Dear Mark: Why Do We Procrastinate and How Do We Beat It?

Do you procrastinate? If you’re an actual human being – not a replicant, nor an android, nor an AI – and you’re being honest, then you should probably be nodding your head. But what’s odd about a ubiquitous behavior like procrastination is that it’s almost unanimously regarded as being detrimental to our success, our happiness, and our progress as human beings, and yet we still put things off until later. Counterintuitive yet persistent behaviors fascinate me to no end, because they suggest (at least to me) an evolutionary incongruence at hand. They suggest that in another context, another environment, the counterintuitive was anything but.

Is procrastination just such a behavior? Let’s explore:

Dear Mark,

I have noticed that procrastination is a huge problem for many of my friends and colleagues. I know that I too will make myself miserable by putting a project off until the very last minute, yet even though I recognize the misery and it’s very avoidable cause, I continue to do it anyway.

Do you think there is a primal solution to this issue? Why do you think we feel the need to put off our to do lists? I cannot imagine that this attitude would have served our ancestors well. Why is it such a struggle for so many people?

I have read up on this topic a bit. There are different theories, but two of the most prevalent are the theory that procrastination is due to perfectionism and the theory that procrastination is caused by impulsivity. I would love to get your perspective on this issue and how rampant procrastination might be caused by a misalignment of our modern world with our primal selves.

Thank you!


As you mention, there are competing ideas about the cause of procrastination.

The “procrastination as perfectionism” idea says that procrastinators are actually perfectionists who are paralyzed with fear at failing to do things absolutely perfectly. They continue to put things off to avoid the chance of doing something less than perfectly. On its face, this seems limited. Sure, you could argue that the English student with an essay to write procrastinates because she can’t come up with a good, defensible thesis, but what about the guy who waits til the last minute to do his taxes or pay the water bill? How does perfectionism enter into those situations?

A 2007 meta-analysis concluded that perfectionism was likely not at the heart of procrastination (PDF). In fact, perfectionists are actually slightly less likely to be procrastinators. It’s just that perfectionists who are procrastinators were more likely to seek professional help (because, being perfectionists, they wanted to beat procrastination), and this created a self-selection phenomenon in which clinicians would report a preponderance of procrastinating perfectionists and thus skew their perception. They’re not seeing all the procrastinators who aren’t perfectionists, because, well, “I’ll just make the appointment another day.”

Piers Steel (author of that meta-analysis and bearer of a romance novel protagonist name) thinks that we procrastinate partly because the task at hand simply isn’t pleasant to do and partly because we’re not confident in our abilities to perform it – common sense factors that, I think, we can all agree on. If something is boring and hard to do, we’re less likely to do it right away and more likely to wait until the last minute. Makes sense, right? But at the “nickel-iron” core of procrastination, says Steel, lies impulsivity. We don’t like waiting for rewards, and, according to Steel’s research, we’re even inclined to take the lesser reward (say, $1000) instead of the greater reward (say, $2000) if the former is available immediately and the latter is available only a year from now.

As far as procrastination being yet another manifestation of the modern world’s misalignment with our Primal selves? I think there’s something to it. Consider the possibility that daily life in the millenia past was more “check to check” (without the checks, of course). Most tasks we had to complete literally could not wait – gathering the day’s water (or else have none), building or finding shelter (or else be exposed to the elements) . These were tasks that, upon completion, provided immediate, tangible rewards. I think we’re built for these short-range tasks with immediate rewards, but we live in a society of lists and goals and projections and commitments and schedules which don’t always offer noticeable rewards upon completion.

