Are We All Procrastinators?
Remember that kid who was far more interested in shiny objects outside their bedroom window than doing their homework? Or what about the kid who always bargains with you when it comes to chore-time, saying they’re ‘gunna, gunna, gunna’ do it later? Then it might not surprise you to learn that studies have found that procrastination occurs more frequently in younger people (14-29). The good news is that, as we get older, we get much better at fighting off the procrastination demons. The bad news is that it will probably never leave you entirely. In fact, a 2015 survey found that, on average, an adult ‘loses’ over 55 days a year procrastinating, or around 218 minutes every day. That’s a lot of time! So, what is really going on here?
“What do your 3pm fridge raid and perfectly alphabetised bookshelf have in common? You most likely did both of them when you should have been doing work.”
The Real Reasons We Put Important Stuff Off!
We humans are complex creatures and, as such, there are a wide range of reasons that may cause us to procrastinate. When we are young, different things influence and motivate our decision-making. Remember when the threat of not being allowed to go to a birthday party directly influenced our ability to do simple tasks? That’s because, in children, lower levels of conscientiousness will facilitate decision making that supports procrastination-like behaviour. This phenomenon decreases as we get older and become more aware of our influence on other people’s lives, and our own. As adults, there are often more complex drivers for procrastination, such as:
- High levels of perceived stress
- Reduced life satisfaction across a whole range of domains including work and leisure time
- Lack of partnership
So basically, just living our normal stressful lives gives all of us a good reason to put things off. But, is procrastination always a bad thing?
“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”
― Mark Twain
Can Procrastination Actually Improve Productivity?
Think back to a time when there was a simple task around the home that you off continuously, only to be forced to do it quickly down the track due to time pressure. And did you find that this newfound time pressure drove you to complete the job faster and more efficiently? Tidying the house before someone comes to visit comes to mind – there’s no quicker cleaning service in the world! Or perhaps it’s completing your tax return or business strategy when you have a deadline, as opposed to ‘one day soon’. Using procrastination to temporarily relieve stress and in order to better focus on a task later on, can boost productivity but sometimes we end up spending more time worrying about the thing than actually doing the thing. So, what are the different types of procrastination and which is better for our productivity in the long run?
“A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”
― Bill Watterson