Why Do People Procrastinate?

Michael Deer explains why we procrastinate


I was going to write a book about procrastination, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  We have all been burned by the mistress of the night who loves you and hurts you, feeding you grapes, while you rest in the bliss of ignorance as your kingdom burns to the ground.  I am talking about the tantalizing, the tempting force of procrastination.

What causes procrastination in the first place?  To oversimplify it, allowing your emotions to make decisions for you.  While there are various thoughts on the topic, there are two main causes for procrastination which I call the “Procrastination Cousins: Excitement & Perfection”

In simplest terms, we procrastinate because we either want to wait until conditions are perfect before we start to address or execute our duties.  Living in such an imperfect world and society makes perfection of any kind a fleeting dream.  Do you see how a person would have to defer their action if they are waiting for all their ducks to be in a row?   

The real question behind waiting for perfection is why?

  • Afraid of the rejection that comes from being unpolished
  • Need things to be clear and understandable before you move
  • Want things to be idea to you before you respond
  • Afraid they do not have the skill to deal with problems that might arise


The other reason for procrastination is that the specific task which needs to be done hasn’t reached a certain threshold of excitement or stimulation yet.  I will give you a perfect example.  You are getting ready for an appointment that you have at noon and you did a great job by waking up at 8:13AM.  You lag around making sure you are managing your stress and calming your nerves as you peek at the clock seeing 9:10AM, 9:45AM, and 10:30AM.  You are okay with it because you woke up early, right?  As the clock strikes 11:05AM, you realize, in horror, that you have no shirt on.  You literally switch into a different mode.  You become a different person.  Your Placid meanders give way to a flying frenzy of impetuous movements and hurried actions.  You become the chicken with no head. What happened there, and more importantly, why did it happen?

  • The required action wasn’t stimulating enough to access your full attention
  • Was not important enough when you had extra time
  • Struggled with not wanting to do something until your desires have no more time to fight “what needs to be done”

This is why discipline is still the best remedy for procrastination because it is about doing the things you know you should, when you know you should.  Not when you feel like it.  Discipline does not consult your feelings when making decisions. It only looks to your objective, goal, or aim, making decision, which lead you closer to them.  Think about a disciplined soldier who is able to complete a mission whether he is afraid or doesn’t want to do it.

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2 months ago

Can you be more specific about the content of your article? After reading it, I still have some doubts. Hope you can help me.

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