Procrastination is essentially self-sabotaging behavior that many South Asians of all ages choose when faced with a decision, task or responsibility. Procrastinators create their own obstacles, choose to hamper their performance and essentially try to avoid success. Procrastination is not an issue of time management or poor planning. Procrastinators may underestimate how long something takes to complete but changing procrastinating behaviors is not as simple as learning how to use a day planner. Procrastination is a deep rooted learned behavior that can turn into a lifestyle with very negative consequences practically as well as emotionally.
Here are the most common reasons for why South Asians procrastinate:
1. Dysregulation. People who procrastinate regularly generally have poor self-regulation. This means for any tasks, decisions or activities that require them to know when to stop or know their boundaries, procrastinators tend to go overboard. For example, research has shown a strong link between people who procrastinate and the amount of alcohol they consume. Specifically, if procrastinators are asked to identify how much they want to drink that night, they tend to drink more than that, showing that they are not able to stop themselves. Distraction, which is essentially what procrastination is, acts as a way to regulate emotions such as anxiety and fear of failure which are common emotions for those who procrastinate.
2. Avoidant coping strategies. Going hand-in-hand with poor self-regulation is the fact that procrastinators tend to avoid more than approach, which leads to disengagement. People who tend to put things off regularly have difficulty addressing problems, questions, responsibilities and emotions head on. Their first line of defense is to turn away, avoid and remove themselves from the situation so they no longer have to engage.
3. Strict, critical parenting. Children who grow up in families that have strict rules and where the parents are critical and controlling never learn how to self-regulate. Because their parents are so involved and expect a certain type of behavior to satisfy them, the children never learn what their own intentions, preferences and beliefs are. They simply act to satisfy their parents. By not internalizing how to express themselves or act on their choices, they are learn from their mistakes and the guidance of their parents on how to regulate themselves. For example, children with controlling parents will complete their homework that night to make their parents happy not because they understand the reasons for meeting deadlines. Thus when their parents are not around to manage them, such as in college, procrastinators are not able to complete tasks efficiently since they never internalized their working style. Procrastination can also be a form of rebellion against strict parenting.
Procrastination is a learned behavior; people are not born procrastinators. Whether they put off tasks because they are addicted to the thrill of the last minute rush, they’re afraid of failure or they are indecisive, procrastination has serious consequences. People who put things off experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. This can be damaging to numerous body systems such as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and neurological systems. In addition, chronic stress and anxiety can increase bouts of insomnia and seriously lower immunity. Chronic stress is a common cause of recurrent sicknesses. In addition, procrastination stresses relationships, with parents becoming overly anxious about the performance of their child or a classmate becoming resentful that they have to pick up someone else’s slack.
Changing these learned behaviors takes time and energy but procrastination can be overcome with hard work, determination, and sometimes the help of a professional who can help identify the source of your procrastination.
Why do you think people procrastinate?