Procrastination is (not) a habit

Angela van SonBlog, Events, Helpful Habits, Productivity experiments5 Comments

Often when you read about procrastination, the writer will say it’s a habit. I tend to disagree. I believe the tendency to procrastinate is (partly) innate.  The part of  giving in to the tendency, THAT’s the habit.

Procrastination often functions as a flight mechanism. It takes us away from things we don’t like or things we (unknowingly) fear. An unpleasant task lights up the same part of our brain as pain does. The instant gratification part of us stimulates us to give in to the short term impulse, and ignore the long term thinking. There’s always tomorrow…

But we all know tomorrow is always a day away, and it makes sense to get a grip on procrastination. To get back our freedom of choice. Do I want to do this now? Or is it REALLY better for me to do it later? If so, when?

If it’s a habit, it can be changed. When it’s a signal of something deeper going on (fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, etc.) the signal can be read. The deeper issue can be addressed – whilst you get your work done, you don’t need to wait. But both take effort. There’s an eternal demand for quick fixes for procrastination. I believe the demand is eternal because quick fixes don’t last, or don’t work.

That being said, I’d love to hear what has worked for you. Are there quick fixes that help you out? Have you managed to change (some of) your habits? How?

The next Get it Done week will focus on your personal procrastination habit(s). It starts on May 4, and will end on May 11. You’ll have the weekend off – unless that’s a habit that doesn’t serve you 🙂



5 Comments on “Procrastination is (not) a habit”

  1. Avatar

    Hey I find I have to make myself get up and do something different, despite feeling guilty. When I’ve moved and shifted my energy then I am more inclined to go back, get on and make some progress. Once procrastination has got you in its grip you gotta physically pull it off! X

  2. Avatar

    Agree with that procrastination is not a habit, but to say that it’s an innate tendency goes too far for me. In the world today there are so many decisions we think we need to make, that it’s overloading our system, and think we “have to” do all kinds of things to please others or to appear that we are” with it.” I don’t like the latter purposeful driven ones who have no moment to be able to relax, or go back to basics, or are able to process new things, and resolve old matters. processing takes time, and it may appear as procrastination, while in reality we are trying to make up our mind what is best. Nothing is worse than making decisions while we are “not ready” for it, because we might have to go backtrack from the wrong track. Some thoughts of a retired psychologist, Jesh
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    1. Angela van Son

      I love your thoughts Jesh, and I agree. This is a side of doing/not(yet) doing things that gets little attention. Which is a pity.

      I often find that my clients berate themselves for things that may be labled very differently than “I procrastinate and I’m bad”, which often is how they perceive themselves.

      One of the things I do with my clients is to explore what they label as procrastination. Many of them have a feeling they could/should be doing useful things at almost any opportunity. So they always feel guilty when they’re not doing something.

      I appreciate your long reply so much, it’s a rare thing to exchange thoughts longer than one or two sentences with people I haven’t met before.

      I wish I can remember who wrote the ‘innate’ statement, but I can’t refer you to the source. I do believe the tendency to procrastinate is innate, after everything I’ve read. Without judging it as good or bad, just as something that can easily happen, and that people can suffer from. Us human beings are a complicated lot.

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