I’m of the mind that many of the things we’re “supposed to do” are alien concepts to our ancient brains. What is paying bills, really? You scribble some stuff on a slip of paper (or go online and clack on some keys) that represents a portion of your hard earned money and send it off to some faceless entity? We understand why we need to pay the water bill, but do we really get it? Nothing happens when we pay it. Nothing really changes. If we hadn’t done it that day, the water would still flow, probably for at least a month. Or how about waking up early and trudging into the office to shuffle some papers for eight hours? Many of us are so disconnected from the bigger picture at our jobs, and work for such large companies, that the immediate effect of the work we do is tough to judge. And thus, to our Primal mind’s eye, the work is meaningless and unfulfilling. Perhaps this accounts for some of the burnout seen in the corporate world.

What are the hardest tasks to put off? The ones that choose you, that pop up without much warning, the ones to which you must react and respond immediately. The easiest? The far-off decisions, the “safely at a distance” ones that sound good and necessary and completely rational from afar, until the day actually approaches and you realize you’re going to have to do the thing – and then you don’t do it, or agonize for hours and days before doing it. On one extreme, it’s a falling tree branch headed straight for your head – you don’t procrastinate about moving your head out of the branch’s path. On the other extreme, it’s deciding to go hunting when you’ve just nabbed a 600-pound elk cow the day before. The muscle meat is sliced and hung to dry over the smoke pits, the bones and trimmings are being processed into grease, and you’re eating last night’s organ-stuffed intestines for breakfast. Your people have enough meat for at least a week or two, but another kill would keep you stocked for perhaps a month. You could head out and spend the day trying to nab another animal and be set for awhile if you succeed, or you could chill out by the fire, sip some fermented honey, and enjoy what you have.

What can you do, though, when you live in a world of deadlines and commitments, schedules and calendars?

Victor Hugo would strip off his clothes, give them to his butler, and have him hide them until he finished writing. That way, he’d be stuck indoors with no other option but to write. A Primal solution might be to take the tasks that you find yourself putting off and break them up into smaller, manageable chunks with deadlines, more akin to what our ancestors would have dealt with. I briefly detailed the Seinfeld method of productivity in this post, which involves making a calendar for each task with goals and deadlines on each day; take a look and see what you think. Think of it as tricking your brain into thinking a large, sprawling task is several small ones with immediate rewards.

Another option is to set things up so that you are penalized for not doing a task. Try one of the productivity tools mentioned above, or just give a friend a hundred bucks and tell him not to give it back unless you write the paper. Grok often completed tasks because his life and livelihood literally depended on their completion; you’re probably gonna stick around regardless of your procrastination, so give your mind something tangible (not) to look forward to. Create a meaningful penalty for yourself so that your Primal brain notices and “fears” it enough to get you to do it.

In related news, the Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge is coming next week, so if you’re a chronic procrastinator in regards to health, fitness, or you’re just lagging on going Primal in general, stay tuned for the antidote: tangible rewards! Thanks for reading, guys, and be sure to leave a comment about your experience with procrastination.

TAGS:  dear mark, Grok

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

74 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Why Do We Procrastinate and How Do We Beat It?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I have the opposite problem. I strive to be bored tomorrow by doing everything I can upfront today. It causes me stress and the whole system falls apart if I am too buried in crap to shovel my way out very easily. Somehow I “driven” by laziness!

    1. Oh I completely understand. I always try to get everything done so I can relax and be lazy and worry free tomorrow.
      Part of it is I stress if things pile up, so I always strive to keep it at zero. The other part is I want to be lazy without guilt.

      Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  2. This is so fitting today. I have a class to prepare for, and even though I absolutely adore the content and it is literally a dream come true, here I am posting a comment instead of getting my notes typed because I won’t be covering this material until early November.

    Off I go…

        1. I taught English Literature for years and had the same problem. I’ve never been able to beat my tendencies but I’ve done tons of research on procrastination, while procrastinating.
          Here are two odd tidbits:
          1. A scientist has actually won award for proving that a procrastinator can be made to do the assigned task on time, if he/she is given an even more important task that needs to be completed quickly.

          2. Too much thinking leads to procrastination. If a task can be directly tied to an existing habit, the task is more likely to get done. So says Dr. B.J Fogg who studies persuasion and the human mind.

