You put things off because you’re in a bad mood not because you’re lazy.
Procrastination is less about managing time and more about managing emotion. Everybody thinks we put off doing a task because we feel lazy and don’t want to do it. But the reason is deeper than that.
Certain tasks bring out negative emotions that we cope with — boredom, anxiety, frustration, self-doubt.
For example, when I was in elementary school, I put off doing my homework for as long as I could. I distracted myself with anything I could think of. Watching TV, shooting hoops in the backyard and playing Atari were some of my favorites.
I didn’t like doing homework because I felt like I didn’t need to. I was a good student who got good grades. Why would I need to do any homework after school?
The whole thing didn’t make any sense to me. But there was a constant battle with my parents night after night about it. I didn’t realize until much later that I knew the reason why.
I was frustrated about doing homework and did my best to put it off.
Procrastination feels great because you provide yourself instant gratification.
Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois, professors of psychology at Carleton University and Bishop’s University in Canada, performed a study in 2013 that found procrastination can be understood as “the primacy of short-term mood repair…over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.”
“Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on the immediate urgency of managing negative moods than getting on with the task.” — Dr. Sirois
Putting things off in the short term may feel great because you’re probably avoiding it, and this delivers immediate relief. But the more you delay the worse off you’ll be in the long-term. The effects could be destructive on our mental and physical health chronic stress, depression, anxiety, hypertension and others.
Procrastination is a perfect example of present bias.