why procrastinateI have to admit, I used to live by the motto: “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?” Honestly, I still find myself thinking this way from time to time.  American aphorist Mason Cooley stated, “procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder”.  So why do we procrastinate?

For those of us who procrastinate, we may often find that in doing so, we create unnecessary obstacles.  We find ourselves racing to meet deadlines, trying to find resources at the last minute, and struggling to complete tasks. Many of us hold the belief that we work better under pressure.  While this belief may be true in some cases, it often creates more stress.

When looking at the reasons for procrastination, we should consider the role fear play in our delays.  We should think about what we are afraid of and why.  For some of us the fear may be of failure, but for others it may be of success; and in some cases, it may be a combination of both.  I’ve personally experienced both.  I can recall thinking if I completed the task and failed that I would be perceived as incompetent or not ready for the job.  I can also recall thinking if I succeeded and did really well, others would expect more from me, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that pressure.

We may also procrastinate because of how we perceive the task at hand.  It is definitely hard to get started on, or become motivated for, a task we have little to no interest in.  If we can change our thinking about the task, we can often change our motivation, ultimately causing less of a delay in starting.

On a personal note, I know that when I start procrastinating, it’s because I’m overwhelmed; this is my top reason for procrastination.  I find that when I have too many tasks to complete, I start putting more and more off.  This often feels good in the moment, but creates chaos on many levels later.

There are several negative consequences of procrastinating.  Procrastination causes us to become unproductive at other tasks.  If we are spinning our wheels trying to complete a task at the last minute, it’s very likely that we’re neglecting some other area of our lives.  Procrastination can also lead to a diminished quality of work.  As stated earlier, while some of us believe we create better work under pressure, it’s logical to believe that the more time we spend on our work, the better it will be in the end.

With all of that said, why procrastinate?  If you find that you’re a procrastinator, start making small changes today.  I’ll be writing later this week about ways to stop procrastinating. If you’re interested in these types of tips, don’t put off reading this post until later…

Colleagues procrastinating photo available from Shutterstock