Skip to main content

The Procrastination Gene...

By Robin Kaye

Procrastination is something we’re all really good at—okay, maybe some are better than others—I have taken procrastination and turned it into a veritable art form. Still, we all do it. Why is that? We seem to have evolved into a society of procrastinators. There must be a reason this hideous trait is passed through our DNA. It must serve some purpose, mustn’t it? You’d think that procrastinators would have gotten so little done in their lifetimes they’d have at least succeeded in not multiplying and would have effectively flushed that nasty little gene out of our genetic makeup. Unfortunately for me, that’s not the case—it seems procrastinators don’t procrastinate enough to become celibate. I should know, I’m currently raising three teen aged procrastinators.

I had planned a survey to use for my procrastination blog. It was to prove my hypothesis that procrastination is a genetic trait we all have. Think about it, when was the last time you met someone that said, “Gee, I wish I could just spend the day spinning my wheels and accomplishing nothing—I just get too much done.” Unfortunately, I never got around to doing the survey. But let’s just say I had and proved we’re all fighting this procrastination gene. How do we counter it?

Me, I try to use reverse psychology on myself. Unfortunately, I always see right through it.

Another way is to use a timer. If I write for twenty minutes, I can play one game of spider solitaire but then, I’m so good at procrastinating, one game leads to ten and before I know what hit me, I’m deep into procrastination mode.

When I get really desperate, I give myself a reward system that I hate. When I stop writing, I have to clean the bathroom. That doesn’t work for me because on the way to the bathroom I get sidetracked and end up doing something like rearranging my paperbacks. Invariably a book catches my eye and I can’t fight the urge to read the first line. Once the first line is read, I have to finish the book, because, let’s face it, how can I start a book and not finish it?

I’m a hopeless case. It’s a wonder I ever accomplish anything.

After wracking my brain I have discovered a few good things that come from being a true procrastinator: It makes me invent amazingly imaginative excuses for procrastinating and if we didn’t have that amazing imagination, we couldn’t be writers at all, could we?

Procrastination also instills a huge amount of guilt on my psyche and makes me do things like write for twenty-eight hours straight so I finish the book by my deadline. And every time I succeed, I swear it will never happen again.

After being a mother, and a life-long procrastinator, I’ve always wished the procrastination gene and babies came with an on/off switch. But then if they had, after one bout of writer's block or eight hours with a colicky baby, we’d never turn the suckers back on.

So, what do you do to counteract your procrastination gene?


  1. Robin, I think if there's a genetic benefit to procrastination, it's as you said: It shows us what we'd really rather be doing with our time, though like you, I'm not what the evolutionary advantage is to being a World Grand Master at solitaire. Maybe all the clutter and cat hair accumulating in my house camouflages me from large predators?

  2. Robin, love the reverse idea of having to clean the bathroom if I don't write so long! Genius!

  3. As a rule, I don't procrastinate. I simply get too busy doing other things and forget!

  4. I never used to think I had the procrastination gene...until I started writing. Now I procrastinate on everything else! I'd rather just write, you know?

    I'm a list maker. So, I keep lists running to help keep me on task! :)

  5. Hmm, I don't think I have that gene. Thank God! Got plenty of other faults (if you choose to call it that) and way too many to list here.

  6. @ Grace - See what I mean about great imaginations! You've just given me the perfect excuse not to worry about all the dog and cat hair! Um...just don't tell my kids your theory, okay?

    @ Carolyn - Glad I could help! I'd rather have a root canal than clean the bathroom so I have no problem writing on those days...if only I didn't have that pesky bookcase right next to my desk filled with books I can't wait to read.

    @ Cheryl - LOL Sure...a huh. I believe you.

    @ Lynnrush - I guess the secret to lists is to remember to use them. That's where they lose me.

    @ Amelia - Oh I'm soooo jealous. If you weren't so damn nice, I'd have to hate you. I would give anything not to be a procrastinator--okay, maybe not anything but you know what I mean.

  7. External deadlines are the only devices which have 'saved' me from my procrastination.
    Eons ago, it was in my capacity as reporter, photographer, & editor of various small newspapers.
    In my more recent career the deadlines were less distinct, but there was always somebody clammering (? sp ?) for something that I had to produce.
    Since my early retirement, procrastination has nearly been the death of me.
    The only thing which 'saves' me now is that when I'm *INTO* a story, I'm usually writing so fast and furious that activities like meals and sleep ... seem like intrusions.
    I've completed six novel ms. in the past 4.5 yrs. Nope, none are sold yet, but an agent has a 'full' of my 4th ms.

  8. "Maybe all the clutter and cat hair accumulating in my house camouflages me from large predators?" Still laughing Grace. I make lots of lists and hope they make me feel guilty enough to do the things I should but really don't want to lol.

  9. @ Jeff7salter - Good luck with the agent hunt. Those are always fun!

    It sounds to me like you're plenty productive but then maybe we're harder on ourselves than we should be. I was talking about this to a dear friend who swears I don't procrastinate--I'm just busy juggling life, kids, house, pets, a career and marriage. I don't know if she's right, I would still kill for that on/off switch!

  10. @ Catslady - Yeah, Grace always makes me laugh...

  11. Robin, if it's a genetic trait, I sure have it. And I get so distracted it's not funny.

  12. I think for me procrastination is a form of relaxation. I don't have much time to myself, so when I do I procrastinate doing what I should to do something more fun.

  13. @ Anita - I'm a veritable fart in the wind. Sigh...

    @ Shana - LOL Time for yourself? What's that? Definitely time to have more fun. We'll have to meet for drinks at National!

  14. I am number one on procrastination, I have been procrastinating mowing the lawn all morning, sun was shining no big hurry, then it clouded up and I decided I had better get it done. I hadn't much more got started then the rain came and I was drowned before I could get the lawn mower back in the building. If I had started and hour earlier I would have got it done but no I just couldn't do that. I also get side tracked very easy that is why I never get anything done. The computer has me now.

  15. Oh Virginia - I would have to say I'd do the same thing. It would take a whole lot to motivate me to cut the lawn. Enjoy your computer time!

  16. Oh, Spider Solitaire is going to be the death of me. It's gotten so bad I can't just play one game, or even play until I win. I have to win two times in a row. Do you know how often that happens???? NEVER.

    Okay, maybe once it happened. See how bad I am?

    I don't know if it's genetic. I don't think my mom is a procrastinator, but I do know my daughter is a major procrastinator from watching me.

  17. This sounds exactly like me. I'm not procrastinating so much as finding other things to do to avoid doing what I'm supposed to do. Oh, I guess that's procrastinating.

  18. @ Elisabeth - LOL Twice in a row, huh. That's pretty amazing!
    @ Olivia - Yeah, that's my problem too. There are just too many other things I like to do!

  19. Not sure. I'll have to get back to you later LOL.

    Years ago I was visiting my neighbour who had a 2 YO and infant twins. She said someone had remarked on the dusty shelf in her living room. She told the person that she must have have something better to do that day. That's my mantra. I always have something better to do.

    I make notes that I can't get rid of until stuff is done, purchased, calls made etc.

  20. I procrastinated too much when I was younger - now I'm so far behind I keep running to catch up!


Post a Comment