Procrastination is a waste of time. Duh.
It also happens to be our natural human tendency. We are pre-programmed to follow the path of least resistance. In the simplest of terms, it is easier to not do something than it is to do something. And that’s all procrastination is.
If you are a writer, you may wake up one morning with a plan do write at least two chapters. But as it happens, it is easier to make tea and sip it leisurely while checking your email and watching YouTube. Thus you are procrastinating.
If you are a salesperson, you may find yourself sitting at your desk ready to make some sales calls, but instead you sit and doodle, and tinker around with a new way of organizing your leads, even though the old way was working fine. Thus you are procrastinating.
So why do we procrastinate?
Procrastination manifests when the perceived short-term benefit outweighs the perceived long-term consequences.
To illustrate this, let’s consider the case of a dog that gets into the garbage and spreads it around the house. The dog is well aware, from past experience, that his actions are going to result in an unpleasant punishment, however such punishment will be momentary and a worthwhile trade in exchange for the pleasure of an ill-gotten meal. And over the long-term, the dog knows he will be forgiven and loved as always. Therefore stealing the garbage is totally worth it!
It’s the same with procrastination. If you’re a student with a report due tomorrow, you might reason to yourself that this report is only worth a small portion of your total mark, and that skipping it or turning it in late won’t affect you too badly, so staying up to play video games instead is okay.
On the other hand, if you were certain that not turning in that paper would result in a failing grade, you would make certain that you got it completed at all costs.
But the problem is…
Long term consequences never seem big.