The Dark and Light Side of Procrastination

In short, procrastination is the habit of waiting until the very last minute to get things done. Sometimes, however, there are complications and confusions:


What procrastination is NOT


❌ Putting something off isn’t always procrastinating. It’s just that sometimes we have to prioritize and decide which tasks are important and which can wait.

❌ The other misconception is that all procrastinators are lazy. But when you’re feeling lazy, you’re more likely to sit around and do NOTHING! As opposed to putting off something important and choosing to do something else that isn’t as important but is more enjoyable for the time being.


What procrastination IS


✅ Procrastination is when you avoid a task you said you would do, for no good reason, despite expecting your behavior to bring negative consequences.

Here comes the really irrational part of procrastination. Are we knowingly doing something to harm us?! It’s normal if you ask yourself: “I know that it’s bad for me! Why do I procrastinate so much?”


Why do we procrastinate?


In fact, procrastination is a reaction of your brain to… protect you! Because it makes you avoid a task that brings you to worry and threat.
Whenever you realize that a deadline is approaching and you need to complete a task, your brain reacts in a similar way as it would if you were being chased by a bear in the woods – it starts releasing hormones like adrenaline, which trigger the feeling of fear. This panicky feeling dulls your ability to regulate your emotions and think rationally for the long run. Fight, Flight or Freeze? Hmmm, you choose a less stressful task. That is, you prefer to feel better now even if this will lead to feeling worse later.

You can also guess which types of tasks you’re more likely to procrastinate ➔ tasks that bring you fear, and insecurity, and make you feel incompetent.

There are people who are more likely to develop the ability to procrastinate to mastery.


People who are much more likely to procrastinate?


The ones who:
💣 experience difficulty regulating their emotions
💣 struggle with low self-esteem
💣 care too much (those prone to perfectionism)

Another misconception is that procrastinators don’t take their tasks seriously and are irresponsible. However, the exact opposite happens with procrastinating perfectionists. These procrastinators often report a high fear of failure, putting things off because they’re afraid their work won’t live up to their high standards!


Types of procrastination


I came across an article on Insider that says there are 4 main types of procrastination:

The performer who says, “I work well under pressure”

The self-deprecator who says, “I am so lazy right now”

The overbooker who says, “I’m so busy”

The novelty seeker who says, “I just had the best idea!”

However, I want to tell you that ALL of us procrastinate at some point in our lives. Especially when we don’t have a deadline set. Check out this TED talk by Tim Urban, who tells (super funny by the way) what goes on in the mind of a master procrastinator!


The dark side of procrastination


The vicious circle of procrastination leads to anxiety and depression, ongoing feelings of shame, worse performance, missed opportunities, and higher stress levels. It can even lead to physical ailments that are associated with high levels of stress and worry.
Postponing a task that causes you stress at the moment actually causes you even more stress in the long run.


How do you help yourself when you’re on the dark side?


People usually think that procrastinators need to develop better discipline and practice strict time management. But today many researchers think just the opposite (you can see the short video in the additional sources).
Being too hard on yourself can lead to additional bad emotions on a task, making the sense of threat even stronger.

A few helpful things you can do to reduce the feeling of threat on a given task:

💊 breaking a task into smaller elements
💊 instead of a deadline – set a start date in which to start with small steps toward the realization of the task
💊 ask yourself: “What am I really avoiding?” and address those underlying concerns
💊 try removing nearby distractions that make it easy to impulsively procrastinate
💊 self-compassion – forgiving yourself, allowing yourself to make mistakes, and experimenting (this is for all perfectionists!)


The light side of procrastination


Hey, if something has a dark side, there’s a light side as well. Now let’s see a perk of procrastination thanks to Adam Grant and his TED Talk on The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers.

There, Adam Grant shares his research where he tested who is more creative: those who finish their tasks on time and even before the deadline (precrastinators), those who procrastinate constantly or those who procrastinate moderately.

It turned out that MODERATE procrastinators are 16% more creative than the other two groups. Because those who procrastinate CONSTANTLY and wait until the very last minute, just don’t get new ideas because they are busy “hanging out”. Quite similar to precrastinators, who are busy worrying about the deadline and rush to finish their tasks earlier.

Moderate procrastination gives you time to consider different ideas, because you start to incubate them in your mind, to think incoherently, and to consider unexpected turns of your ideas.

Many geniuses in human history have been procrastinators ➔ Leonardo da Vinci worked for 16 years! (with breaks) on his masterpiece Mona Lisa. You can hear more examples from our history in Adam Grant’s TED Talk.

So, next time you’re faced with a task and you realize you’ve been putting it off for some time now – think WHAT about it is causing you to stress and how you can break it down into smaller, clearer tasks.

And if you don’t succeed – think about whether you have ideas that are already developing in your head and are just waiting for the right moment to complete them.
Maybe you just need a little more time for your masterpiece!


Vasi from the Gang

Take a look at these additional sources as well:

👉 If you don’t have time to dive into the topic, with this short TED video on Why you procrastinate even when it feels bad, you’ll get the most important thing about procrastination.

👉 This article gives a complete image of the reasons why we procrastinate.
Behind the article is Dr. Itamar Shatz, who created the site Solving Procrastination to help people understand and overcome procrastination, based on insights that he synthesized from hundreds of research articles!

PS: Our pill-ers (check out our newsletter!) were the first ones to receive this vitamin – directly in their mailbox! Make sure to subscribe – become a pill-er! 😊

Learn more...