Procrastination: Why do we do it?

By Patrick de Kretser

The relevance of this article really depends on what end of the spectrum you reside on; whether you are someone who works so often that you consider yourself a “workaholic” or whether you cannot get anything done until the last minute no matter what you do. Maybe you identify as someone in between. Perhaps you find that you’re an active person who only occasionally slacks off or maybe you see yourself as a lazy person who has bursts of productivity from time to time. Either way, procrastination is an issue that most of us face on occasion. And it could be for absolutely anything, mind you. It could be you putting off that important assignment for work or school until the final day or it could be something as simple as you delaying the cleaning up tasks you have at home. As teenagers and young adults, we can find ourselves really struggling with the consequences of procrastination on occasion. Things like paranoia, anxiety, depression, and anger can all occur as a result of procrastinating things that we need to do. So why do we do it if that is the case? Is it because we are simply lazy or is it more complicated than that?

Well, the first thing that we need to understand is that procrastination is not always a result of laziness. And this is a misconception that many people have when they think about the topic. It can be easy to equate procrastination to a lack of care or passion to do a particular task, but it is often not the case. We do not always put tasks off because we do not care about them, but rather because sometimes we have no choice or guidance on how to get around doing them. One example is because a person might be suffering from issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD affects millions of people worldwide and is a main reason why many adolescents and young adults struggle with doing tasks. It is estimated to affect 2.2% of all youth individuals worldwide under the age of 18. 

(Source: ADHD Institute)

Maybe you do not realise it just yet, but you yourself could be suffering from acute symptoms of ADHD if you have not been properly diagnosed for it before. It can sometimes be hard for families and friends to see the signs of ADHD in an individual, hence many children grow up feeling a sense of confusion or frustration as to why they find learning so difficult. For those that go through ADHD, learning becomes a bit harder and the difficulties with focusing on tasks arise far more consistently than with someone who does not have ADHD. The problems associated with it could even be so severe that no conventional tactics will ever get you to do productive work; you could be locked in a room with no phone or distractions other than the textbook in front of you and you still would find it incredibly challenging to get through it. What we need to understand is that these problems are normal to face; it does not make us lazy nor does it mean we lack ambition. It simply means that we require a bit of extra guidance and support which will get us back on track.

Even if ADHD is not the problem you face and if procrastination is an occasional thorn that you still wish you could cut down on, you might find a solution in planning how you go about your tasks a bit differently. 

Here are three easy methods that might work as a quick remedy for you to cut down on procrastination.


  • Spread your tasks and deadlines out


You might be facing an issue with overly congesting your timetable to do too many things in a short period of time. For some people, this tends to be a desirable tactic because they get bursts of energy on occasion and want to do everything at once if they can. But the problem with this is that it amplifies those feelings of anxiety, depression, and frustration that you might be feeling as well. Spreading your work out is important to cut down on those mental problems you might be tackling and it genuinely helps your overall productivity if you try to commit this idea to memory.


  • Be supportive of those around you and encourage them to do the same for you


This is something I found very useful to deal with procrastination myself. Some of us just are not designed to be isolated learners, we benefit the most from interactive learning and connecting with other people to encourage us to push forward. And sometimes people need a bit of support to make them feel better about themselves and the struggles they are going through. Be understanding of those that might be struggling with procrastination, because it is not an easy obstacle for all of us to face.


  • Keep clear instructions closeby so that you can refer it anytime 


This is essentially the idea of devising a proper study plan or work plan for your timetable. Everyone learns at a different pace and we often end up being much more productive if we learn under our own system which is catered specifically to our preferences. Do not just blindly do tasks or study without any clear focus or plan. Set out a list of instructions or a guide that reminds you about the way you should approach your tasks. By doing so, you give yourself a point of reference that you can look back on for guidance if you ever feel stuck doing your work. This will massively cut down on the mental strain you will face, as you will not constantly spend week in and week out wondering how you should go about doing your tasks.

Now, if nothing in this article applies to you and if you are already taking all the advice that I have presented you, perhaps you should not fix anything. There are a lot of people I know that work really hard yet constantly feel that they do not do enough or get distracted too much, yet they do not realise that they are doing everything correctly and there is nothing that they need to feel guilty about. There have been trends in society which have made us believe that we need to constantly put out 100% every day of the week if we want to be successful, which have made a lot of people resent themselves because they feel like they are not living up to the standards set out for them and are not being as productive as they can be. But sometimes, we need to just take a step back, relax, and realise that we do not always have to live life in the fast lane. As long as you are making active progress towards your goal, you must always remember to give yourself some time off and not push yourself too hard, for the sake of your own mental wellbeing. Regardless of how much you feel affected by procrastination, always remember that it is normal and that there always is a solution for it. As a community, we should aim to improve ourselves and help improve those around us by understanding and guiding them through the struggles that they go through. Hopefully, this article will bring you one step closer to finding out how to do that.

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