Has it ever happened that you sat down to do an important task, and then suddenly discovered yourself scrolling through Instagram or watching a cat video on youtube? Something or the other kept coming up, it’s the end of the day now, and your important task still remains unfinished. This act of unnecessarily delaying or postponing your actions is known as procrastination
Many people lack the motivation to complete their work and fall into procrastination. This leads to potentially dangerous consequences like students failing in schools or colleges, professionals performing poorly at work, missing deadlines in businesses, amongst many others. Furthermore, procrastination is also associated with issues like increased stress, illness, and poor physical and mental health.
7 Main Causes of Procrastination
Procrastination is not always a matter of motivation and willpower. It is also about self-control, lifestyle, and habits. Before we get into how to overcome procrastination, let’s understand the main causes of procrastination.
1) Abstract goals
Most people over-commit to themselves and set unreasonable goals which they are unable to keep up. You usually delay your work because you think you can do everything at once. In addition to this, what causes procrastination is undefined or vague goals, like ‘work well’ or ‘get fit.’ Conversely, a goal should be defined with measured results. It should be achieving 50% sales over last year or losing 5 kg weight, and so on. With properly defined goals, you will be able to plan your way to achieve it and reduce the chances of procrastination.
When people are unable to make decisions in a timely and organized manner, they usually procrastinate the task in hand. Indecisiveness can be due to multiple reasons- you are unable to decide which course of action to take, how to prioritize among your tasks, how to divide time among them, etc. With so many decisions to make, you might exhaust yourself only to plan and eventually delay the work. Professionals often make this mistake when they struggle to make up their minds and choose between multiple clients and projects and procrastinate their work.
3) Fear of Failure
One of the most common reasons for procrastination is the fear of failure. When you are afraid of failing at the tasks in hand, you avoid or delay the task, thereby promoting procrastination. It serves as a protection mechanism and shields away from the possibility of failure. Though not starting the task would lead to a definite failure, most people tend to ignore this argument and procrastinate their work.
4) Waiting for the deadline
People sometimes procrastinate tasks because they are optimistic about completing those tasks in the future before the due deadline. For example, you might avoid or postpone an important presentation or a meeting with a client if it is not due in the next few days. When you await the ultimate deadline to begin your work, you may not be able to put your best efforts, and the work quality might hamper.
5) Task aversion
People often procrastinate tasks because they dislike the tasks at hand. This occurs when you don’t find the task appealing or are averse to the people associated with it. For example, a business owner might procrastinate an important meeting if he does not like the client, or a freelancer might procrastinate his project if he finds the work too tedious and boring. Furthermore, you can also stay averse from a task which seems tedious or boring.
6) Lack of perseverance
Perseverance is the ability to strive for success and maintain a goal-driven attitude even when you face some challenges in the course of work. Many people lack the will to persevere for their goals, overcome obstacles, and finish the task. This lack of perseverance reduces your focus and motivation for the work. You then simply keep it aside and procrastinate it indefinitely.
7) Excessive perfectionism
One of the most common reasons for people to procrastinate is the feeling of extreme perfectionism. When you are a self-confessed perfectionist, you will not want to start the work unless you are totally sure about it. Further, you will not complete the task unless it is picture-perfect. This over-urging need for perfection encourages procrastination because it tricks your mind that you are not ready for the work. Therefore, you will indefinitely put off the task until you think you can do it correctly.
Effects of Procrastination
Though the causes vary from person to person- from laziness to the fear of failure- it has far damaging effects that can harm you in many ways. Here are some of the negative effects of procrastination that can have an adverse effect on you.
- Waste of time: You lose so much time procrastinating. This is a terrible feeling and leaves you guilty of wasting time because you cannot get it back. The quality of your work will be different if you can utilize your time adequately.
- Low self-esteem: You will lower your self-esteem. This is one of those vicious circles you cannot get out of. You sometimes procrastinate because of low self-esteem but procrastinating only adds to this. Having low self-esteem can further destroy you in multiple different ways.
- Stress and anxiety: You will lose your mental health because procrastination is linked to problems like stress and anxiety. When you procrastinate, you also lose sleep over it and eventually stress yourself, thereby reducing your health as well as productivity.
- Lack of control: You will face a lack of control over your thoughts and decisions. When you procrastinate, you don’t make decisions within your control. It is the subconscious mind asking you to delay the task.
- Lack of focus: You lose your focus and concentration and a reduced interest in activities. Procrastination leads to mental fatigue and eventually causes depression.
- Low self-efficacy: You will lose your self-efficacy when you procrastinate. You tend to lose time and be unsuccessful in achieving your goals. This leads to a low self-efficiency and can affect your personality adversely.
- Low energy levels: Procrastination leads to lower energy levels. When you procrastinate your work and are not able to finish it later, you experience low energy levels and feel sluggish for the rest of the day.
The above-mentioned points explain the causes and effects of procrastination. As long as laziness and task aversion outweigh your level of motivation and productivity, you will always procrastinate your tasks. All these causes lead to lower efficiency and create a gap between your actions and goals.