This Study Explains Why People Procrastinate

published Sep 1, 2018
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(Image credit: Yulia Grigoryeva /

Have you ever had a huge project to get done by midnight but you found yourself rushing to get it started at 11:15? You don’t need to be a college student to push off your work. People of all ages procrastinate. It isn’t being lazy or unmotivated to procrastinate (at least, not all the time) – it is because of your brain.

According to a BBC report, a study published in Psychological Science revealed the reason we procrastinate is all in our head. Literally. The study looked at two areas of the brain that control our ability to put things off. So, basically, your brain has been working against you and making you put off everything.

According to the American Psychological Association, between 80 and 95 percent of college students procrastinate on their schoolwork. While another study suggests that at least 20% of people are chronic procrastinators. If you procrastinated in college, there might just be a high correlation to you procrastinating at work. Don’t feel too bad, you’re clearly not alone.

The study posted in Psychological Science explained that researchers studied 264 people’s brains to measure how proactive they are. The big finding was that in people who procrastinated, the amygdala – an almond-shaped structure in the temporal lobe which processes our emotions and controls our motivation – was larger.

“Individuals with a larger amygdala may be more anxious about the negative consequences of an action – they tend to hesitate and put off things,” says Erhan Genç, one of the study authors, based at Ruhr University Bochum.

It would appear that people who procrastinate have a problem with emotional control. The study provided the physical evidence to support that the emotional centers of procrastinators brains can overwhelm a person’s self-regulation.

Productivity expert, Moyra Scott, provided some key tips on how to overcome procrastination. She said:

Her top tips are:

  • If you don’t have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods – for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5 minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.
  • Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones. This makes them easier to action and complete.
  • Try to minimise interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on airplane mode or going somewhere to work where you won’t be disturbed will also help.
  • Being “busy” is easier than doing the thing we are avoiding. Instead of doing the task at hand, we do other stuff instead and kid ourselves that we don’t have the time. You do have the time. You just need to make it.

Do you struggle with procrastination? You might want to try some of these out.