Procrastination isn’t just universal among humans; the entire universe procrastinates: Newton’s First Law of Motion says a body at rest will stay at rest unless compelled to change state.
But just because something is universal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And sometimes we procrastinate even when we know we shouldn’t. We say, “I should really be working,” as we stalk our sophomore year homecoming date on Facebook, stand in front of the open fridge for the fourth time in an hour, or realize we’re watching banjo lessons on YouTube without owning a banjo.
And procrastination doesn’t only happen around work. Procrastination over getting a symptom checked out can leave a disease untreated. Putting off a difficult conversation prolongs conflict. And delaying life decisions, like breaking up or making a commitment, going back to school, or changing jobs can lead to running in place for years.
In the end, we kick ourselves. We get frustrated when we run out of time, get stressed as a deadline looms, or feel regret as opportunity slips through our fingers.
Why do we do this to ourselves? It seems so simple: just do it already! But it’s actually quite complicated. Plus, it turns out it’s in our very genes. A tendency to procrastinate runs in families, and is linked on the genetic level to impulsivity, creating a one-two punch of difficulty regulating our own behavior. And, to make things worse, a study in the prestigious journal Psychological Science notes that procrastination is, unfortunately, a lifelong trait.