Mental Health

Why We Procrastinate (And How To Stop)

Psychologists have uncovered several reasons why we put off important work. And while it has been proven that procrastination is not a result of laziness, there are a few simple ways to keep yourself in check and get things done on time.

By Adarsh Soni
17 Jun 2021


What is procrastination?

Have you ever sat down to finish an important task—and then suddenly discovered you were reading about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck getting back together? Or perhaps you suddenly realise that your plants need to be watered, old emails need to be answered—or maybe you should go ahead and binge watch that show you’ve been putting on hold since ages. Next thing you know, the day has already ended and your important task remains unfulfilled. This is what procrastination looks like. And don’t worry, we all do it.



Why do we procrastinate?

According to a research paper supervised by Dr Timothy A. Pychyl, psychologist and director of the Procrastination Research Group, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, there are six main reasons behind our need to procrastinate:

  • Inevitable Delay: For example, when you’re physically ill and can’t finish an important task so you’re bound to procrastinate while you recover.
  • Arousal delay: This is about pushing a task off until the very last moment because a part of you relishes the adrenaline rush and the sense of relief that follows.
  • Hedonistic delay: Choosing something more enjoyable over an important task. For example, gallivanting on a beautiful day instead of preparing for that presentation you’ve been avoiding.
  • Psychological delay: This is more serious and is common in situations when you’re depressed or dealing with loss of any kind. In other words, emotional distress stops you from finishing your tasks on time.
  • Purposeful delay: This involves delaying something important due to rational reasons. For example, you know that you can finish some quick tasks while you’re stuck in traffic, but it makes sense to wait so that you can execute them with full concentration.
  • Irrational delay: When you’re nervous or stressed about something, certain tasks seem harder than they actually are. The phrase “My nerves got the best of me” comes to mind.



How to get back on track

  • Take it easy: You must understand that procrastination is not the enemy. It’s just our body’s way of reacting to certain things. Before you begin any task, take deep breaths or meditate if you have time. The more you’re relaxed, the better you will perform.
  • Promise yourself a reward: If you finish your work on time, reward yourself with something that makes you feel good. Your favourite dessert, some retail therapy—it can be anything. The key is to remember how happy you feel after meeting your deadlines.
  • Ask a friend for help: Sometimes all we need is someone else telling us to get back on track. It can be your co-worker, or even your mom. Think of it like an exclusive self-help group of two.
  • Minimise distractions: This is one of the most effective ways of minimising your urge to procrastinate. Switch off your Instagram notifications, and work in your office (or home office) instead of sitting on the couch near the television.
  • Figure out your ‘peak time’ and schedule things accordingly:If you’re a morning person then wake up early and finish the most important tasks before starting your day, and if you’re a night person, get enough rest during the day so that you feel energised while working at night. The key is to find a time when you feel the most productive.
  • Apps can make things easier: If you don’t have anyone constantly pushing you to perform better, we suggest trying some of these free apps that are available on both Android and Apple play stores: Focus To-Do, RescueTime, Beeminder, Checky. And if you need something for your desktop, you can download the ‘Freedom’ app that can block an unlimited amount of distracting websites.


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