The Science Behind Procrastination

Do you sometimes suffer from procrastination? You know what you need to do, but starting seems so hard. Everyone suffers from procrastination from time to time. This article will teach you the science behind procrastination.

Procrastination is a serious problem in almost all businesses. Getting started on a task is often the hardest part. Even with a clear goal in mind, that first step is almost always the hardest.

The science behind procrastination

The opposite of procrastination is execution. It works like this, in order to start moving we need to be motivated. This means we need to be puller or pushed to do something. We are pushed to work each day because we have bills to pay. And we are pulled towards the things we like. But motivation alone is not enough. When you feel motivated to start, but still struggle to take that first step, you lack a system.

Motivation is the ‘why’, your system is the ‘how’. A system can help create discipline. A system will aid you to structure your work, so you know how, where and when you are going to do specific tasks.

Once you are motivated and have a system we just need discipline. Motivation and a system should lead to discipline. Without motivation, or without a system, there can be no discipline. If you have ‘push motivation’ more discipline is required to get started then if you have ‘pull motivation’, as you are intrinsically motivated.

Motivation, a solid system and discipline lead to the proper execution of a specific task. So how does any of this relate to theory?

The Temportal Motivation Theory

The temporal motivational theory can be seen in the image below:


This theory combines the best of other motivational theories and merges them. Let’s break the formula down to get a better understanding of how it works.

  •  Motivation: Desire to reach an outcome.
  • Expectancy: Perceived probability of success. Also the belief in yourself that you can do something.
  • Value: Associated reward with completing the tasks.
  • Impulsiveness: Sensitivity to delay, closely linked to procrastination.
  • Delay: Amount of time you have to complete the task. When you have more time to complete a task, the motivation to start is less.

These are the essentials of motivation. So now let’s create a system to overcome procrastination.

The anti-procrastination system

System is a rather vague term, what we mean is a way of organizing your work. Personally we like to use Outlook and Evernote as a system. They work well together (Outlook for email and calendar, Evernote for keeping track of different to-do lists). But a system is much more than just tools. A system is a more holistic approach. Besides a system you will also need the discipline to plan your tasks and conduct a weekly review. In the end, a system should help answer the question of how you are going to do your work.

A solid system should help you create the belief that you can do the task at hand. The system should be empowering you. Use your sytem to schedule blocks of time that you will need to complete your most important tasks. When you put everything in your calendar like this, you can see how much time you need and how much time you have left. Doing this on a daily, or at least weekly, basis will help improve your self-belief that you can get things done.

The system should also help you see the perceived value of a task, by planning and working on your most important goals. A system should therefore help you set clear goals and help you define the outcomes that you want.

Planning and scheduling with your system helps you commit to yourself that you are going to get things done. This helps create structure and goals around your work. When you have less time your system can help you plan and prioritise. When you have loads of time you can be more flexible. But if you have more time you should not per se use more of it for a specific task. Your system should help you finish the job early and make sure you don’t spend too much time on any given task.

A solid system will help you create a structure around your work and this will help you overcome procrastination. But just a system is not enough, you will need to work on your discipline to ban procrastination from your life. The good thing is that having a system will automatically help you increase your discipline, as it becomes easier to work disciplined.

Learn more about procrastination, scheduling blocks of time and general planning by reading one of the articles below.

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