          So professor Nicole the next time you need to procrastinate Google Dr. Fogg then prepare for class.

          All The Best

        2. That’s hilarious Nicole, well done for admitting to it!

          Until 1 month ago I was a salaried employee and my goodness I could procrastinate! I’d read through a few websites (increasingly more trashy like the Daily Mail) instead of cracking with the day…

          Now as self employed, with a wife and kid to feed and savings for only a few months… well I don’t know the meaning of the word!

  3. Haha, I use this website to procrastinate on my homework all the time. Sometimes, I think if my classes were more primal related I would actually not procrastinate as much, because I often find myself thinking about food, working out, hiking, exploring… Anything but this book I have in front of me. But then I wonder if that’s even true, hm. Bleh..

    1. Same here. Ill be sitting in a class and wondering… what if Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf or Mark Sisson were teaching this class? Then I snap back into reality and find myself stuck in the middle of some book about the Mexican revolution. #collegeproblems

      1. +1

        I’m procrastinating by reading this article about procrastinating…irony at its finest. Now, off to study supply curves! Perhaps I can pretend they’re concerning the supply of bacon.

  4. This is definitely an article for me. I’ll be sure to read it later.

  5. I dunno, I feel best living in the moment. What needs getting done gets done but too much time thinking about the future causes me stress. I want to live like my dog, eat, sleep, play, fight and f***.

    1. Yes! Living in the moment. I am all about this as well. The more I minimalize my life the less I procrastinate too.

      I think a big issue is having too much to do. We ALWAYS have something to do. What if we began to slowly simplify to the point where we are able to focus on one task at once? Would we still procrastinate?

      I’m learning that the less we have to do the easier it is to do that one or two things.

      I am not saying that I don’t always have something to do but I am learning to store all of that in the back of my mind instead of writing it down. I write down only things that are absolute musts – limiting it to 3 things a day is best.

      1. Hi primal toad, I think that’s an excellent point. When you have too much to do perhaps the solution is to simplify your life by giving up on the things you don’t *really* need. However, I’ve done the mistake however of giving up on things that I shouldn’t have like sleep or regular exercise… and that just made things worse.

  6. Hi Mark, I have been reading a lot recently about paleo/primal lifestyle and about procrastination, so I was very happy to see you decided to write a blog entry about procrastination!

    Since I’ve been reading your blog, I’ve also had this thought that the problem with procrastination is that we’re disconnected with the kinds of tasks we procrastinate on (like paying the bills or doing the taxes).

    I’ve always tried to tackle the problem by trying to create a negative feedback for procrastinating but that created a lot of unhealthy stress for me, and since subscribing to a primal lifestyle I’ve become very conscious of minimizing stress. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to counter procrastination on a recurring task (for example writing) is to develop a habit to commit to spend a fixed amount of time on a frequent basis and most importantly to stop after that session (otherwise I find I will dread the task in the future and procrastinate). Also keeping track of tasks on paper instead of filing things mentally, even when you have excellent memory, helps with prioritizing.

    You do a great job with coming up with excellent blog entries every single day, so that clearly requires mastery of procrastination. I’m very curious as to how you pull it off! It would be great if you were to revisit the topic of procrastination in a later blog entry.

    1. +1 Mark how do you beat procrastination? Would make an excellent blog post!

  7. I’m with the first poster, Groktimus. I do everything immediately to get it out of the way so I can kick back and not worry about crap. The worse the chore is, the higher on the list to do it, occurs.

  8. I’m a writer and have been accused for many years (sometimes appropriately) of procrastinating. When I get an assignment, I wander around doing other things for hours or even days (walked around the office building when I had a “regular” job) – thinking. Somehow, all that wandering helps me to organize and formulate what I need to say, whether it’s a speech, advertising copy, an article or an essay. I finally learned to just ignore the criticism and accept my approach. Works for me.

