procrastination TED talk

8 Procrastination TED Talks to Stop Killing Time

TED talks about procrastination are getting momentum, as they try to uncover the new hidden reasons behind the procrastination process. Researchers have been trying to investigate and explain why we wait until the last minute to perform an action. In fact, there’s the whole science behind procrastination with diverse opinions on the topic. 

According to The Next Web, procrastination is an emotional issue, not a time-management issue. Largely, the experts conclude, it is about the fear of losing, the fear of guilt and the fear of making a mistake. Our brains, addicted to dopamine, tend to protect us from negative feelings after assessing the tasks. Naturally, we’re wired to performing tasks that are less stressful in the beginning. 

Since the procrastination problem isn’t going away anytime soon, I’ve compiled the list of TED talks about procrastination to throw some light on why people procrastinate and see how to get it around.

Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator 


Have you ever thought about what is going on in the head of a skillful person who procrastinates a lot? Or what is the secret source of any affair delayed until the least opportune moment? Tim Urban, a very famous internet writer, relates in this TED talk about the mysterious process of thinking in the mind of a professional procrastinator.

Tim provides examples of both “precrastinators” and “procrastinators” and how they operate in rational decision-making processes. The main difference between them is that procrastinators’ brains possess the “instant gratification monkey” and “the panic monster.” These two metaphors describe a person who aims at short-term goals with instant gratification until the deadline approaches and the person gets panic-attacked. 

But why is this addiction to instant results and momentary rewards progressing? The response resides in the technological boons. Urban claims:

It’s that long-term procrastination has made them feel like a spectator, at times, in their own lives. The frustration is not that they couldn’t achieve their dreams; it’s that they weren’t even able to start chasing them. 

So, instead of acting as principal characters on their life stories, people often move on to being only spectators, mere audience. And that’s where the problem is hidden. 

Vik Nithy: Why We Procrastinate


In this procrastination TED talk, a psychology student and entrepreneur Vik Nithy explains the real reasons for procrastination. A young man at the age of 20, he has already founded three companies. And this is after being diagnosed post-HSC with a number of different conditions. The speaker also suffered from chronic debilitating addiction to procrastination at high school. That’s why he knows the fear and guilt of putting things off till the last night before the exam. 

Vik admits that one of the reasons for procrastination was his bad habit of scrolling down Facebook posts just for some minutes before getting down to work. Technology poses an enormous threat to human willpower and self-discipline. It’s our “blessing in disguise” and a major condition of procrastination process for a person at work. Consequently, he ended up wasting three hours or more on social media rather than on his studies. This kind of new distracter is coming into force as it inevitably disrupts our routine, our plans and our rhythm of everyday life. 

According to Vik’s research findings, there is an argument in our brain between the prefrontal cortex – a higher-level part and the limbic system – a more primitive and subconscious part. Whenever the limbic system gets activated, we tend to act impulsively and irrationally.

Another point is perfectionist syndrome when you tend to accomplish things only with positive results. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking also urges us to make decisions on behalf of this spontaneous lazy monkey to avoid any possible failure in the future.

Archana Murthy: An End to Procrastination


According to surveys, 85-95% of students face challenges while dealing with procrastination issue. Moreover, what unites humans more than joy, sorrow or love is….procrastination. Archana Murthy dwells on emotional reasons of procrastination in her TED talk “An end to procrastination”. 

Archana discovered that chronic procrastination is not only about poor time management or laziness. Above all, it results from negative emotions such as fear, stress, frustration or low self-esteem. That’s very logical because, as Archana argues, all the negativity lowers our vibration and we start to feel under the weather and unwilling to continue the project or any kind of work. As a result, we lack the inspiration or sense of accomplishment of the task at hand. 

So, she puts forward multiple ways to increase our self-awareness and motivation: setting goals and sticking to them unfailingly, acknowledging our feelings or actions, being positive and grateful in any situation, recording meaningful events during the day and looking them through before sleep.

All these pieces of advice contain the grain of truth as they help to boost our stamina and increase our sense of worthiness in society. As social animals, we need constant feedback and approvals from the other people and when we get them – our desire to procrastinate disappears. Thus, Archana’s powerful talk on procrastination and its factors of influence will obviously make you analyze the information obtained and apply it in your everyday life. 

Valerie Brown: Trust the Procrastinator 


Although this TED talk hasn’t managed so far to attract the attention of a numerous audience, I consider it to be one of the most relevant and insightful speeches I’ve ever watched. The point is about the positive side of being a procrastinator, as Valerie Brown states. 

Our society is programmed to have everything “right now” regardless of the stipulations. The short-term goals are prevailing over the long-term ones in the long run. And when people face a challenge of dealing with something that demands much more attention, energy, and time they can’t cope with the pressure of finishing the task on time. This is where the root of procrastination can be traced back to. 

