Procrastination Is The Way of Lazy People?
Summer is right around the corner. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and that final project you got assigned at school might be the last thing on your mind. There is nothing inherently wrong with prioritizing yourself however, putting off important tasks might do more harm than good in the long run.
According to Dr. Fuschia Sirois from the University of Sheffield, “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”
Contrary to popular opinion, procrastination is not laziness. Those of us who start to deep clean the kitchen sink instead of working on work or school-related goals do not necessarily have poor time management skills or lack self-control. As Dr. Sirois explains, chronic procrastination has more to do with an inability to regulate uncomfortable emotions associated with the task that we are supposed to do.
The sticky situation with procrastination
Let’s be real, procrastination is rewarding. Short-term gratification trumps long-term fulfillment. When we teach our brains to associate procrastination with relief, we are more likely to keep procrastinating in the long run – even if we know avoiding tasks is an ineffective strategy!
What makes procrastinating sticky is that it causes us to fall into present bias. We buy into the illusion that present moment needs are more important than long-term ones. Though short-term needs may come first if we are hurt or sick, we do not always have to provide for ourselves in the here and now. We can take steps now to keep providing for ourselves in the future.
According to psychologist Dr. Hal Hershfield from the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management, “We really weren’t designed to think ahead into the further future because we needed to focus on providing for ourselves in the here and now.”
Moreover, Dr. Hershfield’s research suggests that our future-selves are like strangers to us. So when we decide to put off something, we do not even see it as our problem.
When we procrastinate, we also fall into a habit of affective forecasting. In other words, we inaccurately predict how something will emotionally affect us in the future. According to psychologist Daniel Gilbert from Harvard University, the reason why we make poor predictions regarding the impact of a future emotional event is because we tend to put all of our attention on the event and we fail to take into account the influence that other events will have on our feelings.
So, the things that you think will make you happier in the future actually do not affect happiness levels all that much like winning the lottery, for example. Conversely, the things that you think will make you unhappy in the future – like getting injured – do not make you as unhappy as you think.
The best way to approach procrastination is to work through some of those difficult emotions that you associate with the tasks in front of you. Even if we are not wired to prioritize our long-term needs, we do not have to fall prey to the present bias.
- 1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html
- 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764505/