  9. Motivation has always fascinated me. Why do some people have lots of, others little? I procrastinate because I’m basically selfish and just want to do things I like. So when I have things to do that aren’t fun, I make sure to sprinkle some enjoyable things in along with it…like checking out this great blog, playing a little online Scrabble…then back to the grind, but there’s a glimmer of fun not too far off. Just a kid at heart I guess.

  10. I’m a major procrastinator… I came up with a similar theory though.

    I sail a lot, and, if you’re used to sailing you know that something ALWAYS goes wrong. Often at exactly the wrong time. Alternator belt snapping when you’re motor sailing through a narrow passage with barely a knot of wind, and then the bolt to release it being so completely stripped that it takes 2 hours of blood and sweat to get it off, all the while drifting closer towards the rocks? Check. Anchor getting stuck on a wire as the wind picks up and we really need to get out of an unprotected spot? Check.

    These are all things that require immediate response and, quite frankly, I was BORN to respond to things like that… but put a pile of papers in front of me and I’m bored as hell. I think that some of us just aren’t cut out for modern life, really. It’s just not important in the way that an engine going or a fire or someone being injured is. It’s a wear-you-down kind of stress that comes from standing in lines and trying to think about things in the future (like taxes and such) instead of dealing with what’s right in front of you. *shrug* I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to deal with that stuff like I do more urgent situations.

  11. My problem is generally being overwhelmed. There’s so much to do (homeschooling, housework, business work, cooking, large family, etc.) that I tend to focus on things that aren’t high priority just to get them done. So, at 5PM I’m more likely checking Facebook than cooking dinner, which is fine at 5 but presents problems at 6 when I have fourteen hungry eyes staring at me.

    There are some good coping strategies I’ve employed, right now the best one is a freeware program called Shoutdone. It doesn’t get me into the kitchen at dinner time, but it helps me focus my work into the most productive use of time. If I MUST live in a modern world with modern tech, it’s going to work for me, by golly, not against me.

  12. What a great post! And to think, I logged on just before getting to something on my to do list.
    Maybe I should put MDA on my to do list since I read it everyday anyway. At least that would give me a nice check in the box! (It feels so good to accomplish something.) 😉

    1. I always put “make this list” on every list I make. It gives me something to cross off right away and gives the list a forward-moving look instead of a nothing’s done look!

  13. I have a vast amount of projects undone. My all time record was a quilt that I finished 30 years after I started it.

    None of these projects are of an urgent nature and some, when they finally are completed, have better outcomes because of my procrastination.

    I plan to leave at least 100 undone projects for my children to deal with when I am dead and gone. I’ll bet they can hardly wait.

    1. Sharon, I love your post. I refuse to give my children the password to my bank accounts, just so they will have something besides cash to remember me by. Assuming there’s any cash left, of course!

  14. I found out that on the days where I seem to procrastinate, I have all day to complete one task. This makes me think, “I have all day so I don’t have to do it until later”. The way I stop procrastinating is keeping myself busy throughout the whole day. When I have less time to complete tasks I get a sense of urgency to complete the task so I am more efficient with my time. My dad always said, “if you want someone to get something done for you, always give it to the person with a busy schedule instead of the person with nothing to do.”

    1. That’s partly Parkinson’s Law:

      “Work expands to fill the time available.”

  15. Flylady has a beautiful system called – I can do anything for 15 minutes. Set your timer, start, do. Sometimes it’s breaking the inertia that undams the necessary actions. When timer sounds, stop if you can. Come back in a few minutes for another 15 minutes. This is breaking a big task into smaller tasks and works. Now if only I can find my timer…

    1. +1 for mentioning Flylady who, bless her heart, has discovered the sweet relief of a lower carb way of eating.

    2. I found the 15 minutes from Flylady to be exceptionally helpful. I have used her main idea with household chores, school work, projects, plans, packing, etc… You really can do anything for 15 minutes…hmmm, I don’t think I ever set the timer for exercise before…

      I am now super excited and going to go do sprints for 15 minutes (I hate sprinting and being out of breath, so I put it off all week until its next week…….)

