HR & Personal Development

4 paradoxical reasons why you do everything in the last minute

Do you sometimes feel powerless, too, when, once again, you procrastinate on that 'one' important assignment, you know you have to do?

Then you are certainly not alone.

Because, even though we may sometimes feel that we are the only ones who cannot “pull our self together” and get “it” [insert important assignment here] done, in reality, it's something we all do.

It's a universally human characteristic and a basic part of being human, but luckily, this doesn't mean that it has to stay this way. Because you can learn to handle it better, but this requires a knowledge as to why you keep procrastinating.

According to Psychology Today there are four reasons why we postpone assignments for later (the last minute).

The first step is to learn why you postpone your assignments. In this article we identify four things that make you procrastinate, and then reveal what you can do to get your assignments done on time.

These four things make you procrastinate on important things

Procrastination is a funny thing. For even when it's things we find interesting, and we know, intellectually, will be good for us, we postpone them. And the reasons why we do this are paradoxical.

Because it turns out, that the precautionary measures (the psychological mechanisms or behavior) we use, to avoid a specific unpleasant result, seems to enhance the unwanted result.

  1. Fear of success
    This may sound strange, if you haven't experienced it yourself. But fear of success is actually a rather common reason for procrastination. It's a form of self-sabotage and is caused by an unconscious fear, that our success will make the people closest to use appear stupid. To avoid the pain that this will cause, we subconsciously sabotage our own performances by procrastinating on it until the last minute. This makes us perform worse and we avoid making the people closest to us look bad.

    Unfortunately, our poor results rarely mean less pain for the people closest to us. By sabotaging our own performance, we might actually be depriving the people closest to us of the joy of being proud of us. Intellectually we know this, but still we don't act accordingly.

  2. Lack of faith in own capabilities
    Another common reason for procrastination is when we think the assignment is too difficult. We don't think we'll be able to do the job well enough, and therefore procrastinate. Because, then we can blame the bad result on a lack of time – and not the fact that we were simply not good enough.

    Again, this is a type of behavior that enhances the things we fear.

  3. Living on the edge
    A third reason you might be procrastinating is that you enjoy the danger of not making your deadline. When you're working under time pressure, then you'll inevitably feel an adrenaline rush, which is exiting for some people. Some even feel, that they need this adrenaline rush in order to perform at their best. But, all research indicate that this isn't the case. If you solve assignments at the very last minute, you will deliver worse results.

  4. Perfectionism
    Perfectionism is perhaps the most paradoxical reason for procrastination, because perfectionism is born out of a fear of making mistakes.

    Researchers have tested the so called “regulatory mode theory”, and identified two orientations towards action: “assessment” and “locomotion”. Individuals, who high in the assessment orientation want to make sure that they do the right thing (typical for the perfectionist), while people who score high in locomotion just want to get on with the task. They have a "just do it" personality.  The tests showed, that people who scored high in assessment had a larger probability of procrastination, because they were afraid of making a wrong decision. And this is indeed a vicious circle: Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which leads to more mistakes, which leads to poorer results, which enhances the anxiety for making mistakes. People high in locomotion were better able to focus on the task at hand, and avoid distractions.

As mentioned, procrastinating is something we all do, and it isn't something that you can get rid of entirely. But, if you feel that procrastination affect your results, then there are several things you can try.

First, you identify what the causes behind your procrastination are. Are you afraid of being successful, do you doubt your own capabilities, is it about the thrill, or are you a perfectionist? Perhaps there is more than one cause?

When you have an idea of, what it is that makes you postpone your important tasks, you can try one or more of these tactics:

Finish your tasks in time with these four tactics

  1. How to fight your fear of success. It's not easy to get rid of your fear of success, but, according to Psychology Today, it's important that you realize how unlikely it is that your imaginings are true.

    People who care about you want you to be successful. Your success will, in fact, reflect positively on them.

  2. How to build faith in your own worth. If you are convinced that you cannot hand in assignments on time, or if you doubt your own capabilities for managing your calendar, then practice on small assignments that you know you can handle, and where deadline is relatively close. Once you see that you can handle this, you can gradually prolong deadlines and thus build your faith in the fact that you can handle the task and manage your time efficiently.

  3. Learn to achieve without the adrenaline rush. Find the thrill somewhere else, is the advice from Psychology Today. Pay particular attention to the times where you didn't deliver on time. Where your performance suffered because of your procrastination. If you need the thrill and the excitement, then set up your own personal deadlines. In time, you should be able to have langer and longer intervals.

  4. Fight perfectionism by focusing on action. If you procrastinate because you are afraid of making mistakes, then Psychology Today encourages you to find a partner, who scores high on “locomotion”. This will help you focus on getting your job done.