Why People Procrastinate

I have always seen people who put things off until last minute as being lazy. There is no good excuse why a person cannot get his or her taxes done on time, complete a term paper by the due date, or even do something as simple as get the garbage can out on trash day. However, I have met several individuals who suffer from these problems – in fact, I am married to one. It seems that constant nagging would cause a change in behavior, but nothing alters the procrastination.

Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. That is one in five people who jeopardize their career, hurt workplace relationships and often cause hard feelings in teamwork because they fail to complete their share of the workload on time. Would anyone do cause these harms intentionally? Is there some sort of inherited gene that makes a person put something off instead of just getting it done and putting it behind them?

It is human nature to put off the difficult and boring, but recent research has found that procrastinators are made, not born. If a person motivates themselves enough to just start building, cleaning, writing or doing whatever needs done, he will more than likely finish it. Getting started is the hardest part. Therefore, a person cannot blame his procrastination on traits – he just has to be given a good reason, motivation and encouragement to begin and finish a task.

Most individuals do not enjoy bringing hardships into their lives that could be easily prevented through proper time management. So there must be reasons why people choose to procrastinate. The findings of Dr. Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, help shed some light on what goes through the minds of people who drag their feet. Ferrari has identified three types of procrastinators:

The Thrill Seeker gets an adrenaline rush and euphoric feeling when getting something done minutes or seconds before it is due.

The Avoider fears failure or success in endeavors because of what others will think of him. He would rather others think he failed due to lack of effort than lack of ability.

The Decisional Procrastinator does not want to make a decision because then others cannot blame him for the outcome of an event.

Procrastinators tell themselves lies to justify their actions, or lack of actions, such as “I’ll do this tomorrow” or “I work better under pressure.” These lies are a combination of anxiety and false beliefs about productivity. Maybe they are overwhelmed and afraid they will look stupid. Despite some people’s beliefs that they work better under pressure, there is no scientific evidence to back up this theory. However, there is research that shows people are more satisfied when they take their time working on something rather than being rushed and having to cut corners.

There are some other characteristics of procrastinators that help explain their idiosyncrasies. They tend to be perfectionists, feeling that their work must be flawless in order to please others. They often act on impulse, showing little self-control because they are unable to prioritize intentions. They may have been given ambiguous directions and unclear expectations, hindering them from beginning something. Perhaps they were constantly criticized by their parents as children, and procrastination is their form of rebellion. Depression is also common in procrastinators as all options seem equally bleak for depressed people, making it pointless to even start something.

Although it may be difficult for a procrastinator to change his or ways, it would be beneficial for them in the long run. Not only does putting things off cause anxiety and harsh feelings in coworkers, team members, and even friends, but it is detrimental to a persons physical health. Procrastinators show higher levels of drinking, smoking, insomnia, stomach problems, and common illnesses than go-getters. They will feel better physically, mentally and emotionally when they get work done ahead of time instead of waiting until crunch time; and this will lead to happier, healthier and more productive lives.