You have the best intentions to get started on that task or project. You really want to do it. It's always in the back of your mind. But, for some reason, it never gets done. Not until the last minute anyway. By then, you're frantic over the looming deadline, your pulse starts racing from the adrenaline, and the stress starts building. You get crabby because of the anxiety and snap at friends, co-workers, or loved ones. The task or project usually gets finished, but not without the overwhelming stress that comes with procrastinating.
Procrastination is defined as a gap between intention and action. It's a big problem for many people, including myself. Why do we put things off until the last minute when it's so much easier and less stressful to plan ahead? According to the website 43 Things, ending procrastination is the second most popular goal in the world, coming second to losing weight. Why is ending procrastination so difficult?
Why We Procrastinate A recurring theme that I've noticed in my research is the belief among the psychologists that procrastinators are made, not born. Procrastinating can be a response to authoritarian parenting. According to Psychology Today, "[h] aving a harsh, controlling father keeps children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from internalizing their own intentions and then learning to act on them." Procrastinating can also be a form of rebellion.
Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, identifies 3 types of procrastinators:
- Arousal types, or thrill-seekers enjoy the euphoric rush produced by waiting until the last minute.
- Avoiders are very concerned with what others think about them. They may be avoiding the fear of failure or the fear of success.
- Decisalional procrastinators are unable to make a decision. This way, they do not have to take responsibility for an income.
"Procrastination: A hardening of the oughteries." -Anonymous
The Costs of Procrastination
There are enormous costs to procrastinating. Procrastination can have internal subsequences. The stress caused by waiting until the last minute can affect your health and personal life. Stress weakens the immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight infection. Then, there are the external consequences. Procrastination can lead to poor performance on the job or in the classroom. Procrastination can hit your pocketbook, in the form of late fees or penalties. These are just a few of the ways procrastinating can negatively affect your life.
So you're a procrastinator. What's next?
Procrastination does not have to be a life sentence. There are strategies that you can take to minimize the hold procrastination has on your life. In Part 2, we'll take a look at some techniques that you can use to end procrastinating once and for all.