      Thanks for the reminder of a system (Flylady) that works great!

  16. For me, the problem is overwhelm. If I have too much to do, I start to procrastinate. If I keep my to do list down to a more manageable amount, get enough sleep, and give myself enough downtime, I do my work with no trouble at all. It’s all about giving myself enough time to rest and recharge.

  17. After years of procrastinating through school assignments, I finally discovered the secret to not procrastinating. Unfortunately, I had only a semester left before I graduated to apply the advice I’m about to share.

    Here it is:

    Don’t wait until you feel like doing something. Instead, just start doing it. After a while, you’ll actually enjoy the thing you’ve begun doing.

    I’ve found that this works remarkably well because it takes down the main barrier to starting something: the need to feel “primed and pumped” to begin a task. Having to feel motivated in addition to needing to complete a task is mentally taxing.

    Here’s a blog post that explains this in more detail:

    1. It’s the truth. Waiting until I feel like cleaning our guinea pigs’ cage is just not fair to them. I announce to self, “Doing it. NOW.” and just do it, and it’s so fast that I feel like a fool and a jerk for waiting a day or two.

  18. I had a few tests performed at the doctor after my energy levels were pretty low for a long period and my procrastination was at it’s peak. We found that my testosterone levels were very low. Skip forward a few weeks after starting a medication – no more procrastination. I also had more energy, was no longer depressed (didn’t realize I was til it was gone) and much much more focused. I was also able to get back to a more faithful primal diet. (Seemed to have been easier to give up and eat those bad things before).

    I’m hoping that a primal diet and more exercise will allow me to drop the medication some day.

  19. Stefan Molyneux has some interesting things to say about procrastination. His theory is that we procrastinate because we were bossed around too much as children by parents, family, teachers, priests, employers etc. We resent being treated as slaves by authority figures, and the only option available to express this resentment is to so the task we’re told to perform badly or putting it off until the last minute, in order to passive aggressively annoy the person giving orders. Thus we are programmed in childhood to associate any task which isn’t immediately gratifying as something to resent, leading to chronic procrastination.

    Take a look:

    1. Yes. I watched the whole video and I agree wholeheartedly with this. I’m going to keep this video. This was the conclusion I was slowly coming to. Nobody is telling me to do these things. They are sitting in front of me because I WANT them!

      It’s even worse if you are a well-behaved child because you can lose yourself. We love them and want them to be happy, so we let authority figures define our existence. Then we’re thrown into adulthood and we’re supposed to know what we want and what to do with our lives. It’s like a sick joke.

      Takes a lot of time to unlearn the learned helplessness. You have to keep going back and reminding yourself that you’re an adult now and everything that is here is here because you put it here (or didn’t allow it to leave).

  20. Ann Weisner Cornell calls procrastinating an ‘action block’ and talks about how there are two parts of you to an action block – a part that wants to do the action, and a part that doesn’t. By listening to both parts with interested curiosity you can understand how they feel and why they feel that way. A lot of it comes from childhood experience – as 😛 wrote above.

    There’s an audio recording here:

    I can recommend the focusing process wholeheartedly, and Ann’s courses at are fantastic and allowed me to finally get a handle on my stress and anger.

  21. oh, and…

    I was going to procrastinate this morning, but in the end I decided to do it later

  22. I agree with Mark’s reasoning about instant gratification and primal peeps but i suspect people in primal societies did have some mundane tasks to tend to that did not reap immediate rewards. I wonder if they worked together to complete such tasks. We work so isolated these days….thinking about that post now about piecemeal work versus creating an entire thing from start to finish. I know this- washing all the windows in our two-story house is a daunting task, but when my husband and i set out to do it together, its never that bad. So when i start to dread it or stress over it, i can tell myself he will help and it wont take that long. Teamwork, i wonder if that’s what’s missing at least in some circumstances. Getting each other psyched or at least commiserating.

