The Latin root of ‘procrastination’ is ‘procrastinare’, which means “to put off or postpone until another day”.
In order to get an unbiased view of “this thief of time”, it is important, that we separate the construct of procrastination,from its presumed consequences.
So why do we procrastinate?
Simple answer “ to prevent mood dysregulation” meaning “keeping our good mood from taking a dip”.
After days of saying to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow,” it is now the day before your report is due despite your intention to get it done a few weeks ago. However, instead of sitting down to finish it, you decide to get busy catching up answering email with the hope that you will soon feel more in the mood to work on the report. – does that sound familiar? I would like to be brutally honest and share that I have a deadline coming up reviewing some documents but currently, I am enjoying writing this “blog”! If I were to give up this activity and focus on the aversive task of reading the documents, I am going to be an “unhappy camper”. If I “procrastinate , I would be in a time crunch and perhaps end up being in worse mood but “tomorrow “.
Focusing on regulating mood and feeling states in the short term can lead to failure of self-control in other areas of our lives. When we are in a bad mood, we want to feel better, but many ways of feeling better involve indulging our appetites that we usually use self control to resist (e.g., eating sweet foods, shopping for items beyond our financial resources). In terms of procrastination, the argument is that aversive tasks lead to anxiety and worry, and that task avoidance is a strategy to avoid this negative mood.
There is a tremendous gain for “the you of today” but “what about the you of tomorrow“?
Yeah that’s the downside of procrastination- today’s gain is tomorrow’s loss.
Let’s admit we all procrastinate, and some researchers- such as Pannapacker, think moderate procrastination helps creative thinking, probably by problem restructuring, and the activation of new knowledge. Let me quote him”Anecdotally, Leonardo da Vinci is known to have been an inveterate procrastinator and there is evidence that Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Frank Lloyd Wright engaged in procrastination.”
But, are there some of us who are chronic procrastinators? I guess there are. So, by using the previous logic of payoff why would they have such a need to regulate their mood by procrastinating. Applying common sense I could say “maybe they have chronic dysregulated mood” which in more technical nomenclature is called dysphoria
There has been some research done on that front,and some researchers connected chronic procrastination to generalized anxiety disorder. These folks can not afford to have more anxiety, lest they go into a complete panic mode. They are so precarious,mood wise and can not risk feeling worse, so they have increased need to postpone tasks.
Few words about the treatment part. Therapy of course- to help us see the downside of the mood advantage we get by procrastination and if it’s possible to develop better coping skills. Anti anxiety medications such as SSRI’s and benzodiazepines perhaps- even though none has been approved by FDA for the treatment of procrastination.