So, Valerie shifts our vision of being big lazy and provides an accurate example of Leonardo Da Vinci. This well-known artist almost gave up at one moment in his life but he managed to get stamina and finish his masterpiece “Mona Lisa” after 16 years of work.  Being on the edge of doubts and disbelief, Da Vinci succeeded and found his glory. “Per Aspera ad Astra”, as the saying goes. There is nothing impossible on the way to your dream. The main thing is to believe in your aspirations, follow your heart, be adamant in pursuit of happiness. 

Andrea Jackson: Procrastination is the Key to Problem Solving


What does procrastination have to do with the problem-solving process? Why is it so essential for dealing with difficult situations? And what is the difference between procrastination and “slow hunch” theory? This TED talk on procrastination gives some evidence on these issues.

According to Andrea Jackson, there are two categories of procrastinators: the accidental (like Leonardo Da Vinci) and the deliberate (as Thomas Edison). The difference lies in their approach to work: Da Vinci put off his painting not on purpose, but because of his nature or character to do so. While Edison deliberately waited for the right time to happen in order to complete his projects. The modern science calls this process of deliberate waiting “the slow hunch” theory. It means a long incubation period before something great and original is born to the world. 

So, to get better results at work we need to indulge in productive procrastination. Moreover, we can become more innovative and we can improve the quality and the outcome in a problem-solving process. Thomas Edison once said: “I haven’t undergone any failure. I’ve just come up with a thousand ways when something doesn’t work out.” Every new failure we encounter on the way mustn’t set us back and feel depressed since it’s an essential part of inevitable success. Thus, in this video, you’ll learn about another new perspective on the procrastination process.

Bronwyn Clee: The Vaccination for Procrastination


CEO of the Institute of Hope, Bronwyn Clee believes that self-care must always come as a priority. In this TED talk on procrastination, she displays her talent and ability to clarify things which really matter. The psychological findings of postponing things show that the number one reason for doing so is fear. 

Fear blocks our creativity and freezes our desire to be active and initiative. Bronwyn admits that she herself used to loaf around due to the immense level of fear. However, it took her a lifetime to overcome this problem and become an effective decision-maker. 

After watching this TED talk you’ll sure end up combating any doubts about acting fearlessly and adamantly and facing any challenges. The dose of motivation, inspiration, and interesting projection of her theories will be worthy for your future development as a personality and an efficient troubleshooter. 

Victoria Gonzales: I’m Not Lazy, I’m Procrastinating


This speech also stands in the row of popular procrastination monkey TED talks. Victoria Gonzales witnesses her story of being an occasional procrastinator at school, as many of her peers. Victoria elucidates the motivational factors behind success and procrastination. Moreover, she discusses laziness as a stereotypical reason for postponing doing things till the last moment. 

The title of her message “I’m not lazy, I’m procrastinating” refers to her personal discovery. This confirmation concerns mainly millennials since Victoria is a representative of a younger generation herself. She argues that her peers, just like her, are dilly-dallying not because they are unwilling to finish them. On the contrary, they do it deliberately with the aim of completing their projects a bit later. 

Besides, Victoria states that lazy people are the opposite to those who are passive and don’t even try to take steps in the direction of their dreams. Her initial statement about procrastination is really impressive:

First, you ignore the work, then you laugh at it, then you fight it and then…it wins

Personally, I couldn’t agree more than that. And what is your opinion?  

Al Switzler: Change Anything! Use Skillpower Over Willpower


Delivered by Al Switzler, this is another TED talk about procrastination that touches the psychology of delayed actions and behaviors. Al Switzler is a cofounder of VitalSmarts, a researcher of methods for driving a sustainable, measurable behavior change. What is more, he is a co-author of four NYT bestsellers, including Change Anything

The speaker explains the external and internal factors of the procrastination process as linked to behavior problems. He claims that there are hundreds of millions of people who suffer unwillingly but inevitably because of the lack of self-control and self-discipline. Al argues:

What’s standing between them and their health and happiness, between them and their dreams and aspirations, is their own behavior

The speaker proposes to break down our own mental barriers and beat the willpower trap.  The moment we realize that we are ensnared is the moment we recognize our blocks. As a result, they start to disintegrate and fall apart. 

Al’s motto to “change anything and use skillpower over willpower” underlines the importance of changes in any way. If one thing (willpower) doesn’t help anymore, then he encourages to employ our skillpower (that is our talent and our practical knowledge).

Based on the story of his mother who wanted to quit smoking but couldn’t do that and died of lung cancer, Al provides the bright sample of a weak character in a helpless, hopeless giving up. What is more, he names six sources of influences – forces which are pulling against us like a roping contest. These sources are personal motivation, peer and social pressure, and structural motivation.  

Also, watch these nine inspiring project management TED Talks.

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