Why do we procrastinate?

“Don’t wait! The time will never be just right”- Napoleon

If we have a deadline of one week for completing a task, it’s not rocket science that giving our best and finishing some part of it every day will give us a better result than just piling up the work. But still, we keep on convincing ourselves to postpone work.

Why do we do that?

I was listening to a TED talk by Vik Nithy, which was about ‘why do we procrastinate’, where the speaker, being a psychology student studied this subject.

We have two parts of our brain known as the Prefrontal cortex and Limbic system

The prefrontal cortex always convinces us to work and go forward with our tasks, on the other hand, the Limbic system wants us to play and enjoy all the leisure activities. Whenever we come across any task, it’s all a matter of who wins the argument between these two.

But, have you noticed that until the situation gets alarming, the Limbic system tends to win most of the time.

Why is that?

When we procrastinate we experience mild anxiety because of an approaching deadline, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. The Limbic system then takes charge. The anxiety can be due to the following reasons:

  1. Not knowing where to start
  2. Dreading the displeasure of doing the task
  3. Fear of failure

On sensing the anxiety, the Limbic system decides to postpone the work. The fact that we did not give our best, or, we spent less time on the task compared to other people is used as an excuse if you fail. So by accepting that we are lazy, we avoid losing face due to failure.

Procrastination is not necessarily bad. Some people perform well under pressure. Either we hold on to our comfort zone and don’t leave until necessary, or, we postpone because we are too scared to fail. The act of procrastination may or may not be a problem but the root cause needs your attention so that they don’t impact other areas of your life.

Published by Sruti Shivakumar

An architect from India on a journey of self exploration

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