Landice News

Why We Procrastinate and How to Stop It

July 28, 2020

Why We Procrastinate and How to Stop It

What have you avoided doing today? Are you rearranging the spice drawer instead of tackling that difficult problem or putting off that speed workout for another day? If so, you're not alone.

Procrastination refers to the voluntary postponement of an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests it all has to do with how we blend anticipation, excitement, and dread.

Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task. It doesn't mean we're lazy; it's just that people want to have good things now and delay bad things for later. It’s the anticipation of both positive and negative tasks that drive our behavior.

Of course, this only compounds the negative associations we have with the task, and those feelings will still be there whenever we come back to it, along with increased stress and anxiety, feelings of low self-esteem and self-blame.

However, the momentary relief we feel when procrastinating is actually what makes the cycle especially vicious. The immediate relief we feel when we put off a task provides a reward. And because we reward ourselves, we tend to do it again. This is why procrastination tends not to be a one-off behavior, but a cycle, one that easily becomes a chronic habit.

How to Break the Habit

It’s all about reframing how you think about it. This is applicable to our workouts and training goals as well as our daily work tasks at the office or home.

Things that we think are positive, we want to do. In fact, we may feel impatient about getting them done because they bring joy to us and we savor it. But, if we view things as negative, like filing taxes or doing hill workouts, we'll put it off most likely, or just do it to get it over with. So seeing things as negative, gives us a 50% chance of getting them done.

But, by reframing the conversation we have with ourselves and looking at the positive outcome, we can actually get our brain to change. The idea of using language that goes from, "I have to do this" to "I get to do this" can add anticipation and excitement to our tasks.

Especially, with what we're all going through during these times, the idea of being able to do our exercises and strive to be healthy certainly provides me with a positive outlook that I am grateful for. By changing the language, we can change the narrative in our minds and get things done.