We’ve all been there. You have an assignment due in a couple of hours but you have the urge to take one last Buzzfeed quiz to find out who your celebrity twin is, or watch one last viral YouTube video. Or you might even be procrastinating by reading articles on procrastination, like this one!
Though procrastination may seem like harmless fun, chronic procrastination has negative effects on our psychology and even our brain chemistry.
In this article I’ll walk you through just what procrastination is, the main causes of it and how it affects our psychology.
Broadly defined, procrastination is the avoidance or delay of a task you are required to do within a specified deadline. Procrastination doesn’t discriminate among age groups, but it seems to affect younger people the most. According to one 2007 study, 80-90% of college students procrastinate on their academic work.
However, older people aren’t immune to procrastination either. Based on the research of Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, around 20% of adults procrastinate chronically. We all procrastinate, but not all of us are procrastinators.
When procrastination becomes a part of your lifestyle, it has terrible consequences for adults on their productivity, health, finances and personal and family responsibilities. It can lead to a host of health issues such as chronic stress, insomnia and poor immune function.
According to a research study done by Sirois et al, titled ‘’I’ll look after my health, later”: An investigation of procrastination and health’’, procrastination was linked to poor health behaviors and health issues. Some of the health issues were directly due to the stress from procrastination, while others were due to neglecting health priorities. For example, procrastinators were less likely to go for medical and dental checkups.
Causes of procrastination
There are many different causes of procrastination, depending on the personality type of the procrastinator:
1. Perfectionists tend to be procrastinators
It is well known that perfectionists tend to procrastinate more. The fear of failure tends to put them off starting a task. For these people, it tends to be both the fear of failure and success that leads to procrastination.
They are concerned about how people will perceive their abilities. For them, it is better to not do something at all than to have people judge you for doing a poor job. These people also wait for the ‘perfect’ time to do something, after eliminating every distraction possible.
2. Indecisive people procrastinate more
People who have problems with decision making procrastinate more, because they spend time trying to make decisions than doing the task. Indecisive people also have trouble setting clear goals, which adds to the procrastinating behavior.
3. Thrill seekers are procrastinators too
Another common reason for procrastinating is because some people get a rush out of doing things last minute. They believe that they have better performance under mounting pressure. ‘Diamonds are made under pressure’ as they say.
4. Perceived difficulty of a task
A major hindrance to getting things done is a lack of motivation. People lose willpower when they perceive a task to be more difficult and less fun than it is. So, you’re more likely to get a task done when you’re told it is fun. This is reflected in the research of Tice and Ferrari with their experiments on students.
In one scenario, they gave students a task of completing a math puzzle. One group was told that the puzzle was a test of their skills while the other was told it was a fun game. In the group that was told that the math puzzle was a sort of test, the procrastinators delayed the task. In the other group who was told it was ‘fun’, the ‘procrastinators’ behaved the same as the other students.
In a future post I’ll discuss how to overcome procrastination. Stay tuned for that.