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The Psychology Behind Procrastination

Camila Agudo



Ever find yourself leaving everything to the last minute? Even though you had plenty of time before, in fact, leave it to do in a rush, minutes before the deadline? This common tendency in human nature is none other than procrastination. It is derived from the Latin word "procrastinare," which means “to delay”, and the Greek word “akrasia,” which means to do something not in your best interest, against your better judgment. Procrastination is the deliberate postponing of work, even when one knows it is not a good idea. Now we ask ourselves why we keep self-sabotaging, and why we allow this conscious trend to drive us into unhealthy habits.


Through years of research, various basic perceptions have formed, distinguishing two types of procrastinators. Chronic procrastinators have ongoing difficulties finishing activities, this is a persistent, behavior longstanding difficulty in meeting goals/deadlines. This ultimately leads to the build-up of unfinished work/responsibilities. Situational procrastinators tend to delay the task based on the circumstances or characteristics of the task, based on preferences. For situational procrastinators, delaying and pushing back an activity is due to perceived difficulty, level of interest, or external pressures. A perfect storm of procrastination happens when an unpleasant action collides with a person who is impulsive and lacks self-discipline.


A misconception about procrastination is that is it mistaken as laziness, however according to a 2013 study, Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois evaluated that procrastination is “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Meaning it is a method of coping with challenging feelings caused by specific responsibilities, driven by short-term mood repair, prioritizing immediate relief over long-term goals. However, the momentary relief we feel when delaying tasks is what creates this addicting, vicious, never never-ending cycle. Given basic behaviorism, human psychology is to repeat something we have been awarded for, which is why procrastination is not defined as a one-off behavior but a cycle that quickly becomes an unnoticeable chronic habit. Another misconception is that procrastination is seen as harmless or even possibly helpful behavior. Some say that the timing is irrelevant as long as a task is completed and that working under pressure may be beneficial. Psychologists, on the other hand, disagree. They differentiate between proactive actions such as contemplating or prioritizing that seek to solve or arrange work and actual procrastination, which implies a lack of progress.


The question remains, how do we overcome these procrastination habits? The first step is to understand why you procrastinate in the first place. Set attainable goals and prioritize work. Make a thorough schedule and avoid distractions. Determine your peak productive hours and set reasonable goals. Use positive reinforcement and visualization to achieve achievement. Seek accountability and engage in mindfulness exercises. Avoid perfectionism by reflecting on and adjusting your approach frequently. Be persistent and patient in your efforts.




Works Cited

Eric Jaffe. “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” APS Observer, vol. 26, Mar. 2013.

Lieberman, Charlotte. “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control).” The New York Times, 25 Mar. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html.

Today, Psychology. “Procrastination.” Psychology Today, 17 Mar. 2009, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/procrastination.

Iliopoulos, Adrian. “Overcoming Procrastination: A Quintessential 5-Step Strategy.” Adrian Iliopoulos, 8 Dec. 2015, https://thequintessentialmind.com/overcoming-procrastination/.


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