Ever had an important task you needed to complete but couldn't help putting it off until the last minute? Most of us have been in such a situation. It's pretty normal until it starts affecting your productivity and life.
You see, procrastination can become chronic.
This happens when you always put off tasks without proper reason. Research shows that 20% of people are chronic procrastinators.
These figures are much higher in higher learning institutions like universities and colleges, where as much as 70-90% of students are procrastinators.
So, why do people procrastinate? We explore this question and measures that can help you curb the habit.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the habit of delaying important tasks mostly by doing more enjoyable, easier activities. This problem is as old as time itself that even in ancient Greece, philosophers Aristotle and Socrates coined a word for it – Akrasia.
We all procrastinate at one time or another, so it's nothing to beat yourself about. However, when it starts to affect your productivity and quality of life, then you should be worried.
At this point, you are effectively a dispositional procrastinator.
Psychologists have tried to offer various perspectives on this behavior, so let's look at overviews of each.
The first is that procrastination correlates to personality traits. According to this school of thought, highly conscientious people are less likely to procrastinate because they often possess self-discipline, industriousness, persistence, dutifulness, effective time management, and a great sense of responsibility.
On the other hand, impulsive people are more likely to be procrastinators because they act on on-the-moment impulses that distract them from getting started on what needs to be done.
Consequently, such people move away from the direction leading to task completion.
The theory of temporal discounting contends that people often give less priority to tasks whose deadlines are far. So, they focus on priorities that confront them immediately.
The third point of view is that humans are naturally hedonistic and, conversely, are opposed to less pleasurable tasks. This implies, unsurprisingly, that people are likely to put off tasks they find unpleasant.
Frankly, it takes a great deal of self-regulation (or self-control) to forego instant gratification for delayed pleasure.
Generally, when procrastination becomes chronic, it's likely to affect your ability to pursue your goals successfully.
For this reason, this habit is often associated with poor grades at school, minimal upward mobility in the workplace, and various health conditions such as stress and poor mental and physical health.
Procrastination vs. delay
In principle, procrastination and delay are essentially two sides of a coin. The main difference is the connotation.
By procrastinating, you delay doing something that you ought to be doing. For example, if you should be doing an assignment but aren't, that's procrastinating. Putting something off when you can do it has a negative connotation. It makes you look incapable of getting things done.
However, delay is largely a neutral term that implies postponing something until doing it is practical. For instance, football matches can be delayed due to various circumstances, e.g., bad weather, crowd riot, etc.
To delay is the same thing as to postpone.
While procrastination is often habitual, delays are seldom so. For instance, you can reschedule a task to a future date to enable you to plan for it better.
However, when you keep rescheduling, you are now procrastinating. The thing with procrastination is that you are essentially borrowing time from the future, which you must repay.
Look at it this way; delaying non-priorities is not necessarily bad. But putting off important things is wrong. Anything important has an intrinsic value, meaning it has to be done; the earlier, the better.
Nonetheless, there is a time to act and a time to delay. You can delay going to college if you need to work to earn money for fees. This is an intentional delay, not procrastination. But once you've made enough money but still won't join college, that's procrastination.
The same applies to researching a market before launching a product (intentional delay). The thing is, delay is usually a strategic response to prevailing circumstances.
In his book Wait: the art & science of delay, Frank Portnoy states that people who take time to make decisions are more effective and happier. Being impulsive can lead to problems, especially in this age where everyone wants instant gratification. You are more level-headed when you think about your actions than acting rashly.
It is not wrong to put off a task until you think you are ready to do it.
As mentioned, intentional delay can be beneficial. But if it becomes habitual and for no good reason, you may become a chronic procrastinator.
Why is procrastination a problem?
Procrastination is problematic because it makes you receptive to logical fallacies and paradoxes perpetuating it.
People who procrastinate often seek to justify their actions unconsciously by harboring irrational beliefs regarding their abilities. The paradox is that these beliefs often have no bearing on their realities. When talking of irrational beliefs, these are what we mean.
