Living.

Why Do You Procrastinate?

People procrastinate about all sorts of things for many different reasons. It doesn’t matter if they say it's because of the weather or because they decided organizing their desk was more important. Each time procrastination strikes, it’s likely directly related to one of the four root causes listed here.

Now, it's up to you. If your procrastination is a mild case, don't worry too much about it. We all do it, and for some of us, it's no big deal. But, if it's causing major issues in your life, be honest with yourself. Acknowledge the fact you’re procrastinating and do something about it. Once you know that, you'll be able to work out how to deflect the habit for good.