Why is it So Hard to Stop Procrastinating?

We’ve all done it at one point: put off an important task that we know needs to be completed, usually because we’re busy with other things and don’t feel like it or because we’re afraid we won’t do it well. But there may be more going on in our minds than just laziness or lack of willpower.

The problem with procrastination

When you’re procrastinating, you might be avoiding something boring or unpleasant (like doing taxes or cleaning your room). Or maybe you’re doing something else that feels more rewarding (like watching TV or reading a novel).

The above statement makes sense as we often do what makes us feel good. But in certain situations—like when we have a task at work we don’t want to do—doing something that feels good can have consequences. For example, if you’d rather play video games than write a report for work, the chances are good that report isn’t going to get done on time. When things like paying bills and washing dishes start getting put off too often, they aren’t completed promptly—and could even lead to more significant problems down the road.

How can I stop procrastinating?

If you’re having trouble getting things done, don’t blame yourself. Plenty of people are just as chronic procrastinators—and they can do an awful lot of damage without even realising what they’re doing wrong. They waste time surfing Facebook instead of writing that term paper, put off grocery shopping for days because they have a few more minutes to kill, and push aside housework and paperwork for months at a time. But procrastination isn’t always your fault. Some it may be built into your personality.

What does science say about this topic?

In short, yes, it’s hard to stop procrastinating because you are lazy. However, that statement requires a bit of clarification. Here’s what researchers have found: 1) The physiological state in which we’re in when we start a task has a significant impact on our level of motivation for completing that task; 2) We tend to value long-term goals more than short-term ones; 3) We generally underestimate how much time specific tasks will take; 4) We have trouble recognising an opportunity cost (the loss of an alternative possibility by choosing one particular course of action). These factors make procrastination something we can’t avoid—at least not without difficulty.

Strategies for Successfully Overcoming Procrastination

 Understand your motivations and triggers for procrastination.

  • Are you a multi-tasker who simply becomes distracted by other things that grab your attention?
  • Do you usually put off tasks because you don’t think you can succeed in achieving them?
  • Knowing why you tend to procrastinate allows you to tailor strategies accordingly. For example, if distractions are a problem, consider using tools such as not disturbing or screen-blocking apps that prevent email or social media from sucking up your time and energy.
  • If unrealistic expectations hold you back, try setting smaller goals and celebrating every step towards completing more significant projects rather than thinking about how far away your ultimate success feels.