Unfortunate as it may sound, self-handicapping is when people inadvertently create situations to ensure they don't succeed.
Okay. Imagine you have a challenging task you are sure will test your capabilities to the max. There are two approaches you can adopt – the rational approach is to immediately get down to work by planning how you'll do the task. This entails accepting that you may fail.
But here is the clincher – it is better to fail having tried than not?
However, in a self-handicapping approach, you put off the task until the last moment. Subconsciously, you have accepted your inadequacies regarding the task.
So, instead of letting failure damage your self-esteem, you create a situation that guarantees failure without attributing it to your lack of capability. You 'rationalize' that you failed because you lacked enough time, not because you were inadequate.
People self-handicap for various reasons, including the very notion of success.
According to the control master theory, some people fail because succeeding where other family members failed could portray them negatively. This theory explains a common phenomenon where children with less educated parents are less likely to attend college.
Indeed, first-generation college students can harbor guilt if they acquire more education than their parents. They irrationally think that doing so would make their parents look inadequate.
This particularly common irrational belief convinces you that you cannot succeed at the task. Low self-efficacy is more than low self-confidence.
Typically, psychologists measure self-efficacy by asking people to self-rate their chances of success in certain tasks. It is noteworthy that self-efficacy is task-dependent, i.e., you can have high self-efficacy in some tasks but low self-efficacy in others.
Regarding procrastination, the mere thought that you cannot handle a task can cause you to put it off. Indeed, in a 2008 study, researchers found that students with low self-efficacy to self-control were highly likely to put things off.
Incidentally, a quarter of these students believed procrastination negatively affected their performance.
This group actually posted poorer grades and took longer to begin working on important assignments. In contrast, "neutral" procrastinators spent more time on enjoyable tasks.
Overall, negative procrastinators usually find it difficult to organize and develop strategies to help them complete important assignments. This inability compounds their low self-efficacy and performance.
Fear of making mistakes
According to Albert Einstein, "if you have never made a mistake before, then you haven't done anything new." Yet, people with perfectionist attitudes are likely to stall in handing over their work for evaluation.
It is a paradox because perfectionists subject their work and selves to stricter appraisals by handing over their assignments late. Naturally, bosses prefer that work is turned in early to give them enough time to evaluate it.
In this regard, perfectionists exhibit similar behavior to less conscientious people who put off work until the last moment and barely beat deadlines.
Scholars who tested the regulatory mode theory to motivate chronic procrastinators identified two orientations that underpin people's actions. There are locomotion and assessment.
Individuals who score highly in assessment orientation predominantly focus on doing the right thing.
On the contrary, those who score highly in locomotion orientation want to "get it done." The implication is that people who are assessment oriented are likely to procrastinate because they consider all options before starting a task. But locomotion oriented individuals are more likely to get on with the task at hand and produce faster results.
Perfectionist procrastinators tend to overthink situations because they want the best results. So, they focus on the things that could go wrong instead of the task itself.
It is confusing that perfectionists could be serial procrastinators, isn't it?
Another paradox of putting things off relates to thrill-seeking. Supposing you have an assignment that should be handed over by a certain time.
If you wait until "injury time," you essentially leave no space for unforeseen circumstances despite knowing that many things can go wrong.
So, why do it? Thrill-seeking.
Living life on the edge is exciting for some people and gives them an adrenaline rush. Unlike other irrational feelings, this is true for individuals who get aroused by doing things at the last minute.
The question as to whether arousal procrastination is different from general procrastination is debatable. But there seems to be a clique of people who get high from working under intense pressure.
In a study conducted at the University of Dallas, the researchers observed that students who ranked highly on extraversion were more likely to be arousal procrastinators than their introverted peers.
Since extroverts derive their energy from their external surrounding, it is argued that a challenging environment gives them the arousal they need to get a job done.
