Why We're Wired for Procrastination

Last Updated Oct 6, 2009 1:56 PM EDT

Food for thought: Your procrastination habit isn't your fault. Your brain is to blame.

That's right -- we're hard-wired for it. That because our brains trick us into procrastinating, saysTimothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D. Pychyl notes that five innate quirks of the brain (as described by David Rock, in a posting about why all self-help books sound the same) create a perfect storm for procrastination.

  • Quirk 1: The brain is built to firstly minimize danger, before maximizing rewards. Procrastination Effect: We avoid tasks that threaten the self, and we discount future rewards in favor of immediate gratification.
  • Quirk 2: Too much uncertainty feels dangerous. It feels like possible pain so we avoid it. Procrastination Effect: Uncertainty -- not knowing what to do next -- is scary. Delaying a task becomes a way of coping with or avoiding that fear.
  • Quirk 3: Our conscious processing capacity is small, which makes us terrible at a lot of things, including predicting what might make us happy. Procrastination Effect: It's difficult for us to set realistic goals -- or stick to them.
For the other two quirks, read Pychyl's full post on Psychology Today.

And if you choose to do that later or not at all, remember: It's not your fault. Blame your brain.

(image by brunosan via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.