The Science Behind Why You ALWAYS Procrastinate on Your Chores

Are you the type of person who allows your dirty laundry to sit… and sit… and sit, until the only underwear you have left is a pair of bathing suit bottoms? Or maybe you let your clean laundry sit in a pile on the floor for so long that you’ve worn everything and it all needs to be washed again. Or perhaps you regularly procrastinate on some entirely different, non-laundry-related chore. The point is, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not lazy. In fact, it’s not really your fault. Humans are naturally pretty horrible at prioritizing long-term goals, according to research.

Okay, so we don’t do a great job of weighing the potential long term benefits of projects, dentist appointments and diets. We are really great at putting those things off indefinitely (unless we’re held directly accountable). But why do we leave such easily-accomplished tasks, like laundry, unfinished? By not doing them, these tasks can weigh heavily on our minds. They fester and cause subtle amounts of anxiety, yet we still continue to put them off. Why do we do this time and again?

The Science of Procrastination

It’s not laziness or poor time management. In fact, procrastination is really all about mood. According to Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University, procrastination “really has nothing to do with time-management. To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

To get a handle on your procrastination, you first have to address your unenthused mood.

The real reason we put things off is simply because we aren’t in the proper mood to do them at that moment. Of course, we hope that, in some arbitrary amount of time—maybe after a cup of coffee and a YouTube video, or maybe tomorrow morning after a better night of sleep—we will be thrilled and energized to tackle our laundry. But, generally, that day never comes. And then we feel ashamed that we couldn’t even finish a simple 10-minute chore.

Lazy housewife on the couch

That’s where guilt and shame play a major role in long-term chore avoidance. Once you put a task off once, it becomes a constant reminder of ‘that thing you should have done earlier’. Instead of tackling the task, it snowballs into this insurmountable chore that has become larger than life. That guilt saps our emotional energy, making the task seem even more impossible than ever before. And so that pile of laundry just sits there, taunting us, and we are helpless to react until we become so stressed and overwhelmed that we finally break down and do it.

It’s a stressful cycle. So how can you break the cycle and actually get those nagging little chores off your to-do list without all that frazzle?

Set hard deadlines.

Certain deadlines are highly effective. For instance, plan a dinner party for the weekend, which will force you to steadily tackle your clothes beforehand. And be clever with your deadlines. Self-imposed deadlines are generally fairly ineffective, so design a deadline that will hold you externally accountable.

Set small, manageable short term goals.

This is mostly for those bigger, spring cleaning-type chores. Let’s say you want to reorganize your closet. That might be a monumental task, one which is tough to wrap your mind around. You’re practically putting out a welcome mat for procrastination.

Instead, break the project down into bite-sized chunks. Organize shoes one day. Whittle out what no longer fits you the next. And so on, until you have a freshly reorganized closet. The point is to give yourself tasks that are super, super easy. Bit by bit, you’ll get the project done.

Turn chores into a game.

We are much more likely to perform tasks when we perceive them to be a game, rather than work. Try to fold five shirts as quickly as possible. Seriously, time yourself. Pretty soon, voila, you’re done—and you’ll have actually tricked yourself into enjoying it! Make fun little games for yourself to make chores less of a drag.

The key is to stop feeling ashamed of your inability to get certain chores done. We all do it. Instead, put your energy into hacking your procrastination and improving your mood around the idea of chores in general. They’re not so bad.

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35 comments

Hannah A
Hannah A4 months ago

tyfs

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Thomas M
Thomas M4 months ago

Thank you

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Shirley Plowman
Shirley P5 months ago

KNOW YOURSELF.

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Barbara S
Barbara S5 months ago

thank you for sharing

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heather g
heather g6 months ago

Procrastinators are often hedonists. For example, it's more fun to go out for a meal with a friend than to write a complicated business letter.

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Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

There is a real reason to stay away from people who live in extreme mess, you know, outside iof our health and sanity . Put simply they are toxic people. Its not a wise crack. They are manipulating you and the world into feeling sorry for them. Toxic people always play the victim, always. They are also testing your boundaries to see what you will put up with and they are not so subtly manipulating you into being their lacky. They use your good nature to guilt you.

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Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

Care2 you just gave all those lazy asses another fib to tell

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Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

It means you work well under pressure. It isnt so much mood as a looming deadline ( your new date is arriving) and actually liking being busy, funnily enough. But it is just a matter of doing it because once you start, you actually start wanting to.

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 months ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S6 months ago

Thanks.

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