It seems that collectively, everyone wants to know why we procrastinate so much. Luckily, there are a groups of professionals who not only concern themselves with why we procrastinate, but do not put the task off until the last minute. Interestingly, according to the leaders of procrastination study, we usually do not procrastinate due to laziness or for a lack of trying (though these are obviously a very real reason in some cases). No, it may comfort some (and disturb others) to know that the reason we procrastinate generally has to do with a fundamental flaw in thinking. Even better, those involved in procrastination study say this flaw in thinking may be corrected once we recognize it as an issue. So why do we procrastinate?
In a 1999 procrastination study, participants were asked to choose three movies from a possible 24, one of which they would watch immediately, and two others that they would watch two and four days later. Fifty-six percent of the procrastination study participants chose to watch a frivolous movie first, while 63 percent of the procrastination study participants gave in and watched a thought-provoking film two days later. As you might have guessed, most of the procrastination study participants waited until the third session, four days from the original procrastination study session, to watch anything mindful, though they all claimed to want to watch each movie which was selected.
Why did most procrastination study participants, a whopping 71 percent, choose to wait until the third and final procrastination study until they watched a critically acclaimed movie like “Schindler’s List”? The answer to the procrastination study participants’ behavior, along with the answer to why we procrastinate so much, are one in the same. According to those who ran the procrastination study, and cognitive psychologists throughout, we procrastinate because we fall victim to what is known as “present bias.”
What is present bias and what does it have to do with procrastination? Present bias is the phenomena in which people misjudge what they will want in the future due to the security of that time being so far away. For example, it was obviously much easier for the procrastination study participants to select a critically acclaimed movie and say they would watch it on the third procrastination study session, as it was a partially tedious act they would not be forced to face until the very last minute. We procrastinate because we fail to realize exerting effort or creating change is difficult and requires dedication.
How can we overcome present bias and fight procrastination? The only way to stop procrastinating is to confront the fact that we are procrastinating and make active changes in our lives; no one is going to do that for us. If we want to stop, then we need to stop. Procrastination is a monster we create ourselves, which means we completely have the power to slay it.
McRaney, David. “Why Our Monkey Brains Are Prone to Procrastination (No, It’s Not Just Laziness or Lack O Willpower)”. AlterNet. 04, June 2011. Web. July 2011. http://www.alternet.org/story/151514/why_our_monkey_brains_are_prone_to_procrastination_(no,_it%27s_not_just