    1. That’s a really good point, Danielle. When someone else is counting on you to help, you can’t really procrastinate. Boring things are much better done in pairs or groups. This is why I belong to a writer’s group – our once a month meeting helps me stop procrastinating on my writing, because I know they are expecting to hear the next installment of my novel and will scold me if I don’t produce.

    2. I procrastinate because I’m waiting for my husband to help. Unfortunately, he is a procrastinator and is waiting for me…

  23. Procrastination can be a good thing. Some problems and tasks go away when we ignore them for a couple of days…

  24. Interesting that the word is derived from “cras”, the Latin for “tomorrow”!

  25. Very insightfull and very true. Couldn’t help to smile a little at the perfectionist section, not that I am a perfectionist. Just the insight about a perfectionist seeking help for not beeing perfect at something and the professionals conclusions was kind of amusing 🙂 I am project manager and I procrastinate constantly. It actually works really well, unless you put things off indefinetly. Just don’t be to anxious or worried about procrastinating. Unless someones life depends on it, one day or two isn’t the end of the world 🙂

  26. Now imagine if we all never procrastinate. That there would be no such thing. Do you know how many things we could acomplish? We all could do so much more and have much more interesting life.

  27. Hmm I’m not much of procrastinator unless i feel unhappy/depressed. MANY people are most often in those states therefore procrastinate on a lot of things.

    The other reason people procrastinate is beucase the task is not enjoyable (ironing, changing bed sheets, whatever it maybe for you).

    For isuue #1 it time for you to work on your overall happiness.
    For issue #2 its time for you to exercise your self-discipline muscle.

  28. In his, time I bet Grok had a saying like this…”how do you eat a mammoth?: one piece at a time”.

    Brian Tracy has amazing stuff on how to achieve your goals, by salami-slicing them down to bite-size pieces.

  29. I am a major procrastinator. Part of it is being gloomy. I think things will be worse tomorrow so I might as well enjoy today. (We never procrastinate the nice things, do we.)

    Also, it’s related to what I call push-your-luck-ism. You know that if you do what you’re supposed to do right now, you’re okay. But if you don’t do it, you’re pushing your luck a little bit. If you don’t do it again, you push your luck even more.

    I regard it as a way of testing the universe to see if it will forgive you; also, to get back at those parents who were always moaning at you to do stuff and never said thank you when it was done.

  30. Really good post on procrastination!

    I find that people who procrastinate tend to not be motivated on the task they are trying to compete. Unfortunately, it is really hard to work on and complete something in which you feel is of no importance.

    The best approach, in my opinion is to know what your end goal is. If what you are trying to accomplish has significant meaning and importance to you upon completion, you will be more motivated to get through the tough parts.

  31. I totally buy the evolutionary thesis around short-term vs. long-term gain/loss in procrastination.

    I had another idea recently as I was going through some parenting materials that caught my attention.

    Maybe, on top of our tendency to conserve self and energy, we’ve been “programmed” to wait for external motiviation?

    This lines up a little bit too much with the perfectionist thesis. But my own self reflection after reading the writing of Alfie Kohn has me trying to trace this out.

    Mark, maybe you can explore the realm of parenting and the development of secure and assertive Groklings?

  32. I’m ashamed to report that it took me 3 days to read this article. I kept scrolling over it and clicking “Read Later” in my RSS Feed.

    lulz. I’m so terrible at this Life thing.

  33. I have some great ways to solve procrastination. I will post them tomorrow…

  34. “…but what about the guy who waits til the last minute to do his taxes or pay the water bill? How does perfectionism enter into those situations?”

    Because the guy wants to do those things perfectly? And I know…’cause I’m that guy! My perfectionism kicks in on pretty much everything.

