Why We Procrastinate and How to Avoid it

Okay, we’ve all procrastinated at some point in our lives, if not this very moment..as you read this blog when you should be studying for the finals! We make a commitment to do a certain task and then what ends up happening is that you finally realize  you needed to get your laundry done, or the shutters on your walls look a little dusty, or maybe you should just take a little nap…because you deserve it? And with that, you day is practically done and you realize that you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do in the first place. So to sum it up, procrastination is basically a force that prevents people from working on and completing the things that are most important and urgent.

Many scientists, however, don’t quite understand why people procrastinate. Some famous suggestions are that procrastination is a sort of ‘avoidance’ behaviour , in which people avoid the feelings of stress or other negative feelings and instead try to make themselves feel better.

Tim Urban recently gave a Ted Talk to explain what happens inside a procrastinator’s brain. To illustrate, Tim Urban says that in the absence of deadlines or when you’re not pressured to get something done right away, there’s a ‘gratification monkey’ in the human brain. This monkey basically convinces you to give in to your desires and continue putting off your work. That’s until ‘the panic monster’ comes in. And you’re back on track.

Now how can we avoid procrastinating? Well Tim Urban suggests that we use a model called the Eisenhower Matrix, which is named after a former US president named Dwight D. Eisenhower (who was apparently very productive). This diagram is broken into 4 quadrants where you list your short and long term goals, as well as what needs to be prioritized above others. In a procrastinator’s brain, there is a jump to Q3 when Q1 should be completed, which is why there’s a lack of productivity. Also, there’s another method of illustration that Urban uses to convince people to get their goals done. He calls it a ‘life calendar’ in which there are boxes on a sheet of paper. Each box represents one week of a 90 year life. A person looking at it will see that there aren’t that many boxes, especially since some of them have been used.

“So we’re all procrastinating on something, and since there aren’t many boxes on there, we need to start on our goals today…well maybe not today.”-Tim Urban [hahaha] life-calendermatrixprocrastinator-matrix

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3 Responses to Why We Procrastinate and How to Avoid it

  1. Saurab says:

    I’ve seen that Ted Talk. One of the best, I must say!


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