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Why you procrastinate even when it feels bad

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The report you’ve been putting off is due tomorrow. It’s time to buckle down, open your computer ... and check your phone. Maybe watch your favorite YouTube channel? Or maybe you should just start in the morning? This is the cycle of procrastination. So, why do we procrastinate when we know it’s bad for us? Explore how your body triggers a procrastination response, and how you can break the cycle.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Fuschia Sirois
  • Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Yelyzaveta Senkova
  • Animator Volodymyr Boyko
  • Illustrator Yelyzaveta Senkova
  • Art Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
Additional Resources for you to Explore
At one point or another, we've all been victims of the urge to procrastinate. Studies show that 80-95% of college students procrastinate to some degree, with 70% considering themselves to be procrastinators. For many, however, procrastination can become a consistent and substantial problem that negatively impacts happiness and has statistical correlations to feelings of low self-efficacy and depression.

 Procrastination can look like a symptom of laziness, but chronic procrastinators are actually often perfectionists with a high fear of failure. Procrastination is the neurological response to stress — the same “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction all mammals have in any life-threatening situation. This fear-processing system begins in the amygdala, a central part of the brain’s limbic system, which is involved in our behavioral and emotional responses to the external world. 
 
If we view procrastination as not a time-management problem, but an emotional regulation problem, perhaps we can more successfully combat its negative effects. Researchers have dedicated swaths of studies to the self-blaming thoughts that are tied to procrastination, known as “procrastinatory cognitions,” and have developed the Procrastinatory Cognitions Inventory (PCI) to determine other thoughts and feelings most commonly associated with the tendency to procrastinate. This scale has provided a great deal of insight into the mind of the procrastinator, and continues to reveal how feelings of failure, shame, and guilt play a significant role in this avoidant behavior. 

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Fuschia Sirois
  • Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Yelyzaveta Senkova
  • Animator Volodymyr Boyko
  • Illustrator Yelyzaveta Senkova
  • Art Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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