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Why Do People Procrastinate?

Arun Prabhu Mar 22, 2020
Here's a line for you, "I don't always procrastinate, but when I do..." Having got the 'art' distilled to its finest form, let's attempt to dig deeper and find the reasons and lengths to which we, as humans, can procrastinate.
The two ways to look at an act of putting things off till the last minute are either extremely humorous or utterly despicable. But what remains untold is the reason as to 'why' we do what we do, and so well do we do it?! Yet, keeping all the humor apart, procrastination stems from things that control our lives, and sometimes we just can't understand why.
Now, we all procrastinate, that is true. But there is a percentage of people who possess a curse, a curse that grabs hold of their will and never lets go till it's too late. They are the true procrastinators.

The Psychology Behind Procrastination

Modern age has let things get so out of hand, we now have people, armed with books and methods dedicated to fighting unconscious procrastination. If you require a deeper view on the subject, you may refer to the works of Joseph R. Ferrari, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and an expert. For now, stick around to see if you find anything you can relate to.


Most people push things off because they are afraid of it. If you narrow it down, you'll find that there are predominantly three types of fear that compel a person to procrastinate.


The fear of failing would be the first. The idea of 'once bitten, twice shy' sort of takes an ugly turn if you let it to. Failing at something once can be enough to avoid similar tasks completely. The level of anxiety or fear of the task at hand often scales with the complexity of the task itself.
The Solution: You need to face fear head on and simply admit to yourself that failures only keep happening because you're trying to succeed. You will get there in time, and the prize will be worth the effort.

Fear of Success

The fear of succeeding is another. This evolves from the basic fear of expectations. Whether it's peer pressure at work or parental pressure at academics, the idea of doing something right only to find multiple and harder things to do can be quite daunting.
The thing about this type of procrastination is that it happens at an unconscious level. The moment you feel that the result is not worth the effort, you stop working at it. The Jonah complex is what it's called, which is the fear of greatness.
The Solution: If you really want to tackle this habit, you need to answer the question, "What's the worst that could happen?" Maybe you'll get promoted and start earning more, maybe you'll get the kind of recognition you deserve, and not the negative publicity that you're afraid of.
Another possible solution to stop this type of procrastination is to be under supervision, at least until you're confident of working alone. Let someone you trust (or your superior if you must) measure the effort you put in every day. Know that you'll be downgraded for a bad performance.
Once you hit the target or the deadline a few times, you can measure the effort you put in yourself and be confident about it.

Fear of Perfection

The fear of perfection is the third type. Note that perfectionism and OCD are different things, meaning you can be mentally fit and still be a procrastinator. If you like to do things according to a strict guideline, it can sometimes be the reason to hold things off, thinking you won't be able to do them right.
It can further develop into the person being a perfectionist and then thinking that nothing is actually perfect, resulting in hopelessness and ultimately stopping productivity (or even happiness).
The Solution: In this case, the hardest way is perhaps the only solid solution - you just have to face it and move on. Even if perfection is unattainable, you can still do things your way and give it your best shot.


Whoever said "When I get the feeling to do something, I lie down until the feeling goes away" was too wise for his age. Being lazy consumes a lot of energy after all, most of it needed for trying not to think about the work and doing something fun instead (or doing nothing at all, that's fun too!).
It's also based on knowing that you can get away with not doing something, by just not giving a damn about it. The concept is simple - humans often tend to seek instant pleasure or gratification, which often overrides the necessity to get up and work, because it feels better to not do it, the reasons ranging from poor motivation to confusion.
The Solution: The cure is harder to follow than it seems; what you have to do is lower your level of comfort, wherever you are.
If you're studying for an exam, sit on a chair and a table, nothing more or less.
Forget the pillows and the TV, they are just distractions that will get you nowhere. You will also have to reduce (or remove) other sensory distractions, like sounds or the smell of food.
Having said this, don't forget to take periodic breaks (periodic, not permanent). Don't waste time looking for everything or staring at the watch.


This has more to do with the inability to be specific and maintaining a set of priorities. Anything that needs waiting will not be done, be it cooking or having to stay at home to receive an important delivery.
This type of procrastination has even been studied, successfully linking impatience to procrastination. The subject under study would be given a bank check with the choice of receiving it immediately or on a monthly basis.
The subject that asked for the full and immediate payment also happened to be the one to cash the check in late, showing the need to procrastinate while being impatient.
The Solution: If you're impatient, chances are you're also disorganized. Take care of the things around you and try to avoid messy things go by. Again, procrastination is a habit and it will take time till you get the hang of controlling yourself against it. Set realistic goals and follow through on them.


Another reason to procrastinate is the distraction provided by human addictions.
This stems from the preference of momentary pleasure over putting consistent efforts to gain a positive result. Common addictions include substance abuse like drinking and drugs as well as technology and social needs. And it all starts with a list of self-defeatist thoughts that keep cycling through your mind every time you want to skip work.
The Solution: The cure to this is like fighting fire with fire. Every time you think of an excuse to not do something and browse the Internet instead, ask yourself if that has ever got you anywhere. It indeed is hard to do so, but it must be done. Think about it, the next time you say 'this is the last time', could be your last day at your job.

The Forms of Procrastination

Wrong Influences

It's logical, procrastinators are created, they are not born. For a kid to live with a lazy older sibling or friends prone to procrastinate can and probably will rub off on him/her. Parental influence is not an exception either. If you're a mom or a dad, putting things off around your kid will only him reciprocate your actions.


This is a peculiar form of procrastination and comes from being the child of overprotective parents.
As the child grows up, with his parents shadow constantly behind him, watching his every move and controlling whatever he does, the child will lose his own cognition and lose his skills to fend for himself. This ultimately leads to over-dependance on others and an unconscious knack of not doing things at the right time.

Lack of Self-Regulation

The chronic procrastinators in the society are prone to lose self-control when it comes to their vices. They smoke more and drink more than the people who don't procrastinate.

Final Words

As technology keeps advancing, we learn more and more ways to kill time. Honestly, putting off work has never been easier or so much more fun before! But the work still needs to be done, regardless of your views on it. In fact, curing someone of chronic procrastination can prove to be harder than getting an alcoholic to stay away from the bottle!
The most common area where procrastination happens is in academics. It's hard enough for kids to pay attention to studies without having access to unrestricted Internet and multiplayer games. Other places are the work place regarding deadlines and at the home when it comes to doing chores.
Always Know that there is still hope. Whatever the reason for you not doing your work, there's always a way to go ahead and finish it. Now go read more on procrastination while on your break! And do it now, don't skip it for later!