Procrastination

Man and woman with giant stack of booksProcrastination is the tendency to avoid unpleasant or stressful tasks—that are often very important—and replace them with less important, less stressful tasks. A person who avoids calling a debt collector or who posts on social networking sites instead of writing a paper is engaging in procrastination.

What Causes Procrastination?

All people procrastinate from time to time. The ability to temporarily distract oneself from stress and unpleasant tasks may even be an important coping mechanism in a high-stress society. However, procrastination can also limit a person’s productivity. Some people spend so much time procrastinating that they are unable to complete important daily tasks. They may have a strong desire to stop procrastinating, but feel they cannot do so.

Procrastination in itself is not a mental health diagnosis. It can be, however, a characteristic feature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD often have extreme difficulties with time management and organization, and tend to procrastinate more often than other people. Depression and anxiety can also cause an increase in procrastination. People who are prone to anxiety, who do not have good time management skills, or who have very high-stress jobs often turn to procrastination as a coping strategy. Long-term procrastination can lead to chronic stress, difficulty with school and work, and trouble in relationships. People who procrastinate may end up working late or avoiding time with family or friends to make up for lost time.

Is There Treatment for Procrastination?

When procrastination is a symptom of a psychiatric condition, medication and therapy to address the underlying condition can help reduce a person’s tendency to procrastinate. Some people procrastinate so frequently that it negatively interferes with their daily functioning. In those cases, therapy can help a person identify why and when they procrastinate, replace self-defeating thoughts with more productive thoughts, and learn new behavioral strategies to cope with stress. Learning effective time management skills can also be extremely helpful for people who procrastinate, such as placing limits on breaks, scheduling out daily activities, and structuring leisure time. These strategies can also help people feel like they have more leisure time and decrease their desire to procrastinate.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. (2009). APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  2. Procrastination. (n.d.). Cal Poly Student Academic Services. Retrieved from http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html

Last Updated: 08-18-2015

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  • Anonymous

    August 5th, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    I wonder sometimes if procrastination is the only way some people have of slowing down. You can only do every day at breakneck speed for so long. You’re not allowed to say “this workload is too much” or simply “I’m drowning”. Maybe procrastinating is the only way to grab some time, and it doesn’t matter because there’s only an finite amount of time for an endless amount of work.
    You start to feel hopeless very quickly, especially when you’re the weakest link who isn’t able to keep pace with everyone else. You can’t ask for help, because everyone is struggling under a mountain much larger than yours.

    Do you have any idea what the job market is like today? If I were laid off now, I’d be homeless in six months; I don’t have a master’s degree, or enough collateral to take out loans for grad school. I don’t make enough now to ever get married or have kids, because I’m saving so much for my own retirement & taking care of my folks. I haven’t taken a vacation in over a year, because I’m responsible for making deadlines. I’m drowning every day…for what? Why work so hard every damn ninute just to be ground into a little more dust tommorrow?

  • Isaac

    October 4th, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    Help!!!
    Iam a lazy as$!!!

  • Connee

    November 5th, 2016 at 3:45 AM

    For several years I was overworked and begged for help – but was ignored. I learned to procrastinate in order to balance my day/work. Now I need the tools to direct my energy into dealing with the issues head-on -I need to learn to not procrastinate. Any suggestions?

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