Are you someone who "works best under pressure"?
Someone who lives by the motto "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow"?
If you are, don't worry. An exponential number of us would rather "do it later".
Thirty years ago, 5% of the American public considered themselves chronic procrastinators. Now, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, it's 26%.
They say procrastination is a lifestyle. Though generally our society doesn't take kindly to delayers, more than a quarter of Americans say they procrastinate.
With all the fast, instant technology available to us, it's easy to get distracted, but also harder than ever to wean ourselves off of these distractions.
Let's look at some of the main reasons why many of us have a perpetual put-it-off-until-later mentality.
Why We Procrastinate
1. It's Easier Than Ever
With today's online behavior, it's considered normal to be simultaneously checking your e-mail and Twitter accounts, and carrying on two IM conversations while playing your next move on Facebook Scrabble. Technology enables us to take on scores of tasks all at once. But without the will power, technology can set-off the inner-procrastinator in us and make it easier than ever to get distracted and delay the task at hand.
2. We Fear Failure
Putting a task off until the last minute can also be a defense mechanism, when you worry that the outcome will be a flop - whether you do it now or later. When we fear failure, we wait and wait to get started on a task. We wait until the very end to submit something that is second-rate, blaming quality on the time-frame we were able to produce it in. Procrastinating a daunting task can be a way of shifting responsibility for failure or mediocrity.
3. The Task is Boring
Let's see... fold laundry or play Angry Birds... If you perceive a task as boring you'll do everything in your power to avoid it. Which leads to the next cause of procrastination...
4. We Tend to Choose "Certain" Over "Uncertain" Outcomes (Immediate vs. Long-Term)
An empirical study involving 147 college freshmen at the University of Leuven found that all students tend to postpone the bulk of their study activities to the last week before an exam.
What were they doing instead? Chilling with friends, going to the movies, or hanging out at the local bar. We do this because our brains tend to value "certain" outcomes more than "uncertain" ones. You are certain to have fun goofing off, but uncertain of the payoff of getting good grades in the future.
5. Just for the Thrill
Some people procrastinate because they get a physical rush from it. These are the people who really do "work best under pressure". Pressure seems to give them the extra boost to produce. They are willing to literally lose sleep over it, or pull an all-nighter to get the task done, even if they just barely make it.
There are health problems associated with leaving everything to the last minute, though. The heightened stress makes you more prone to disrupted sleep patterns, increasing your chances of getting sick.
6. We Can't Decide
The longer you take to make a decision, the more likely someone else will make it for you. Not making a decision can absolve you of responsibility for the outcome of events.
7. We Overestimate Our Future Self
We say "I'll do it later" because we want to believe that Future Self will be different than Present Self. We will be motivated, productive and have the ability to do all the things Present Self can't (or won't). One thing is sure, Future Self is going to have a lot on its plate and won't be thanking you for it.
Do these symptoms feel familiar? Just about all of us have had one reason or another to delay doing something we didn't want to do; it's part of our natural instinct to behave this way. We seek out pleasurable experiences and feel happiest when we do things that make us feel good.
So why fight nature?
With that question in mind, my next post will offer tips on how you can procrastinate productively!
Now tell me...are you a chronic procrastinator? Do you think procrastination affects productivitiy?