Does any of this sounds familiar? You have some homework that needs to be done. Some of it is due tomorrow, while the rest of it isn't due for several more days. You know it needs to get done, yet you don't start on it right away.

Instead, you take advantage of the wonderful weather to play outside with your friends. When you come inside, you're hungry, so you need to grab a snack, right? After your snack, you figure you should probably clean up your room a bit. You'll get to your homework just as soon as your room is neat and tidy.

What's going on here? It's called procrastination. That's a fancy word that means putting off something you need to do and doing other, less important things first. Often it means doing more pleasurable things before or instead of less pleasurable ones.

If you've ever waited until the last minute to finish up a task just before the deadline, then you've been guilty of procrastination. We all procrastinate from time to time. So why do we do it?

Some experts believe the pleasure principle is to blame. According to the pleasure principle, rational people choose to engage in more pleasurable behaviors while avoiding those behaviors that are less pleasurable and cause negative emotions or stress.

Makes sense, right? If given the choice between doing homework and playing outside, playing outside is going to win every time. Who wouldn't rather play than do homework? The problem is that some things — including homework! — simply must be done.

Procrastinating puts off the inevitable until a later time. It gives you immediate satisfaction (doing something else more pleasurable), while avoiding the unpleasant. Psychologists believe procrastination is a coping mechanism that some people use to avoid the anxiety caused by unpleasant tasks.

While it might not sound like the worst thing to wait until the last minute, there are negative side effects of procrastination. Often, procrastination results in more stress, feelings of guilt, and maybe even a crisis if you put off something for so long that there's no longer time to complete it by a deadline. Working under feelings of stress, guilt, and crisis can lead to decreased productivity and often poor performance.

While most people procrastinate to some degree, procrastination can become a severe problem for some people. Missed deadlines and poor work as a result of procrastination can negatively impact your grades, your job, or other areas of your life.

So how do you stop procrastinating and start making progress? Get started! It's that simple. Of course, part of getting started is figuring out where to start. If a task looks monumental, break it down into smaller pieces. Create a plan of action that allows you enough time to work on each individual piece of the project, so that the entire project will be completed on time.

Often an unpleasant task isn't all that bad…except for that one part. If you tackle the worst part first, it's often much easier to knock out the entire task in a timely manner once the worst part is over. Exercise your self-control and do the hard part first.

Be mindful of your time and make a plan. Take a look at all you have to do and set priorities. Do the most important things first and only allow yourself to indulge in the unimportant if there's time left at the end of the day. Following a few simple rules like this will enable you to be more productive and stop wasting time!

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow's Wonder of the Day might have you saying, “Monkey see, monkey do!”