The science behind procrastination – and how to overcome it


Do you fear being a chronic procrastinator? Well, it’s better to stop stressing out about it and instead start to take action. Stressing about procrastination tends to just make it worse.

Many very smart people find themselves caught up in procrastination. They put off their work and tasks until the last minute, rushing to get it done before the deadline. There is a better way to get things done, and it will save you time, energy, and stress, not to mention improve the quality of your work. So, if you find yourself procrastinating, here are some explanations and tips that can help you make it a thing of the past.

Procrastination is normal

In this post we will discuss the science behind procrastination – and how to overcome it. A vast majority of us procrastinate, from students who are trying get their homework done to genius artists in history, to office workers. We take the procrastination along with the consequences. Our belief that we work well under pressure encourages us even more. Nevertheless, it’s a damaging habit. We need to somehow find a way to stop procrastinating, to get out of the cycle. Understanding the causes behind procrastination can be the first step in moving on.

Causes of procrastination

Procrastination is correlated with anxiety, depression, low self esteem, and poor study habits. The causes are even more interesting. Perfectionism, working on smaller tasks, lack of motivation, trouble getting started, and distractions are the common causes. Perfectionism makes you worry about making a mistake and exposing your weakness. Choosing to work on filler tasks that are easier to get done is a creative form of procrastination. It just makes you feel and look busy. Finding little value in the outcome of your work depletes you of any motivation. Distractions are things that engage you in instant gratification.

Temporal motivation theory

The temporal motivation theory developed by Dr. Piers Steel explains the procrastination equation really well. He points out that the higher the motivation and utility, the less likely one would procrastinate on the task. Expectancy, or the level of belief you have in your ability to accomplish the task matters. Value, or the rewards promised for the tasks you accomplish plays a role as well. Our minds factor in the impulsiveness, or the likelihood of you being distracted by things that offer instant gratification. Delay, or how long you have to wait to get your reward determines your motivation. The higher the motivation, the less likely you are to delay the task.

Tips to overcome procrastination

The temporal motivation theory alone gives us a few ideas to overcome procrastination. Raise your expectancy by getting clear on the details of the task. Break it into series of sub tasks, which feel more doable. Add value to the task by rewarding yourself a little extra. Give yourself a pre-planned break upon accomplishing the task. You can lower distractions by cutting off from the internet or changing your study or work location entirely. You can work on the delay by talking with your employer. Formula or folly, the theory definitely helps improve the situation.