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What Tim Urban Has To Say About Being A Master Procrastinator

So we’ve all procrastinated in our lives—in school, in our work, and in our goals in life. We’ve pulled up that all-nighter to finish a paper given weeks ahead of the deadline, we’ve filed overtimes to finish the report our boss has been reminding us about for months now, and we’ve come up with so many excuses why we should start our diets tomorrow instead.

It turns out, there are players inside our brain that causes the procrastinating. What causes this evil cycle of procrastinating is identified by writer and Wait But Why website founder Tim Urban as the Instant Gratification Monkey. Inside our brain, the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Rational Decision-Maker guy fight it out to determine who can control the ship and influence our decisions—decisions like choosing between working on a project or or binge-watching a Netflix series instead.

In Tim’s Ted Talk titled “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator,” he also talks about the Dark Playground, where fun and guilt are in constant tango since leisure time is unearned and stands in the way of productivity; and the Panic Monster, every procrastinator’s guardian angel.

While the Panic Monster is a helpful alarm that prompts us to get up and work, there are moments when the Panic Monster is not triggered—moments when there are no actual, tangible deadlines. And these moments are actually the more crucial moments, since they determine the course of our lives. Stuff like life decisions, exercising, making time to see your family, starting or getting out of a relationship, starting to really chase your dreams.

Tim says, “Now if the procrastinator's only mechanism of doing these hard things is the Panic Monster, that's a problem, because in all of these non-deadline situations, the Panic Monster doesn't show up. He has nothing to wake up for, so the effects of procrastination, they're not contained; they just extend outward forever. And it's this long-term kind of procrastination that's much less visible and much less talked about than the funnier, short-term deadline-based kind. It's usually suffered quietly and privately. And it can be the source of a huge amount of long-term unhappiness, and regrets.”

Relate yet? For the full lecture, watch Tim Urban’s Ted Talk on being a master procrastinator at