Unraveling the procrastination puzzle: Is it a habit or a disorder?

Published On: July 10, 2024 05:20 PM NPT By: Pratyencha Koirala

The urge to postpone tasks we find unenjoyable until the last minute is a common temptation. Despite knowing that it will eventually contribute to our stress, we struggle to resist the urge to delay. While there are various definitions for procrastination, it can generally be described as the act of postponing tasks until the eleventh hour or well past the deadline, fully aware of the negative impact it will have. 

Etymologically, ‘procrastination’ is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare, which means to put off until tomorrow and the Greek word akrasia– something against our better judgment. Our avoidance of the tasks assigned could be due to something unpleasant about the task itself like cleaning dirty bathrooms, doing the dishes, alphabetizing books and so on. 

Procrastination is a common behavior observed in many individuals and is not necessarily indicative of a serious problem. It is a tendency for people to delay tasks until the last minute, and while some individuals are adept at self-motivation and timely completion of tasks, others struggle with procrastination. This behavior is widespread, particularly common in young people. 

One of the primary factors contributing to procrastination is the belief that one must feel "inspired" or "motivated" to work effectively. Waiting for the "perfect moment" to begin a task often leads to the task being left unfinished. This reliance on waiting for an ideal time can hinder progress and prevent individuals from achieving their goals. 

An easy way out?

There are numerous reasons why people tend to procrastinate. Take academics for instance. Students often put off doing their homework, assignments, and test preparations until the last minute. This can happen because they are distracted by their phones, computers, social media, or video games. They may also misjudge

the amount of time they have left to complete a task or underestimate how long certain activities will take to complete.

Procrastination can often be a mechanism for dealing with challenging emotions and negative moods that arise from certain tasks. These emotions may include feelings of boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, and self-doubt, among others. The sense of incompetence can also act as a barrier to progress, as individuals may begin to believe that they are incapable of completing the task. This belief can cause refusal to start working due to the fear of not being able to perform up to their standards. 

Interestingly, procrastination is closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Individuals with OCD are often perfectionists, which can lead to a fear of making mistakes, doubts about whether they are doing things correctly, and uncertainty about meeting other people’s expectations. 

Present bias and types of procrastination

Present bias refers to a common behavioral phenomenon where individuals are more motivated by immediate rewards rather than long-term rewards. For instance, the instant gratification of lounging in a cozy bed and watching a favorite television show is often more appealing than the delayed reward of investing time in studying for a test to achieve good grades.

Procrastination can be categorized into two main types: active and passive. Active procrastination involves intentionally postponing tasks because some individuals perform better under pressure, feeling more challenged and efficient. On the other hand, passive procrastination involves delays due to feelings of incompetence and uncertainty, making decision-making challenging for individuals. 

When procrastination becomes chronic, it can have a detrimental impact on a person's daily life. It extends beyond affecting just their schedule and time management skills and can disrupt a major part of their lifestyle. For instance, they may begin important projects late or pay their bills at the last moment. This kind of procrastination can lead to serious consequences such as exacerbating stress and anxiety, strained relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, and detachment from social relationships. 

Tackling procrastination

To beat procrastination, you can employ a variety of strategies, but creating a detailed to-do list each day is widely regarded as the most effective approach. By listing your daily tasks and objectives, you can minimize the daunting nature of your workload. One way to do this is to break each task into smaller, manageable sub-tasks and tackle them one by one.

It is important to be mindful of any procrastination-related thoughts that arise and make a conscious effort to resist the urge to procrastinate. When these thoughts emerge, try focusing back on the task at hand. Additionally, it's helpful to eliminate major distractions, such as social media, TV shows, or socializing with friends or family, until your task is completed.

Once you've completed your task, reward yourself with something enjoyable, like your favorite meal, a beloved TV show, or a hobby you're passionate about. By gratifying yourself in this way, you can maintain motivation and reduce the intimidation often related to tackling future tasks. 


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