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Understanding Procrastination

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Procrastinate is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “delay or postpone action” (from Latin pro-, forward, and crastinus, belonging to tomorrow).

The procrastination phenomenon began to be studied by philosophers, psychologists and economists after George Akerlof wrote in 1991 an essay entitled “Procrastination and Obedience”.

From his own experience –he had been delaying for a few months, each day without any reason, a task he had to do– Akerlof realized that this phenomenon, beyond being a bad habit, exceeded the limits of rationality.

According to scholars, procrastination occurs not when you decide to postpone something to the next day, but when you do it knowing it will be harmful and goes against yourself.

That’s where the irrationality is.

Procrastinating has a negative impact on our morale and generates frustration, due to the accumulation of pending tasks. It increases our levels of dissatisfaction and stress and, ultimately, does not make us happier.

Each incorrect decision—each time we decide to postpone—supposes a small loss (in general terms, not just economical) but the accumulation of these losses over time can make a great difference in the end.

And the consequences can be very important. Akerlof shows several significant examples: people who live poorly when they are old because they postponed saving money for later, people with problems or health issues because of substance abuse that they didn’t know how to quit, and companies that failed because projects didn’t start neither finish when it was supposed to.

In my opinion, procrastination is one of the biggest enemies of personal productivity, and someone who procrastinates important things regularly, even if it’s in favour of other things, loses the opportunity to achieve great things.
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