Why do We Procrastinate and How to Stop it

By Y K Gupta

Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it depicted by words Stop Waiting carved on a castle of sand

Almost every one of us is a victim of our ever prevailing habit of procrastination. But have you ever asked yourself the question – Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it?

In this article we will try to find out answers for these two questions. First I will discuss why you procrastinate and then how to stop it. The answers of which are so very important for our future achievements.

So now when you know in your heart and mind that you are procrastinating  and you also know that a particular work is important. Yet, instead of completing that important task you let yourself fall prey of some small short term comfort.

Why you let it happen to you? Read on for the definitive answers.

So first let us find out the answers for the question why you procrastinate?

There are lot many reasons responsible for why you procrastinate ranging from fear of failure, to lesser talked about, but one of the most important reasons- your genes. Let us discuss them all.

1. You procrastinate because procrastination is in your genes

Our ancestors lived in an environment where their short term goals were more important for their survival.

As unlike today’s time when almost all your short term needs are provided for almost instantly, our ancestors have to struggle and prioritize the goal of arranging for their food over their other long term goals.

They lived in an environment of very high levels of uncertainties regarding even towards the immediate future not to talk of long term goals.

And it was very prudent for them to give priority to the short term or immediate goals. Goals like arranging for food and protecting themselves from becoming the prey of wild animals.

And as a result your mind are also programmed for prioritizing immediate and short term goals  over the long term goals. The study shows that this programming of our minds is responsible for 50% of our procrastination habit.

2. You procrastinate because you want to avoid unpleasant feelings and stress

Your mind love pleasure and pleasant feelings and wants to avoid unpleasant and stressful conditions. It is the innate nature of not only of human beings but also of every living creature.

But you need to understand that if you don’t prioritize your goals correctly and keep on putting off important things which produce unpleasant feeling, then stress will not go away but will come back haunting you increased many fold.

You procrastinate because you want to feel good at the moment. And to achieve this feel good feeling you choose to go for short term pleasures over your long term goals.

And therefore, you take the unwise decision of chasing shallow enjoyments, instead of taking the correct decision of choosing short term pains for long term gains.

But putting off those short term pains will increase their intensity. Further, this approach will not work, as ultimately you have to face them and continuously putting them off will only increase your stress and pain.

The findings of studies also show that if you are a habitual  procrastinator then you may find yourself struggling with the problems related to blood pressure and ailments related to your heart.

Further, continuous stress built by your habit of procrastination may lead to increased anxiety and may even push you in to depression.

3. You procrastinate due to your fear of failure

As I have discussed that your mind wants to avoid unpleasant feelings and want to chase short term pleasures.

So whenever you are faced with any such task which you find is important to do, but which you feel is not urgent and you can put it off. And also you feel you may fail in completing that particular task due to self doubts, then you tend to procrastinate.

But putting that work off is not a solution as ultimately you have to do some important works pleasant or otherwise, if you want to achieve anything worthwhile in the life.

Completing your important tasks ‘now’ will also save you from the building up of stress. As whenever you put off an important task it comes back to you with increased stress and urgency.

4. You procrastinate because of your lack of skill/knowledge

Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it depicted by signage reading stop procrastnation
Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it

Sometimes reason for your procrastinating on some tasks might be that you don’t possess sufficient skill or knowledge to complete that work.

Again solution is not in putting off that work but lies in learning that particular skill or gaining the required knowledge for completing that task.

5. You procrastinate because of distractions around you

More often than not you work in an environment where there is lot many distractions around you. Your mobile phone is one of the most annoying of them. And then there is TV and unscheduled visitors.

So whenever you make up your mind for working on some important task, you find your omnipresent mobile phone around. And instead of starting your important task you just start checking whats app messages and face book updates.

Your mind easily gets attracted to the stuff which is entertaining. As you believe you will enjoy that. But this shallow enjoyment comes at a cost. And the cost is delay in your important tasks and long term goals.

6. You procrastinate because your mind is programmed for immediate gratification

As I have also discussed in my article Power of Self Restraint: The Marshmallow Test, your mind is programmed in favor of immediate gratification and very few people can delay gratification.

This trait comes from early evolution of human race. When managing for the immediate needs like food and survival by protecting yourself from the predators was more important than your long term goals.

