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What is behind the habit of constantly postponing?

What is behind the habit of constantly postponing?

March 30, 2024

Why do people have this marked tendency to leave things for tomorrow? To understand it we must try to understand how is the phenomenon of procrastination , that tendency that we sometimes manifest in our day to day that can be summarized in "leave everything for tomorrow".

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The procrastination

Procrastination: what is it? The definition itself is simple, is to postpone what we should do: put the washing machine, study for the language test, the declaration of income ... But the mere act of delaying something is not procrastinating, the concept of procrastination entails its own definition an absurd delay, it is not postponing because it makes sense in a certain context, it is do it irrationally, sabotaging our interests .

The person who lives obsessed with completing any task at the first opportunity can be as dysfunctional as the person who leaves everything for the last moment, neither one nor the other plan their time with intelligence. Overcoming procrastination implies make intelligent use of one's time , oriented to the achievement of the own objectives. It is in the choice of what you will do now and what you will leave for later where the procrastination lies, not in the procrastination itself.

But if we know that procrastination takes us away from our goals, why do we do it?

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Its causes

Apparently there are both genetic and environmental factors that explain procrastination.

On the one hand, this is a common phenomenon in all cultures and moments of history. Is about a trend that slightly affects men more (54%) that women (46%), is observed more among young people and decreases with age.

According to the data offered by science, most of it is explained by genetics; However, the environment also makes a powerful contribution to our compulsively delaying our chores. So much so that modern life has turned procrastination into an epidemic that has consequences on a personal, organizational and even noticeable in the economy of a country.

According to survey data 95% of people admit that procrastin and one in four admit to do it constantly. And is that procrastination is a habit and as such tends to endure. One might think that it is because of perfectionism, never to end things by the obsession that they are perfect, but the truth is that the data indicate otherwise.

For a long time it was believed that postponement and perfectionism went hand in hand , this error is explained because perfectionists who postpone are those who tend to ask for help in therapy (and from there the data was obtained), but there are many other people who are perfectionists and who do not go to therapy and who do not get into the habit of procrastination In particular, a much more fundamental role is that of impulsivity: live impatiently in the now and want everything right now.

The role of impulsivity

Self-control and the delay of reward They have a lot to do with impulsiveness and this makes it very difficult for us to have a bad time for a future reward. Very impulsive people tend to be disorganized, easily distracted, have difficulty controlling their impulses, find it difficult to be persistent, and work methodically. This difficulty in planning and this easy distractibility makes them perfect victims of procrastination.

Impulsive people they try to get away from a task that causes them anxiety , they get distracted, they turn her away from her conscience. Excuses and self-deception are common. This seems very logical, of course, because people generally try to avoid suffering. However, this only makes sense if we look at things in the short term, because in the long term this leads to even greater suffering. Avoid going through the unpleasant routine checkup of the doctor can lead us to detect a prostate cancer when it is too late.

Sometimes the pressure of everything we have to do is so distressing that we indulge in tasks that distract us so that we do not think about that which brings us so head on. It often happens that we are doing something that deep down we know we should not be doing because there is something more important and priority to attend to. That means that we are not doing what we should not enjoy this time of relaxation, because our conscience constantly reminds us of our obligations .

However, impulsivity does not explain everything, procrastination is due to multiple causes.

The triad of procrastination

Expectations, value and time are the pillars that sustain this type of self-sabotage.


The expectation refers to our confidence in the achievement of our goals and while procrastination is sometimes linked to overconfidence, the opposite is much more usual. That is, if what we pursue it seems to us that we can not assume it, we simply surrender . Impotence, being unable, leads us to stop struggling.

This brings us to a state of decay and frustration known as learned helplessness, in which we surrender to circumstances for believing ourselves unable to change anything and stop fighting. This phenomenon is very linked to depression.

In the end this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: believing that we will not be able makes us desist. By stopping trying effectively we become capable and that confirms our beliefs about ourselves. It is a vicious circle.

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Courage has to do with how attractive we are to what we are putting off. Normally our list of procrastination is full of boring tasks like washing dishes, learning those endless articles of the constitution or doing Christmas shopping. As expected, the value of each thing depends on the desires of each one and some people tend to procrastinate more tasks than others.

As it's easier to postpone something that we do not like, that does not motivate us The less value you have for yourself, the less likely you are to do it. The lack of pleasant value makes other more pleasant activities distract us and so we easily get distracted and evade ourselves in more stimulating things, postponing as much as possible the tasks that seem soporific.

The time factor

Time leads to procrastination because we choose the immediate gratification , because we find it more tempting a reward that materializes immediately, however small, than to fight for a long-term goal, even if it gives us more benefit.

Impulsivity, which we have talked about before, is what is behind all this, and some other features linked to the impulsive temperament are the lack of meticulousness, the low self-control and the propensity to distraction.

Act without thinking, not being able to have feelings under control ... it leads us to procrastinate. The time factor makes us see the goals and rewards of tomorrow in an abstract way, so much so that it takes away reality. On the other hand, everything that has to do with today is more concrete and that makes it seem more real to us.

In conclusion

Procrastination is a deeply rooted habit that can cause a great deal of suffering, It takes us to distraction and drives us away from our goals . It is closely linked to impulsivity and time management, it is influenced by the value of the reward we pursue and by the beliefs we have regarding our own abilities.

Author's Note: This article should have been published last month, but I've been procasting it. In the next article I will talk about some useful clues to overcome this self-sabotage.

Bibilographic references:

  • Steel, P. (2010). The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done. Canada: Random House Canada.

13 Habits We Mistakenly Considered Harmless (March 2024).

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