Overall, people are likely to procrastinate if motivation and self-regulation are outweighed by demotivating factors such as fear of failing, anxiety, exhaustion, and delayed rewards.
What are procrastination supplements?
Procrastination is not a disease but a symptom of challenges impeding your ability to focus on tasks. So, you take the path of least resistance and put it off to a later time.
The good news is that you can take supplements (nootropics) to help alleviate the various symptoms that make you procrastinate.
Understand that procrastination is not caused by a single condition but by a myriad of factors that make you sluggish. So using a multi-modal approach is ideal for dealing with the situation.
Procrastination supplements are natural substances that help reduce procrastination by improving cognitive function by boosting memory, attention, creativity, and motivation in healthy persons.
Here are some of the best nootropics and their impact on performance
Best nootropic for energy
If you've ever struggled to keep your eyes open in the office or class, you're guilty of wasting time. Lethargy can slow you down considerably, and if it's due to low energy levels or fatigue, then hear this.
Acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR) is a fatigue-reducing supplement that provides a burst of energy to help you rejuvenate. This substance increases blood flow to the brain, thus increasing oxygen uptake. This makes you focus and concentrate better and even improves memory.
What's more? You can add ALCAR to your pre-workout regimen to help you burn fat and lose weight.
If you're more into natural herbs, try these wonderful herbal supplements to boost your energy levels.
Seaweed: all types of seaweed are great energy-boosters because they nourish hormonal and immune systems.
Roots: tinctures of herbs like yellow dock, ginseng, or dandelion can help you overcome that tired feeling that lowers your productivity.
Nettle: this natural supplement increases your energy without overworking your nerves. It strengthens your adrenals and makes you more tolerant of stress. It also works wonders on your immune system.
Oatstraw: Oatstraw is great for people seeking to build energy reserves for days to come. This supplement eases anxiety and nourishes your nerves, improving your tolerance levels to uncertainties.
Nootropics for mental clarity
Widely regarded as the best available nootropic, Noopept increases acetylcholine levels in the brain, allowing you to learn and retain more information effectively.
It also stimulates the production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) and helps maintain proper neuron-synapse function.
In so doing, this supplement motivates and allows you to stay on task for longer periods. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this supplement increases mental energy and focus, improves memory, and enhances verbal fluency.
This compound is found in tea and has calming properties that soothe nerves in stressful situations. Its most ideal quality is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the production of GABA in the brain, preventing excess neuron activity. This has a calming effect on the brain, which may lead to increased focus.
L-theanine is also believed to boost the production of dopamine in the brain. This is one of the "feel-good" hormones linked to various functions in the body, including mood enhancement, stress reduction, and better focus.
L-theanine pairs well with caffeine, providing a smooth and gradual release of energy while improving concentration and focus. It's a perfect combination for someone gearing for a busy learning-related schedule.
This is an all-time favorite for most people because it delivers amazing results.
Vinpocetine works by increasing blood circulation to underperforming brain cells. Moreover, it also improves oxygen and glucose uptake in the brain, thus boosting concentration and focus.
This supplement also works well with dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin to help improve the feeling of pleasure, uplifting mood, and better sleep. The net effect is enhanced learning capacity thanks to more mental energy.
Best supplement for procrastination
If you're often putting off your tasks, we suggest you try our FOCL Day capsules. This supplement combines our premium broad-spectrum CBD with a blend of powerful adaptogens like L-theanine, lion's mane, and vitamin B6 designed to keep you razor-sharp focused and crush through your to-dos.
FOCL Day will help you stay concentrated for longer with a calm, stress-free mind. Take two capsules with a full glass of water every morning and see how your daily tasks become a breeze.
There are many options for people seeking to overcome chronic procrastination. However, research-based evidence regarding the efficacy of synthetic supplements is limited.
Natural nootropics are often used with prescribed medicine, though they may be slow-acting. Although many people use nootropics for different reasons, more research is needed to understand their health benefits better.