You know that workout you were planning on doing? Are you going to do it today? Or is it too hot out? Is it too cold out? Is it too far away? Besides, who cares if you miss just one measly workout?
What about writing that paper? That article? That blogpost? That novel? But of course, the time is not right, the sun is in your eyes, you are not inspired, you are hungry, full, or literally anything else.
But why are you procrastinating? In fact, why do we all procrastinate? Well, it turns out that science may hold some of the answers.
There was a big Harvard University study approximately a decade ago asking what makes humans procrastinate on their work. They conducted an experiment asking people if they thought that saving money was important. And, no surprise, everyone did.
However, when asked if they would be willing to start a savings plan whereby just a fraction of their paycheck would be put in a savings, two thirds of people said that they would not start the account. However, three quarters of people said that they would “definitely” sign up in a year. Why wait so long?
The reason that people who almost uniformly agreed that saving money was important but did not put their thoughts into actions was because of a principle called the time inconsistency bias. People will more than likely take actions based on what will benefit them in the short term despite the fact that long term they know that their present decision may not be beneficial.
This is why people will procrastinate – they want the immediate pleasure of relaxing, of eating one more donut, of sleeping in, of just simple creature comfort over the hard work which will actually benefit their long term interests.
How to fix this
There are several ways to fix procrastination. Health and lifestyle blog writer James Clear gives three strategies on how to overcome this time inconsistency bias. One way to do it is by immediately rewarding yourself with the long term benefits and immediately penalizing yourself with the short term benefits.
While we do not have time machines in order to move back and forward in time, you can only penalize and reward yourself in the present. Therefore, you need to do all of this reward and penalization mentally.
For instance, one way to reward yourself for being good to your future self is by envisioning yourself skinnier, more athletic, and more healthy. Meanwhile, in terms of penalizing yourself, there is no better way of self penalization than making a fool of yourself. If you say you are going to do something (work out with a partner, write a book, call someone), and you don’t, you know that you will be letting tons of people down.
One of the leading, immediate reasons for procrastination is the presence of triggers. It could be a cell phone with calls and texts, a laptop with emails and the entirety of human knowledge and experience at your fingertips, or it can be because of the food you are eating.
Sometimes, it is best to just remove all of the negative triggers around you which make you justify your decision to procrastinate. Then you won’t have them, and you will go out and do whatever it is that you need to do.