    The advice to break things into smaller chunks I put in the same bucket as counting calories to lose weight: convential wisdom that’s been around for ages, kinda works on one level, everyone knows it yet…procrastination is still rife! Clearly something is not working…

    Personally I’ve had to delve into the source of the perfectionism and fear to get at the root causes. No quick fix for sure but necessary. And slowly it’s working and I’m able to ‘manage’ it.

  35. I have some ideas for this – I’ll put it up later when I get time…

  36. Thanks for addressing this issue, Mark. I’ve struggled with procrastination and lack of focus all my life. I’d be interested in reading more about primal nutrition in regards to focus and mental acuity. I’ve come across some interesting info related to lower glycemic diets, but the bulk of what I’ve seen still pushes veganism as the top tier.

  37. I also think not knowing what part of a big task I should do next is a cause of putting things off. I use Omnifocus and Evernote to keep myself moving. Its an amazing system written about all over the web.

  38. Is procrastination related to lack of dopamine or dopamine receoptors?

  39. Another excellent post – thanks, Mark!
    I haven’t read the full thread here – I’m newly into “non-procrastinator” mode – so forgive me if I’m duplicating info.
    I can thoroughly recommend the works of Steve Chandler. His books are a delight to read; highly practical; and utterly inspiring. As a (former) lifelong procrastinator, they’ve really opened my eyes, and have empowered me to turn my life around.
    Love to you all! xxx

  40. This looks like an interesting article, I will definitely read it later, or maybe tomorrow….

  41. Oh, I am a huge procrastinator, sometimes even on things I want to accomplish, like artistic pieces. I also agree with the notion of instant pleasure. Humans like it, there is no doubt. Look at the massive industry of online games, Blizzard, Zynga, and others have made huge amounts of money. The industry of buying small online things (like plants in Farmville) is in the billions now. World of Warcraft makes Blizzard millions of dollars alone. It’s instant gratification, you kill a foe and out pops some money or a item you’re trying to collect. RPGs and the FB games also combine the social aspect that someone mentioned before. Facebook itself is a instant gratification tool, you get to post your thoughts right away and any number of people will respond and maybe even “like” it. I am sure the combination of instant gratification and the social aspect is what makes these games and websites so addicting for so many people.

  42. I think the author Piers Steele is right when he says we don’t do things we don’t like to do (boring like paying taxes or working them out) or are hard to do (taxes again).
    It is amazing how watching TV can seem so appealing when you don’t want to do something you know you should.
    Victor Hugo’s idea seems a bit extreme to me but I can see how avoiding a pain could get you motivated to do the thing you are putting off.

  43. I’m not supposed to be cooking dinner right now… honest 🙂

  44. Based on no empirical evidence and all conjecture, I think the likeliest answer is a combination of the points you made about primal misalignment, evolutionarily alien tasks, and the tasks that choose us, rather than vice versa. Surviving hunter-gatherer societies go on a hunt for a kill once or twice a week and spend the rest of their time lying around (this according to Al Sears, MD, in an interview with Tom Naughton on the bonus footage of the Fat Head DVD). I can’t imagine our PL ancestors did much differently, and thus there’s no evolutionary reason to believe our brains function in the way that makes for good little automated citizens in a civilized society of artificial and intellectual activity with no immediate primal benefit (your example of paying bills was perfect). Nature never issued hard deadlines…only gradually diminishing levels of homeostatic balance.

    Anecdotal case in point–I NEVER procrastinate eating when I am hungry, but I ALWAYS procrastinate studying for an upcoming test, preparing for an upcoming presentation, etc.

  45. I have something to add that may or may not help. I have found that the first step to solving any problem is discovering why the problem occurs or what causes it. For over 19 years I have found this to be the case for Australians anyway. There are 4 major reasons why people procrastinate. One of the 4 reasons comes under the category of “Wrong Goals” there is a valuable article written, in easy to understand terms and It can be found at (Relax, there is nothing to buy or sign up to)

    You be the judge, but It has helped many Australians understand what is going on in their lives so they can then do more and be free to achieve the life they deserve. I hope it helps