Before we get into what causes procrastination, let us first look into what exactly procrastination is.
Procrastination is the act of necessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, if you need to read or write an essay but end up wasting time on your phone, even though you know you should be working, that means you are procrastinating.
Procrastination is often detrimental to people’s ability to pursue their goals successfully. It also often leads to bad grades at school and a bad work ethic. However, procrastination isn’t always simply being lazy. It usually stems from a wide range of underlying issues like increased stress or worsened physical and mental health.
Below is a list of causes for procrastination.
1) A disconnect between our future selves
Most people procrastinate because they view their future self as being disconnected from their present self. This phenomenon is known as temporal self-discontinuity or temporal disjunction. For example, someone might delay when it comes to consuming a healthy diet even if their doctor has recommended doing so because they view their future self as a different person entirely. They don’t think of their future selves’ problems as their own.
This disconnect between their present and future selves can cause people to procrastinate in a variety of ways. For example, they often think that their present self should not have to worry about the future since their future self will handle the many tasks that they postpone themselves.
2) Feeling overwhelmed
Another reason people procrastinate is that they feel overwhelmed with the task they need to handle. This feeling of overwhelm may occur due to a variety of reasons, such as a single task that can feel huge in terms of scope or having a number of small tasks piling up. When this happens, a person may feel in a state of paralysis before those tasks are completed.
For example, if one needs to clean up the house, the fact that the task takes so long and involves many sub-parts might cause one to feel extremely overwhelmed. Due to this feeling, they might just avoid getting started on the job in the first place.
This may seem like a desirable characteristic as perfectionists strive for high standards and are the best at everything. But perfection may sometimes be impossible to achieve. Not being able to produce the best work may develop a fear of failure. This causes one to put things off because they feel like they won’t be able to do justice to the task at hand. They wait till the right moment, the perfect time when they absolutely cannot fail. Unfortunately, the ‘right time’ never arrives.
Perfectionists often take the all-or-nothing approach. This leaves them with no in-between, a grey area, or middle ground.
Contrary to popular belief, procrastination isn’t always one being lazy. It can be a product of severe underlying causes that, if not addressed, can actually become an issue in the long run.