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The Psychological Triggers That Cause Procrastination

Teddy Roosevelt spoke about how nothing is worth doing unless it involves effort, pain, and difficulty. What do you think? If you’ve experienced what we’re about to discuss, you might respond, “Hogwash!”

  • The agony of compressing a semester’s worth of studying into a single night.

  • The suffering of scrambling at the last minute to meet your work deadlines.

  • Finally, the agony of putting off doing your laundry until you have a mountain of dirty clothes.

Procrastinators, to whom we can, of course, assign these actions, may say this. Procrastination isn’t worthwhile, yet it involves much pain, effort, and difficulty.

If procrastination is such a thorn in the flesh, why do many people do it? You may have wondered if you know a procrastinator or can admit that you are a procrastinator.

What are the inner workings behind why people procrastinate? Psychology explains what cogs and gears are turning in the minds of procrastinators. Let’s look.

The Psychological Factors Behind Procrastination

Studies show that various factors cause procrastination. These factors are why procrastinators may know their behaviors yet can’t change them. What are they?

Consider these factors:

1. A lack of structure. Organizing your tasks while taking your habits and behaviors into account is a skill. One a procrastinator lacks. Those who can order their past, present, and future activities can manage their time well.

  • When a person cannot do so, they cannot plan the actions they must dedicate time to. They can’t devote the time required to complete an activity.

  • As a result, they lose focus and postpone tasks they must complete. When you build a habit of delaying tasks, you become a procrastinator.

2. Anxiety and fear. The tasks we have to perform can be challenging when you can’t see the top of the mountain of clothes that need washing. Confess, and it makes you feel uneasy.

  • Fear of the results of our work or the journey necessary to achieve a task can paralyze a person. It results in an inability to complete a task and, as a result, procrastination.

3. Lack of motivation. Some call motivation the driving force behind accomplishing what needs doing. Motivation might come from the outside or from within. Internal motivation is a crucial psychological factor.

  • It helps decide whether a person can act to complete a task. We all yearn for fulfillment and pleasure. It means that if a task may benefit us in this way, we’ll want to do it.

  • Likewise, if completing work does not provide us with any rewards, we will not want to do it. Disliking a task results in a lack of motivation. When this happens, the chances of deferring work on a task are great. That’s saying we procrastinate.

4. Perfectionism. Holding up a weighty object isn’t easy. The pressure exerted by the object makes it difficult even to move. That’s the strain that perfectionism puts on individuals who suffer from it.

  • Perfectionists have such high expectations of themselves. Yet, it may not always be possible to complete a task to such a high-quality standard.

  • Instead of settling for their best, a perfectionist won’t. They may not bear the thought of failing to meet their high expectations. So as not to “fail” at whatever task they need to complete, perfectionists postpone actual work on the task.

  • Instead, they spend their time musing on how to best complete the task to meet the high standards. It makes perfectionism a relevant and proven psychological factor for why people procrastinate.

We’ve discussed some of the “whys” behind procrastination. Gaining knowledge of this is a step forward in overcoming this self-defeating habit. As you do, you find that you’re happier, living a life with less effort, less pain, and less difficulty.


Thank you for reading our blog!

- Mike Acker

Check out my new book on Public Speaking: Speak with Confidence, published by WILEY.

A breakthrough to develop confidence in speaking, leadership, and life. A follow-up book to my best-selling book, Speak with No Fear

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