Why We Procrastinate And What We Can Do About It
Why We Put Things Off
You’re not alone in wondering why we’re about to enter the era of self-driving cars, but we haven’t yet figured out a way to stop procrastinating. We say we’re not going to do it, and then we do it, anyway. We do this with such consistency that there has to be a scientific reason for it, right?
Take a deep breath and relax. Science has found a reason why we avoid the things we know we should be doing.
Be Here Now
Behavioral psychologists say we procrastinate because of something called “time inconsistency.” It turns out that our brain puts a higher value on immediate rewards rather than future rewards.
Plans and goals are things you make for a version of yourself that exists in the future. A workout at the gym is a benefit to your future self. Research shows that our brains value rewards that have lasting benefits. And thinking about action is easy.
So, you set the future goal.
Life, however, takes place in the present. It’s the only place where we can take action. The part of your brain that participates in the present moment has a different set of values. This part of your brain doesn’t care much for long-term payoffs. It goes for instant gratification. It usually always wins, too.
Crossing the Line
Long-term rewards are great to think about, but they are inadequate for motivation. The present need for reward and gratification will redirect your attention. Procrastination sets in.
If you want to short circuit the process, you’ve got to make those future, long-term rewards feel like they can happen right now.
How’s that possible?
It happens all the time if you let procrastination play out. You really should get your driver’s license renewed. The deadline was months away, then weeks. You started to feel some anxiety about it, but not enough discomfort to act.
A day or two before the deadline, the future consequences of your inaction turn into present consequences. This escalation of concern is called the “action line.” The anxiety or pain you feel when the future becomes the present is enough to get you over to the department of motor vehicles.
The irony of crossing this action line is that the guilt and frustration decreases the closer you get to it. What’s more, you’ll likely expend more energy from the guilt and anxiety of procrastination than you will in actually accomplishing the task.
Getting started on the work is almost always more difficult than the work itself.
It’s a wise observation, but it’s even better advice. End procrastination by making it easier to get started. Attach action to an immediate reward.
The Curious Thing About Motivation
People often wait for motivation before action. They have it backwards. Motivation happens after you start. It’s what builds momentum. And, it’s also what crushes procrastination.
So, if our brain values the rewards of the present over those of the future, the only way to combat procrastination is to stop thinking about a goal as something you’ll resolve at a later date. You’ve got to do it right now.
In part 2, we’ll explore 4 ways to end procrastination by turning later into now.
At Vinyl Art, we’ve found that the earlier our clients start planning their projects, more creative options and opportunities for cost savings become available. As in life, ending procrastination in your printing and packaging projects can have big benefits!