How to Combat Procrastination with Dameira Cruz

Procrastination is all too familiar for all of us. I mean, I have been putting off my homework to write this article. See? Procrastination. Procrastination is the act of putting off things that need to be done. An example of procrastination would be continuously watching Netflix instead of writing an essay that is due today. Because I have been a victim of procrastination myself, I decided to research why we procrastinate.

Contrary to popular belief, procrastination is not a new concept — it’s been around for ages. Many well-known figures in history such as Leonardo Da Vinci and the Greek poet Hesiod were known procrastinators. Hesiod went so far as to preach against putting off work in his poetry poem “Work and Days.” Now you may be wondering, why do we feel the need to procrastinate?  

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder posit that procrastination is genetic and may be a byproduct of impulsivity. They also suggest that procrastination is a relatively new trait in humans. In prehistoric times, survival was the primary focus, and thus immediate goals and actions (e.g., eating) trumped long-term goals. Therefore, most individuals had to be more focused on achieving short-term goals for survival. Now in modern times, however, individuals need to be focused on long-term goals, which results in them becoming distracted by minor tasks incidental to the ultimate goal. Those who are highly impulsive and lack structure are most at risk of procrastinating.

Another reason we may procrastinate is the fact that our technology makes procrastination easy. If we, for instance, are writing an essay on our computer, it is effortless to open a new tab and watch Youtube. We choose to go on our electronic devices because it is a quick and easy way to feel pleasure. That momentary pleasure we feel when we watch, say, a cat video reinforces the bad behavior of procrastination.

We procrastinate because we are avoiding unpleasant tasks, but in the end, putting off essential tasks causes more stress. It can be inferred that people procrastinate because they are not confident in their work, and thus stop trying. Usually, these same people have a strong sense of failure as well.

So how do you overcome the urge to procrastinate? One method is to divide the task at hand into smaller parts and accomplish those step by step. According to research from Penn State, smaller tasks feels easier and more pleasurable to complete because we more quickly accomplish them. Another method is to try rewarding yourself. For example, if you have to write an essay, say to yourself: “If I finish my intro and first body paragraph, I can watch 30 minutes of my favorite television show.” Harvard Business Review recommends visualizing your future self after you have completed the task. Visualizing your success associates a good feeling with the task and acts as a catalyst to do work.

Procrastination isn’t easy to avoid, but through practice and hard work, we can learn to manage our time more efficiently.