Big Career Corner

Empowering insights into career building (and changing).

Why We Procrastinate

Why do we procrastinate and better yet, how do we overcome it?

As the new year no longer feels new and we've resumed normal post-holiday routines, I couldn't help but wonder about resolutions. More specifically, why so many of us wait until the new year for the clean slate especially when procrastination is key. I've met countless people who basically wrote off the time between Thanksgiving and New Years to simply put off their goals until the shiny new year.

Two psychology experts from the University of the Rockies weighed in to answer one succinct yet not so simple question: Why do we procrastinate?

According to Dr. George Thomson and Dr. Gina Hernez-Broome, personality factors come into play. "For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assesses a personality factor called Perceiving. People who score high on this factor tend to be pressure prompted and procrastinate."

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Basically, this is attributed to their need to keep options open and reluctancy to make quick decisions or act too quickly. They added, "Those folks, out of fear of hurting people's feelings, making the "wrong decision", not doing the perfect thing, will put off the difficult conversation, task or decision hoping it will resolve itself. In other words a conscious or unconscious negative emotion could produce the behavior that looks like procrastination."

While they assured us there's "no research evidence to indicate that procrastination is chemical," they do believe that certain personality factors are innate in us and less dependent on the situation or environment.

It may not necessarily be like eyesight, which may have a tendency to deteriorate with age. After all, procrastination isn't necessarily an "illness" so to speak but they did note behaviors related to personality factors may change as we age. For instance, we may become more self-aware of how our behavior impacts others and choose to change behaviors that have a negative impact.

Keep in mind, it's important not too beat yourself up too badly if you put off a looming deadline or project that hasn't moved from its spot on your to-do list. "Not all procrastination is bad," they noted. In fact, for some people and in certain situations, this may be the appropriate behavior. Sometimes it may be more effective to be patient and not act too quickly before making a decision.

Lastly though, if you do recognize procrastination is a main hindrance, they expressed we can make sure we're self-aware of our procrastination tendencies. "As humans, we cannot manage what we are not aware of. As mentioned earlier, not all procrastination is off purpose. We need to access what negative consequences are occurring because of procrastination. If you are working in corporate/organizational life, you will not be fully be effective if you consistently put things off, are late for meetings, consistently miss deadlines, etc..."

Their advice? Do the things you like to do least first and reward yourself for doing so. "Sometimes the best advice to someone who puts things off, over ruminates about decisions, or puts off those less exciting tasks are found in the words of our friends at Nike "JUST DO IT"."



Vicki Salemi is a journalist, speaker, former recruiting executive and author of Big Career in the Big City.


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