Chronic Procrastination: The Cure

Procrastination. To put off until tomorrow. Voluntarily delaying. “Laziness.” Some of us describe it as a flaw in our personality, or a lack of self control and time management skills. At it’s finest, procrastination turns the easiest tasks into the hardest. Why?

Recently, I read an article from The New York Times that answers this question in depth, but I’m here to sum it up for you.


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Procrastination is irrational, a form of self-harm, and a short-term mood repair. If you’re already in a negative state of mind, the negative consequences of procrastination will not make you feel any better. But even with this knowledge and self-awareness, we continue to exist in this chronic cycle of procrastination due to our inability to manage and regulate our negative feelings about a task.

You cannot function greater than the emotion(s) you feel. Stressful tasks and deadlines create negative emotions which consume our attention. We choose our favorite method of procrastination as an attempt to cope with these feelings of anxiety, frustration, and/or insecurity, to name a few negative emotions. In order to avoid our immediate negative feelings, we procrastinate by entertaining ourselves with activities that make us feel content and pampered, but in the end we just feel even worse. To make procrastination sound crazier, The New York Times says, “When we procrastinate, parts of our brain actually think that the tasks we’re putting off are somebody’s else’s problem.” We’re delusional!

When I’m in a sour, unmotivated mood, I think to myself, ‘Why would I write this essay if I’m in a bad mood? I’ll write it when I’m not feeling as pissy and careless. Instead, I’ll make myself feel better by watching 5 consecutive episodes of New Girl as I file my nails and sip chocolate almond milk. But alas, The New York Times directly combatted my train of thought by stating, “Don’t wait to be in the mood to do a certain task.” Instead try to change your attitude towards a task by considering the positive aspects of it and the beneficial outcome of completing the task. We’d be waiting forever to be in the “right mood” to write a 12 page analysis.  

Image courtesy of RayWenderlich


This article gave me two valuable nuggets of advice that I resonated with immeasurably and will carry with me. First, ask yourself, “What is the first action I would take towards completing this task if I were going to do it, even though I don’t want to right now?” This answer can be as basic as opening your email to walking to the printer. Once you figure out the answer, motivation may spark, which may also lead to action. The second nugget of advice is to log out, complicate, buffer, delete, create annoying passwords, add obstacles, and create a maze. If you make it difficult to procrastinate, then the motivation to procrastinate could potentially disappear. Make your temptations less convenient. For me, this means logging in and out of Netflix each time, following less people on Instagram and Twitter so that my feed dries up quickly, and allowing myself the luxury of a face mask only after I’ve completed my bio homework.

As human beings, we are wired to seek out reward, in this case, the reward is the avoidance of a task that makes you feel anxious. Another option of reward is to seek internal acceptance and forgiveness of your chronic habit of procrastination. Be patient with yourself after you’ve realized you fell into a Youtube black hole, instead of emailing your advisor back. Self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and patience foster personal growth which leads to understanding our mistakes and failures. The personal desire to move past negative behaviors and habits is rewarding in and of itself.