Can’t Stop Procrastinating? Here’s How to Break the Cycle

Procrastination can feel like a bad habit. Dr. Piers Steel, one of the foremost researchers on the science of motivation and procrastination, shares what it takes to break your procrastination habit and the role our emotions play in getting the job done.

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Time runs out on a task you’ve been putting on the back burner and you begin to feel the pressure that could easily have been avoided. Situations like these typically bring on a slew of difficult emotions. Blame. Anger. Frustration. Anxiety.

As you scramble to complete the task, you might find yourself asking, “Why do I do this?”

Well, you’re not alone.

The term procrastinate was adapted in the 16th century from the Latin word, procrastinatus which means, to put off until tomorrow. So as a word that pre-dates the invention of smartphones and Netflix, it seems a more accurate question would be, “Why have we always procrastinated?”

“At the core of it, we are an impulsive species, and we value the now so much more than the latter,” explains Dr. Piers Steel, professor in the Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources department at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “Typically, what you’re putting off is the opposite. It’s hard now and it’s giving its rewards later and that’s what we don’t like. We like to be given the rewards as soon as possible.”

According to Dr. Steel, when we procrastinate we often find ourselves sacrificing our spare time…