What is procrastination and is it harmful?

Procrastination: why do we do it?

You probably think of someone who procrastinates as lazy and unmotivated.

Generally, people view procrastination in this way.

A lack of time management skills is perceived to be the problem.

Occasionally, this is accurate, but it’s not always true.

The psychology of procrastination reveals it is not just willpower hindering you but also your emotions.

The root causes of procrastination can be biological, psychological, and environmental.

Let’s look closer at why we procrastinate.

Psychological or Emotional?

“Procrastination is not a time-management problem; it’s an emotion-management problem,” says Tim Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University and blogger at Psychology Today.

The way we feel and our mood has a significant impact on our state when undertaking an activity.

Therefore, the issue of procrastination is one of emotional management.

When we feel good, we jump into the activity. A typical example is when we expect a task or activity to feel good, like playing video games, watching television, or eating ice cream.

Conversely, when we feel negative emotions, we try to avoid feeling bad.

For example, we find it difficult to finish our taxes, clean the dishes, go to the gym, or do schoolwork or work.

Boredom, discomfort, fears, frustration, etc., are all reasons for procrastinating.

Rather than force ourselves to accomplish the task, we procrastinate by doing things we enjoy.

Our mood and emotions lead us to procrastinate.

“The persons performance is a function of the state they are in. Performance then, is a function of state.”

Mark Csabai

Researchers, for example, found that people who fear math avoid it because merely thinking about it seems painful, explains Barbara Oakley in A Mind for Numbers.

“When they’re thinking about math, the pain centres in their brain light up.”

There’s nothing new about it.

Doing what needs to be done is essential to us, even if it feels complex and produces some resistance.

We have good intentions but feel uncomfortable due to our negative emotions.

By doing something more enjoyable, we continue to avoid the task as long as possible.


It is thought that procrastination can be an inherited trait.

A study of identical twins at the University of Colorado showed that identical twins exhibit more similar behaviour than fraternal twins.

(source: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/exploring-the-genetics-of-ill-do-it-tomorrow.html)

Just like impulsivity, procrastination appears to be inherited.

It is believed that this trait came about in the short-term survival plans of our nomadic ancestors


Our daily lives sometimes present us with situations that we perceive to be threatening to cause us to procrastinate.

Among these reasons, family commitments can fill our time, and people or situations may influence us outside our control

When we delay doing something, we blame the circumstances.

It is not uncommon for us to blame procrastination on our inability to work faster or having no access to the right tools.

Nonetheless, you cannot blame procrastination on one thing and hope to change it.

Both conscious and subconscious habits influence the reason we procrastinate.

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