Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. Some researchers define procrastination as a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.” Sometimes all our opportunities seem to be on our fingertips, but we can’t seem to reach them. When you procrastinate, you waste time that you could be investing in something meaningful.
Behavioral psychology research has revealed a phenomenon called “time inconsistency,” which helps explain why procrastination seems to pull us in despite our good intentions. Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.
Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but they are very different. Procrastination is an active process – you choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. In contrast, laziness suggests apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act. Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
There are a variety of strategies we can employ to stop procrastinating. We can make the rewards of taking action more immediate. If you can find a way to make the benefits of long-term choices more immediate, then it becomes easier to avoid procrastination. One of the best ways to bring future rewards into the present moment is with a strategy known as temptation bundling.
Temptation bundling is a concept that came out of behavioral economics research performed by Katy Milkman at The University of Pennsylvania. Simply put, the strategy suggests that you bundle a behavior that is good for you in the long-run with a behavior that feels good in the short-run. One reason it is so easy to slip back into procrastination time after time is because we don’t have a clear system for deciding what is important and what we should work on first. We can also break our work into little steps. Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Hanging out with people who inspire us is another best way to stop procrastination. Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.
There are many reasons why people procrastinate, and a person might procrastinate for any number of them. Understanding why people procrastinate is beneficial, since it can help you figure out why you yourself procrastinate, which in turn can help you figure out how to solve your procrastination problem.