Even today you are continuing with your early evolutionary programming. And when your basic needs are fulfilled you feel less motivated to work and therefore you procrastinate.

Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it depicted by a man sitting idle in front of a laptop
Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

7. You procrastinate because you want to do easy tasks and avoid the tough ones

You innately want to chase the pleasure and want to avoid the hardships. And therefore in completion of your tasks as well, you try to follow the same approach.

And result of this approach is that your important tasks which need some more efforts and are a little tougher to complete, get piled up. While less important tasks, but which are easy to do, take whole of your time available.

8. You procrastinate because you have not trained your mind to avoid immediate gratification in favor of delayed gratification

Your mind gets easily distracted, when it is attracted by the stuff which is entertaining or more enjoyable such as your favorite activities like checking your mobile every five minute or getting distracted by some trivial TV news and so on.

This happens because you have not trained your mind enough for avoiding immediate gratification in favor of your long term goals.

To get rid of this habit you have to train yourself to work with greater focus in a distraction free environment. 

The pomodoro technique which I have discussed in my article- Improve Your Productivity with Pomodoro Technique- can be of great help in achieving this objective.

Until now in this article we have tried to find out the answers of the why you procrastinate part of the question. And now we will dwell and try to find out answers for the later part of the question that is how to stop to procrastinate.

Meanwhile you can enjoy this video on the subject matter of stop to procrastinate if you are more inclined towards watching the subject matter in a video-

And now let us find out answers for the question how to stop to procrastinate?

As now when you are aware of the reasons why you procrastinate. And understanding this, why part of the procrastination, has now paved the way for finding out the answer of how to stop to procrastinate.

For getting rid of habit of procrastination-

1. Do toughest task first to learn how to stop to procrastinate

Your mind is programmed for the immediate gratifications and small enjoyments. And this is on the cost of your important tasks and long term goals.

But, now when you have become aware of this knowledge, then you can use this knowledge in favor of you which was until now was working against you.

So, first of all move on and take your toughest task head on.

2. Get started with 2 minute rule to learn how to stop to procrastinate

And for taking your toughest task head on you have to first get started. And for a sure this is the toughest part of getting out of the habit of procrastination.

But, you need not to worry as you now have two very effective tools in your hands to handle this challenge in the form of 2 minute rule and 5 minute rule.

The 2 minute rule is basically a system for getting started, where you have to complete the works which can be completed within 2 minutes now. Without putting them off.

The idea behind the 2 minute rule is getting you started and bring you from the state of rest to the state of motion.

And you will soon realize that when you make a small start by working on your short term goals for such a little time as 2 minutes. Then you start coming out of your comfort zone and also which results in you coming out of your habit of procrastination gradually.

For further details on how 2 minute rule works read my article- How to Conquer Procrastination with 2 Minute Rule.

3. Learn how to stop to procrastinate with the help of 5 minute rule

While 2 minute rule is for getting started, the idea behind the 5 minute rule is getting you in momentum for completing your task, which you keep on putting off.

5 minute rule challenges you to do the task you are putting off until now, for 5 minutes and after 5 minute you have full liberty to either continue with the task or leave it.

Fair enough!

And the study shows that most of the people get enough momentum for continuing with the task.

As even after completion of 5 minute duration they continue to work on the task in hand and either complete the task or complete at least a fair portion of task.

So if you are even a little bit serious about your long term goals and don’t want to lead a life of mediocrity then you can’t say ‘No’ to the 5 minute rule.

As 5 minutes is not a big cost for moving towards the achievements of so beautiful goals you always wanted to achieve.

Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it depicted by man lying on sofa in front of TV
Why do we procrastinate and how to stop it

4. To learn how to stop to procrastinate use pomodoro technique of avoiding distractions and improving your focus

As I have discussed earlier that one of the reason you procrastinate is that whenever you start working on your task; you meet some distraction in the form of somebody calling you over phone, some unscheduled visitors or some notification grabbing your attention and distracting from your task.

This distraction breaks your momentum of working on the task. And after that you get easily distracted of the task in hand and get involved in the pursuit of some short term enjoyment.

The pomodoro technique is basically a technique of time management and increasing focus.

This technique basically requires you to work in the 25 minute block of time, distraction free and focusing completely on the task in hand. And this 25 minute block of time is called one pomodoro.

