If you, like 20% of people in the world, procrastinate all the time and always feel lazy, you will indeed have asked yourself, “Is procrastination genetic?”
Well yes, it’s not just your fault. Procrastination and impulsivity are genetic and can be even more challenging to overcome.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be demoralized and just quit.
If you want, you can reduce procrastination and your impulsive behavior.
But first, let’s take a look at who’s likely to procrastinate and how you can overcome procrastination the right way.
Are procrastinators born or made?
The age-old question of whether procrastinators are born or made can be answered with a scientific look into the genetic influences on procrastination and impulsivity.
There is compelling evidence from multiple studies suggesting an underlying genetic component to varying levels of procrastination.
This suggests that some people may have the tendency to procrastinate because they naturally possess more difficulty with task completion and goal management than others due, in part, to their genetics.
Genetic heritability estimates for aspects of procrastination vary but range from 33% to 46%.
In this context, heritability refers to the magnitude by which genes influence differences in characteristics between individuals within a species, as opposed to environmental factors.
Research has also found higher dopamine levels could make someone more likely to have lower impulse control, making them more likely to indulge in behavior like procrastination instead of acting on willpower directly, as proposed by evolutionary psychologists.
Genetic heritability of procrastination
According to recent studies, 25-33% of the variance in procrastination can be attributed to genetic causes.
This means that there is a strong correlation between our DNA and the tendency to delay or postpone tasks.
Examples include a 2017 study exploring sex differences in the heritability of procrastination and a 2019 twin study examining the influence of environmental factors on goal management abilities.
Scientists have identified that numerous genes contribute to individual variation in capacity and effort associated with goal management and self-regulation abilities such as impulsivity, executive functions, or reward systems.
Influence of sex on genetic tendencies
When it comes to the influence of gender on genetic tendencies towards procrastination, recent research has suggested that sex-specific factors may play a role.
One 2018 study reported higher rates of procrastination in men than women when viewed based on self-reporting questionnaires and cognitive measures.
This suggests that while environmental influences still play critical roles in our tendency to delay tasks or make progress, genetics may partly explain why some individuals are more naturally prone to procrastinate than others.
However, previous research reveals culture, precisely parenting styles, also reflect propensity towards behaviors associated with procrastination, including perfectionism, which ultimately can reduce motivation and performance.
Does procrastination run in the family?
Research suggests the genetic influence on procrastination runs in families, with close biological relatives having an increased likelihood of procrastinating.
Several studies have looked at both parents and their children’s tendencies to postpone tasks or activities, which often show similarities between individuals within a family unit.
Many times, these links can be attributed to genetic heritability as opposed to environment.
However, not all influences may be down purely to genetics; other environmental factors play an important role too when mapping out cross-generational trends in postponing tasks and goals over time.
Parents who fail at goal management strategies could pass those behaviors onto their children inadvertently through suggesting specific patterns during challenges and opportunities for success early on in life or how they react towards successes or failures reflecting upon them as the model being followed by their offspring throughout different stages developmentally speaking.
Influence of environment on procrastination
Environmental factors play an important role in the development of procrastination behaviors. These influences can be both long- and short-term, as psychological elements like stress, anxiety, fear of failure or criticism, as well as external elements such as organizational systems make it more difficult to complete tasks on time.
Parenting style is particularly influential – an overly lenient parenting style may lead to a feeling of entitlement or lack of discipline among young people that persists into adulthood while overly strict parents may instill guilt and fear about performance outcomes which leads to avoidance strategies for goal attainment.
Similarly, family environment fosters either healthy achievement motivations or hesitation towards achievement due to familial expectations or interference concerning task completion timing.
Social pressures also contribute significantly; certain standards may be defined by those around us associated with delaying our goals as success isn’t desirable socially until examinations are completed for example – leading individuals who feel inadequate despite hard work towards slower progress if any at all (e.g., academic procrastination).
Who suffers from procrastination the most?
Young adults between 18-35 years old are particularly vulnerable to procrastination, likely partly due to their developing brains, which contain less emotional regulation than older adults.
This age group is believed to possess a biologically triggered reward system linked to dopamine levels, which can make them particularly impulsive.
These young adults also might experience pressure from influences outside of themselves resulting from peers or social pressures that could further contribute to existing biological concerns relating back again to an individual’s genetics or neurobiology structure itself.
After genetic analysis, experts have concluded that procrastination is genetic and can be hereditary, with a greater frequency in men than women.
But if the goal of this research was to make you feel less guilty and say “It’s not my fault”, then dude, you’re completely wrong.
Procrastination may be genetic, but that’s no excuse for doing nothing to combat it.
You’ll probably struggle more, you’ll have to try harder, and there will be many times when you want to throw in the towel, but it’s all part of the process.
That’s your choice, my friend, and you’re the only one who can decide!