When I procrastinate, it makes me crazy! So, I ask myself – why do I do it? Thankfully, there are those who are uniquely qualified to study this behavior. In the words of some of these researchers, “Procrastinating brains believe that tasks will be easier in the future” and “Procrastination is a tendency that we all encounter in our lives…”.

From a scientific perspective, an area in our brain seems to combine information about rewards and efforts for any particular task in order to make continual cost/benefit calculations when we are faced with a decision.

I am more likely to procrastinate on something that I believe is much harder or less rewarding. This is consistent with the findings of the research study which also added a dimension of how we discount how much will be required to do something in the future. This also leads to procrastination.

Understanding that this is somewhat normal and common behavior means that we must find what I call “compensating” tricks to propel us into different behaviors. 

Here are some tactics I have deployed and what I have heard from others:

  1. Break the task down into parts – tackle one part and schedule the rest.
  2. Schedule the tasks you are most likely to put off into a timeframe when you are most likely to have the highest energy and focus.
  3. Qualify the things that cause you to procrastinate and ask yourself, “Does this need to get done at all?” Many times, I have found things in this category that can disappear from my “to-do” list.
  4. Ask someone else to hold you accountable for something that may be important and/or requires a high level of effort.

My message within this topic is to give yourself some grace and stop beating yourself up over your pattern of procrastination. It is quite normal and common. How you manage it going forward requires a commitment to a change in your behavior. This change should be approached with energy and enthusiasm rather than shame or guilt.