What is Procrastination?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Procrastination at its core is the act of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something, usually a task, despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so. It is a behavior that fuels both self-deprecation internally and potential consequences externally. Everyone procrastinates some of the time, but for others, it seems to be a chronic, repetitive, pattern of behavior. Some research says that upwards of 20% of people are prone to procrastination.  Keep in mind that laziness is not the same as procrastination. When people are being lazy, it simply means they are disinclined to expend energy regardless of the task or activity. Those who procrastinate often have plenty of energy and the willingness to expend it on other tasks and activities.

Why Do People Procrastinate?

There are a more than few underlying drivers for procrastination and possible solutions depend heavily on the cause.

  • Early Learning: For some people, the cause of their procrastination boils down to poor role modeling.  Although your parents may have had different causes for why they procrastinate, your procrastinating tendencies may simply be a replication of what you saw with your parent’s approach to the world. If this is the case, awareness of this fact and the intentional selection and emulation of other more productive role models may inspire you to change your ways.
  • Lack of Confidence or Skill: Some people put off a task or chore because they feel they lack some skill or knowledge to successfully execute on the task. This lack of knowledge or skill fuels ideas of failure and a genuine uncertainty about how to even begin. In this instance, knowledge is power and likely the antidote for procrastination. It may be watching a YouTube video or consulting a friend or neighbor to help coach you through the project.
  • Perfectionism: Ironically, many perfectionists are prone to procrastination. The backlog of tasks albeit likely distressing to the perfectionist is not nearly as distressing as the risk of possible failure. Many perfectionists twist things in the mind and convince themselves that they have not failed if they do not try. In an illogical way, they preserve their ego at the expense of productivity. Working on this type of procrastination is often somewhat involved and maybe best facilitated by a good therapist.
  • Immediate Gratification: Many grown adults continue to operate as small children do. A child will often choose to buy a gumball now with their quarter because they get to enjoy it right away, rather than wait a week or two to build up their allowance and enjoy a more costly, but larger, candy bar or bag of treats. Lacking foresight, planning, and the ability to delay gratification, some people want what they can get right now. Retraining your brain and mentality can take time and patience. Learning self-discipline and self-policing is a difficult accomplishment.
  • Depression or Anxiety: Often mental health issues can negatively impact drive, ambition, and motivation. A loss of energy and purpose can fuel a tendency to procrastinate. Obsessive worry and rumination can also pour gas on the procrastination fire. Working with a mental health provider is likely going to be the best way to resolve depression and anxiety and get you back on track with life.

Maple Grove Psychiatrists

If you are interested in exploring underlying causes for procrastination, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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