Why Do We Procrastinate? It has nothing to do with laziness

Posted On April 2, 2021

Procrastination and me, a long story

The more I know I have an important thing to do, the more I tend to procrastinate.
Sound familiar to you?

Procrastination can be summarized as follows, I know I have to do this task because it is important to me. However, I will do it later because I will do something else less critical before. You promise yourself that you will do it the next day, and unfortunately, you know as well as I do that it will not happen.

It’s fun because I wanted to make this video about procrastination, and it took me almost 2 years to make it finally.

I can say that it’s crazy how much I have procrastinated to make it and how much it almost ruined my life during that time.

Oh, I can tell you that I’ve been practicing procrastinating every day for 2 years and now I understand perfectly the mechanisms behind it. Sadly, that’s not true.

The truth is that I felt very guilty about not releasing this video, not making any content, and I felt terrible about my lack of involvement on my own life. I felt disturbed and deeply hurt.
Besides, it prevented me from being relaxed and peaceful in my daily life because I was always overthinking about it.

So I tried to distract my attention from thinking about it, and there you have it, welcome to the vicious circle of procrastination.

On top of that, the more time went by, the more I was afraid to start making videos again.

It’s as if I was completely starting from scratch as if I had forgotten everything. I said to myself, “one more failure in the end.” C’est la vie.

Like me, you may have experienced that sometimes you are putting off an important task.

And worst of all, when you procrastinate about an important job for yourself, you start doing something else just to distract your attention.

In the worst scenarios, this can even lead to harmful attitudes. Personally, I tended to eat too much sugar. It’s like trying to fill a void.

It could be smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or consuming too much porn. It’s different for everyone. I just know it’s not good for us.

Every time I wanted to get back into content creation, I always found something more fun to do.

I suddenly became more interested in playing video games, or even cleaning my appartment or any other activity that would allow me to think about something else.
And for the time being, I always managed to find a way to divert my attention.

In the end, this reinforced even more this feeling of guilt, stress, and anxiety. Sometimes I thought that I was just too lazy and that I was unable to organize myself properly.

Like a fatality, there was nothing I could do about it.
However, my life proves that I am not lazy. On the opposite, I do a lot of stuff and I can manage my time well.

The good news is that procrastination has absolutely nothing to do with laziness or a time management problem.


Awareness of the problem

When the year 2020 arrived, something happened, the health crisis, and in France, we were confined like many other countries.

It was a real wake-up call for me that everything could change from one day to the next without us being able to do anything about it.

There is a famous saying in France that says, “Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One.”

I then decided to change my way of acting to become more efficient and to kick my procrastination’s ass.

For several months now, I have been able to be much more productive than before. I launched my website, which took me several months to do, but it was the first step in my new life.

I usually write articles for my blog, I publish content on my social networks. In short, I have the feeling that I am gradually taking my life back.

This is also the moment when I stopped looking elsewhere and confronting what I was avoiding. So I naturally decided to resume making videos on my channel. And above all, I decided to understand why I was procrastinating so much.

So I started to do research on the internet, watching many videos, and reading books about why we procrastinate.

I came across several reasons that came up repeatedly. Several research areas on this topic, such as neuroscience and social psychology, don’t necessarily agree. Some studies even speak of a hereditary genetic origin.


Roots of procrastination

To get a clearer picture, I synthesized the answers. I simply compared my life and how I felt to understand the reason for my procrastination.

And the most convincing answer is; it’s all about emotions. Procrastination is about emotional management strategies. And to understand that, we have to look at how the brain works.

The human brain is hard-wired to avoid negative feelings, such as fears or stress. Oh, just a little digression, there seems to be a small exception to this rule … when you want to sleep and suddenly … (video where I try to fall asleep and bim a jackhammer in my head)

If you consider a task potentially harmful, you’ll unconsciously try to find a way out.

It’s a vicious cycle because, in the immediate now, putting off a task provides a kind of happiness or a sort of relief. So we feel better.

It almost sounds like a reward to our brain. And when we are rewarded for something, we tend to do it again. That’s the famous reward system, especially the one that’s going to generate dopamine. And the brain LOVES dopamine, that well-known pleasure hormone.

