Woman surrounded by books, looking bored

The Science Behind Why We Procrastinate

The number of days left in the year has dwindled down to double digits. If you’re in the medical field, you’ve likely noticed a sudden increase in appointments. Suddenly it’s apparent to anyone with a health flex spending account that they haven’t got much time to use what they’ve accumulated.

Procrastination’s at work again. They’ve put it off until the last minute—and that’s typical human behavior. This swell of patients clamoring to get an appointment before the end of the year means you’re probably going through your supplies at a faster rate, as well.

Which…should be setting off a reminder to you. Have you reordered your supplies from us? Or are you following in the footsteps of your procrastinating patients? Don’t be too hard on yourself. According to science, our brains are actually hardwired to procrastinate.

Nothing New

Procrastination has been studied for centuries. Greek philosopher Aristotle developed the word Akrasia to explain what he described as the state of acting against your better judgement. Our modern definition hasn’t changed much. We define it as the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks.

All humans do this, and what perplexes us is trying to understand this invisible force that prevents us from following through on what we know we ought to do.

Science Has an Explanation

Behavioral psychology research has shed some light on this curious behavior we call procrastination. The research has revealed a phenomenon called “time inconsistency.” This refers to our brain’s preference of valuing immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

What, you may be thinking, does this have to do with flex spending accounts and my need to put in my orders for next year’s supplies from Vinyl Art? The easiest way to wrap your head around this is to imagine that you have two selves:

  1. Your PRESENT Self
  2. Your FUTURE Self

When you set goals for yourself—like using the money you’ve accumulated in your health flex spending account or not waiting until the last minute to order patient chart holders, color coded medical folders and other Vinyl Art packing products—you’re actually making plans for your FUTURE Self.

FUTURE Self is good at seeing the value of long-term rewards. FUTURE Self loves plans and setting goals. Unfortunately, it turns out that only PRESENT Self can take action. When you’re moved to action, you disengage FUTURE Self. Your brain is now only concerned with instant gratification. It’s not motivated by losing flex dollars or running out of patient chart holders.

It’s no surprise that FUTURE Self and PRESENT Self are frequently at odds with each other. You don’t hear them arguing in your head—but you do feel the consequences when one or the other assumes control. You have every intention of doing something…and then you don’t. Uh, oh. FUTURE Self just got overruled by PRESENT Self again.

Is There a Cure for Procrastination?

Yes. It’s simple. You just have to do some time traveling. FUTURE Self is thinking about the end of the year, or decades from now when it’s time to retire. PRESENT Self thinks only about right now. If you don’t want to procrastinate, you must find a way to move those future rewards—or consequences—into the present moment.

Some of those same behavioral psychologists who gave us “time inconsistency” also provided us with an interesting term, which they believe is the best way to beat procrastination. It’s called “temptation bundling,” and it means that you bundle an action that’s good for you in the long run with an action that feels good right now. Here are a few examples:

  • Only listen to your favorite dance music when you’re exercising.
  • Only drink your favorite Frappuccino when you’re paying monthly bills.
  • Only binge on Netflix when there’s a full basket of clothes to iron.

Your other option is to remove the choice to procrastinate. Putting your exercise clothes in the car works as an example for that.

You’re Programmed to Procrastinate

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Procrastination isn’t a sign of weakness or laziness. According to the science of behavioral psychology, it’s just human nature. Now that you understand it better, and hopefully you also will use what you’ve learned to beat procrastination at its own game.

Put on the disco music and order that sugar-laden Frappuccino. Then bundle it with getting in touch with us so we can start working on your end-of-the-year orders. Your procrastinating customers are going to burn through what you’ve got left, anyway.

Want to learn more?

Contact the Vinyl Art Team at 800-569-1304
Rob Slattery | Executive Sales Director | robs@vinylart.com
Tim Hitchings | Vice President | timhitchings@vinylart.com