Why Do You Procrastinate?

Why do you procrastinate?

Have you ever thought about it?  Why would anyone procrastinate?  We all the know the downside.  Often, people blame it on not having enough time.

Is that true?  Do you really not have enough time to do that thing you promised to do and have been putting off for so long?  Or has procrastination become your “friend”?

I have found there are is one and only one reason people procrastinate:  pay off – there’s a payoff – a positive reinforcement to the behavior.  It’s that simple.

I can hear the protests now – “that’s not true”, “you don’t understand my time schedule”, “that’s silly” . . . really?  Let’s have a look at it.

1.  For some, power is the motivator in situations where others are waiting for what was promised.  The longer they wait, the more powerful the procrastinator feels.  “They’re waiting for me” – what a sense of control and power that provides.

2.  For others, it’s bragging rights. “I’m such a procrastinator”  “I can’t stop procrastinating”  “I’ve procrastinated my life away” – they just love the attention that by declaring a vulnerability – they are “one of the group” – a “medal of honor” – what they are really saying is, “look at me – look at what I’ve been able to do and get away with it”.    Basically, they’re bragging about how skilled they are at “getting away with procrastination”.  It’s a perfect way to lie to themselves and others – they’ll promise to get it done and, most often, don’t but then they “are”.

3.  And still for others, it’s a chronic habit that reinforces their view of themselves – they are not worthy and they’re out to prove it to the world by procrastinating.  Of course, when the tasks are not done, they feel terrible about themselves but that’s their payoff – feeling bad about themselves is the way they live in this world  – it’s what they know and reinforces the unworthiness they believe so deeply.

4.  Then there’s the “hero syndrome” – at the last minute, the task gets done!  What a thrill! The idea here is procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate until the very last minute and rush like mad to get the task done – the pressure is enormous – the conditions tight – and the race to the finish line exhausting.  If it gets done, there’s a “rush” – a euphoric feeling like no other – even failure to get it done has the “thrill” attached to it!  And, of course, if others are involved, they’re also thrilled that the task did get done.  It’s like watching a football game and the kicker scores the winning points in the last 3 seconds of the game – everyone forgets the pain of a near loss.  If it is a loss, of course, everyone is deeply disappointed.

5.  Finally, “mind torture” – some people torture themselves into “pushing” themselves to do something they don’t want to do.  They simply don’t want to do it! All that has to happen is the admission, “I don’t want to do this” and then don’t whether “it won’t look good”, “they expect it of me”, “they’ll be mad”, “I just hate it”, “I should”.   Let others know that you made a promise you can’t keep – let it go.  Admit to yourself you simply don’t want to do it despite others’ expectations that you “should”.  Accept the consequences and move on.

What’s your payoff?  What do you get out of procrastinating that keeps you hooked?

Lorraine Arams
“You-centered time management”

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