Why We Procrastinate

You really have to love a piece that begins “This article would have been much better if I hadn’t waited until the last minute to write it.”

Why do we procrastinate?  The most logical reason is because we’re so afraid of success that we find ways to intentionally sabotage our work.  This is so common that psychologists have labeled it self-handicapping.  If you’re given a job you think you can’t do, you’ll make sure you have an excuse for failing, like you didn’t have the time to do it properly.  (Never mind that you would’ve had the time if only you’d started earlier.)

Self-handicapping can take many forms beyond procrastination, including substance abuse and poor sleep habits.  It was first defined by two researchers  in a 1978 paper that explored binge drinking.

Further, the tendency to procrastinate seems highest when there is more to lose.  Researchers Ferrari and Dianne Tice found that when students were told a test was important, they were more likely to delay preparing than when they were told it was just for fun.  In other words, the more the test was worth, the more procrastinators needed to protect themselves by not trying too hard.

So procrastination is actually an attempt to control a life that can feel chaotic and unmanageable.  Of course, delaying will probably add to the chaos, but never mind that.  After all, procrastinators are masters of self-deception.

The article is “The Real Reason You Procrastinate” by Andrew Santella (http://time.com/5203895/why-do-we-procrastinate/?).

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