Why do we procrastinate?


Whenever I call my daughter for any work she says ‘One minute, daddy’. Why does she do that? Where has she picked up this habit from. Of course, us – the parents, teachers, elders. If you see very closely around you will find that we all have a habit to postpone matters. Procrastination, is the biggest hurdle in anyone’s success. By the time we realise its menace in our life, most of our life is over. We are always postponing issues which I call ‘In a Minute’ principle. From our very childhood we learn to escape. Avoid. Postpone. Procrastinate.

Why do we procrastinate despite all our good intentions. Why?

Behavioural psychology research has revealed a phenomenon called “time inconsistency,” – the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. The best way to understand this is by imagining that you have two selves: your Present Self and your Future Self. If you decide to lose weight or writing a book or learning a language, you are actually making plans for your Future Self which values long term rewards. However, while the Future Self can set goals, only the Present Self can take action. When the time comes to make a decision, you are no longer making a choice for your Future Self. Now you are in the present moment, and your brain is thinking about the Present Self. Researchers have discovered that the Present Self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff.

So, the Present Self and the Future Self are often at odds with one another. The Future Self wants to be trim and fit, but the Present Self wants a samosa. Sure, everyone knows that one should stop smoking today to avoid lung cancer 20-30 years later. But consequences like cancer or heart failure are years away.

This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling back into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future (tomorrow), but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment (today).

Once you understand this conflict of your mind, you can learn to avoid procrastination. There are many books on this subject. But the best lesson you can learn from your own life. Your own experiences and understanding.

My own experience is ‘doing it now’. Not because I want any long term payoff. I have just demolished the middle of Future-Present conflict. I don’t think about future. I think about my life. Instead of I’m going to start eating healthier. For real this time, I say ‘I’m eating healthy now. I am living my life.’

Do it now. Live now. Be successful now. Be #IAmBuddha 

Note: you can also contribute to this column by sending your ideas, stories, fables, anecdotes. I’ll use them with due credits. 

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