Why We Procrastinate And How To Overcome It


I love John F. Kennedy’s quote….”The best time for fixing the roof is when the sun is shining!”

Personally, my Myers Briggs’ analysis scores me higher on Perceiver rather than Judger. This means I have a tendency to leave things until the last minute. I quite enjoy the pressure of achieving the deadline when it is looming large, as opposed to planning proactively to achieve the goals.

It also causes problems and I can often see the clock ticking away remorselessly in the background while the task is still awaiting completion.

I needed to fix our guttering at home, as it was always allowing rainwater to fall onto the side path and left an unsightly mess of dirt and debris after a spell of rain. I’m not sure what got on my nerves more; having to clear up the mess afterwards, or having to put up with my wife’s comments about my DIY inadequacies!

Well, I decided that I would get it done one Sunday morning. All good intentions, eh? Yes, until I got out of bed and saw the weather! The forecasted ‘occasional showers’ turned out to be ‘continual monsoon’.

The end results? More mess on my side path and more ear-bending from my better half!

I’d had enough. As soon as I had cleared the debris, I got the ladders, resisted my fear of heights, found the problem, visited the DIY store, bought the replacement guttering, fixed it in less than an hour and returned to my normal life.

Why had I left it so long? My feelings afterwards swung from a faint sense of pride for having accomplished the goal, to a frustrated sense of annoyance that I hadn’t simply done the job earlier in the year, when the weather was fine, and then I wouldn’t have had to have dealt with the aftermath of the wettest summer on record in Britain!

It set me thinking about why we procrastinate and what we can do to overcome it. Procrastination is simply a weighing up of the pain and pleasure associated with the task at hand. By actually carrying out the task before it becomes time-sensitive, we allow ourselves thinking time to accomplish the goal while enjoying the lack of pressure to actually achieving it.

This means concentrating on results, not process. If we continually think of the hard work a task will take, our brains will protect us by making excuses for why it’s best to resist the pain we associate with the task. If we simply concentrate on the benefits of the results we will receive from accomplishing the goal, our brains will focus on that as ‘pleasurable’ and the process then becomes less intimidating and ‘painful’.

By planning for the results rather than the hard work it takes, I would have fixed the guttering earlier. That would avoided all the time it took to clear up the mess after the rain, and the understandable earache I suffered from my wife.

Kennedy’s quote came back to haunt me many times. Hopefully, I won’t make the same mistake when the shed roof needs fixing.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 14 September, 2012

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