Schematically, the brain’s functioning could be summarized in two axes, the pursuit of happiness or avoiding pain. And we are going to act to satisfy one or the other. This can sometimes result in behavior that seems incoherent.

Avoiding a stressful activity will make us feel better in the very short term. So we’ll keep delaying the task that must be done.

Let me explain. If you want to go to the gym, you will be in one of two situations. The first one, if you are passionate about sports, it’ll be comfortable, and you’ll enjoy this moment.
The second one, if you are like so many people who decide a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym three times a week, after years of sedentary life. You’ll experience the fact that your body will disagree with your idea.

After your first workout and a lot of muscle soreness, you may tend to procrastinate and don’t going back to the gym again. Because your brain will have associated this activity with something unpleasant, even painful. It will do its best to prevent this sensation.

Can you see the cycle? Avoid, to be happier in the short term. Only in the short term, because one day or another, we always pay for our inaction. Sometimes directly like a bad grade at school because we didn’t study and sometimes indirectly like chronic stress or anxiety.

The real problem is that we will generate even more stress and anxiety in the long run, increase self-blame, and weaken our self-esteem.
In the worst cases, this can lead to chronic stress and severe pathologies such as depression or respiratory problems.


The benefits of procrastination (or not…)

Until now, I have been talking about procrastination and the negative feelings associated with it. But there is a subtlety because procrastination also brings benefits.
And yes, it can be seen as something positive.

Personally, I find myself totally in this case, too, for a simple reason. I have always thought that I am more productive when I am under pressure. That’s why during my scholarship, I ever did my homework at the last minute, even sometimes in the evening just before going to bed. Even if it meant cutting down on my sleep time.

It is a strategy that many consider effective, even in today’s working world, yet working at the last minute does not allow optimal quality. It is clearly a mistake to believe that we are better under pressure. Nevertheless, it is a perfect excuse to give yourself a good reason to procrastinate.

In the end, it’s quite ironic that we procrastinate to feel better when we are creating a bigger problem in the long run.

Many researchers claim that this comes from our distant past in prehistoric times when individuals were focused on survival and, therefore, on the very short term. In other words that the brain is not really wired to select long-term needs, despite our survival in our modern society is no longer a problem.


So finally, how do we stop procrastinating?

I will give you the methods that I use in my daily life and have proven to be effective.

When I feel that I am about to procrastinate, the most effective way is to start immediately without asking myself many questions. But with a simple guideline, I will do the minimum possible I can.

Let me give you a clear example.

When I’m reluctant to write an article for my blog, I know that I need to write 1000 or even 2000 words on average. So it’s a task that will take me several hours to do a quality job.

I will simply turn this heavy task into a straightforward one. I give myself the goal of merely writing 30 or 50 words and allow myself to stop once the goal is reached.

In this way, I create a way out in my mind, and suddenly, the task becomes less anxious and much more comfortable. The other positive point is that I systematically write as little as 50 words once I have started without feeling any specific constraint. Sometimes I stop after 5 minutes, sometimes after an hour. But at least I have taken action.

Try to break down your tasks in as small a way as possible and allow yourself to stop once you have accomplished your goal.

That was the first point, but there’s another more subtle point.
Be self-compassionate may seem surprising, yet it allows you to become more productive and improve your well-being.
Studies have demonstrated the value of compassion in the fight against procrastination.
I, who am always very hard on myself, have decided to accept that I am not perfect. I began
to change the way I looked at myself to encourage myself more and forgive myself for my mistakes.
So if you find yourself procrastinating, avoid falling into the same trap, which will make you feel guilty.

On the other hand, feelings of guilt will have the opposite effect and may increase procrastination.

Please don’t be too hard on yourself and change your inner voice that is rotting your life. Turn the page, and do what really matters to you.


Final Thoughts

In short, it took me a long time to make this video, probably too long between when I first imagined it and its release. Still, today I’m really proud to have done it. I hope I was able to help you better understand the mechanisms of procrastination.

Hope you enjoy it and hope this was helpful to you.
Feel free to subscribe to my channel, hit the like button, and share it if you think it can be useful.

Thank you for ready, Happy changing, my friends. Take care







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Written by Cédric Potard

I'm Cédric Potard, founder and author of this website and former 3D artist in the videogame industry. You can connect with me on my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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