After completion of one pomodoro you are allowed to take a break for 5 minute. For further detail read my article- Improve Your Productivity with Pomodoro Technique.

5. To learn how to stop to procrastinate improve your skills with the help of Coach, Mentor, Teacher, Books and Online courses/Articles

As I have discussed in earlier paragraphs that one of the reason why you procrastinate is that you might be lacking the skills or knowledge required to complete that particular work.

But answer here is not to give up and continue to procrastinate. It will not help. Rather you should find some good coach, mentor or teacher. However, in case of non availability of them, you may opt for taking some online course or reading some appropriate articles online.

I have discussed importance of coaches, mentors and teachers in much detail in my article- How to attain Expertise in Your Chosen Field.

To learn how to stop to procrastinate you have to practice delayed gratification

In the earlier paragraphs I have discussed that you procrastinate because your mind is programmed for immediate gratification, innately.

But, now when it is an established fact that delayed gratification is the key for long term success. Then you hardly have any choice but to understand this fact and train your mind for delayed gratification. And get out of the habit of going for the immediate gratification.

I have discussed how important delayed gratification is in achieving your long term goals and lead a life full of achievements and fulfillment in my articles- Power of Self Restraint: The Marshmallow Test and Can Delayed Gratification be Learned?

7. To learn how to stop to procrastinate you have to learn farsightedness and discipline

To achieve anything of any importance in life you need a disciplined approach towards your goals. This discipline is of choosing the IMPORTANT over the EASY.

This discipline is having enough farsightedness of following your long term goals for a life worth living. And this discipline is about choosing hard work and commitment towards your long term goals over the short term comforts and shallow enjoyments.

8. To learn how stop to procrastinate have your goals in writing

Keeping your goals in writing will help you immensely in getting you out of your habit of procrastination.

So, always keep your goals in writing with a well defined time limit to achieve them. Both, having your goal in writing and having a time limit to achieve them is immensely important in achieving your goals.

As when you write your goals then your goals come out of your mind and in the realm of reality, from where they start taking the shape. In the same manner a goal without a time limit is not at all a goal but only a shabby thought.

Further, several studies have proved that it is easy to achieve your goals when they are in writing and have a time limit to achieve.

It is going to help you a lot in coming out of your habit of procrastination if you keep your goals in writing with a time limit attached to them for achieving the same.

9. To learn how to stop to procrastinate visualize yourself out of the habit of procrastination and as a successful person

Visualization is the technique a lot many successful people practice and swear immensely helpful in pursuit of achieving their goals.

As your subconscious mind is believed to create in the realm of reality whatsoever you keep on telling to it through your thoughts and self talk.

Your subconscious mind tends to create in reality whatsoever self image you carry in your mind.

So, now on think appreciatively for yourself and carry your image of  a successful person, believing that-

  • You are now free of habit of procrastination.
  • You practice delayed gratification.
  • And you don’t fall prey of habit of immediate gratification.
  • You have your goals written, with a time limit attached to them to achieve.
  • Further, you are not afraid of tough tasks and rather prefer to tackle them first to free yourself from the strain of unfulfilled important tasks.
  • You always choose important over the easy and discipline and hard work over the short term comfort in your pursuit of achieving your long term goals.

I believe now you have a comprehensive idea of why you procrastinate and how to stop to procrastinate.

So, if you want to distinguish yourself from the ordinary and want to achieve a life of fulfillment and recognition then you first-

Have to understand your programming and then have to change the unwanted part of that programming, which is the hindrance in leading a life full of happiness and achievements and fulfillment.

And you are lucky that you are a human being. And this is because only human beings have the ability to reflect on the programming of their mind and also to change it.

In this article I have both reflected on the programming of your mind and also provided you tools to change that programming in your favor.

Now it is your turn to practice them for achieving your goals and lead a life full of success, happiness, achievements and contribution.

Good luck!

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Whether multitasking is for your productivity and brain

5/25 rule of Warren Buffett

Improve your productivity with pomodoro technique

How to conquer procrastination with 2 minute rule

How to become an expert in your field

Producing high quality work: the three step process

 

Y K Gupta

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Author: Y K Gupta

Author, Blogger, former AGM State Bank of India (SBI)

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