Procrastinators: Read this immediately, tomorrow!

October 13, 2016
Hannah Wagle, Associate Content Specialist

Lets dive into the mind of a procrastinator, figure out why they shirk their important duties and how to quit the habit. Plus, this is a totally legit reason for avoiding whatever task you need to do today.

Photo: Shutterstock/Dinara MayIt's happened again: With the deadline looming over your head like a dark cloud, you try your best to ignore it, and instead read a fascinating article about what Ötzi the Iceman had as a last meal and how it resolved a historically at-large question about the human race. And then you accidentally type “the Iceman” into Google and discover there was an infamous hitman with that very name and a documentary that you can watch for free online about his life. And now you're hours closer to the task needing to be done, and it isn't. So you nap instead.

Procrastination is absolutely baffling to productive people with long-term goals constantly in mind-and, honestly, it baffles the nation of procrastination, too. What's so good about putting off a task until there's a fire lit under you, anyway?

Not much. And for those reading this saying, “I just like doing all of my work in a deadline-induced panic!”-that may be true. And you may feel like your best work comes out when put under pressure. But what isn't talked about is the stress that comes with that last-minute exertion of unyielding effort. Sooner or later, after extensively reading every article you can find on the Mandela Effect only to realize that your paperwork (that has nothing to do with the Mandela Effect) is due tomorrow morning, for instance, that stress adds up to a crushing weight. 

Writer and illustrator Tim Urban says procrastination is all about instant gratification. He gave a TED talk on this very subject, taking viewers into the mind of procrastinators-the “Instant Gratification Monkeys” who bounce around in their heads-and how he can understand procrastination and work to fix it.

Along with that, he posted an illustrated guide to understanding procrastinators' brains and why they do what they do. Of course, breaking the bad habit of procrastination is more complex than just telling the procrastination monkey to behave. Urban also wrote a follow-up article on how to beat procrastination, with helpful hints and tricks.

“The procrastinator,” Urban writes, “is in the bad habit, bordering on addiction, of letting the monkey win.” In essence, it boils down to replacing bad habits with good ones.

Which means it's time to do some research on reforming your daily habits to positively change your life. Or just pick up a copy of Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and give it a read. (Full disclosure: Our bosses here at made us read it too.)

While reading about the powerful potential of human nature, you'll also see how you can successfully instill a change of habit in yourself, mirroring the success of great competitors and people.

“Champions don't do extraordinary things,” Duhigg writes. “They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they've learned.”

What Urban and Duhigg's words boil down to is that to positively change your mindset, but to do so in small increments. This won't be something that happens over night, but taking a small step in the right direction as time goes by will lead to a procrastination-free life.

“Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy,” Duhigg writes. “But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”