“Procrastination is not a result of laziness or poor time management. Scientific studies suggest procrastination is due to poor mood management."

This makes sense if we consider that people are more likely to put off starting or completing tasks that they feel aversion towards. If just thinking about the task makes you anxious or threatens your sense of self-worth, you will be more likely to put it off.

Research has found that regions of the brain linked to threat detection and emotion regulation are different in people who chronically procrastinate compared to those who don’t procrastinate frequently.

When we avoid the unpleasant task, we also avoid the negative emotions associated with it. This is rewarding and conditions us to use procrastination to repair our mood. If we engage in more enjoyable tasks instead, we get another mood boost.


In the long run, procrastination isn’t an effective way of managing emotions. The mood repair you experience is temporary. Afterwards, people tend to engage in self-critical ruminations that not only increase their negative mood, but also reinforce their tendency to procrastinate.”

Fuschia Sirois, Professor in Social & Health Psychology, Durham University, writing on The Conversation:

And procrastination is linked with health problems.

I recently had this insight about myself and why I procrastinate: I put tasks off that stress me out. I found the insight itself to be life-changing—just knowing why procrastination happens went a long way to correcting the problem, though I still have a long way to go.

I am grateful for the insight—and I wish I’d had it fifty years ago. Sigh.

Mitch W @MitchW