Let's start with a technical definition of procrastination: it is the act of postponing something that we have to do. It is an irrational act: we know that putting things off is not a good thing for us, yet we do it anyway!
While it is not difficult to explain the meaning of "procrastination", it is much more complex to explain why we do it. Why do we put off something that we know is in our best interests to get done?
To help us better understand this tendency, the author refers to an analogy used in a TED Talk that was given by procrastination expert, Tim Urban.
The useful metaphor provided to try and help people understand this behaviour was that of imagining that there is a monkey that lives in our mind, that acts according to a single principle: avoid everything that does not satisfy its constant desire for immediate pleasure or fun. The monkey is not interested in the long-term benefits of our actions; if something isn't enjoyable and fun now, it just doesn't want to do it. It wants an instant reward. Now, right now.
The problem arises when the rational part of our minds wants to do something that does not fall within the plans of this dear monkey of ours. For example, if we want to study, finish a job, meditate, or work out, but the monkey does not find these activities fun, it will rebel, and make its reluctance known. It will tell us that it's better to watch TV, eat ice cream, or get some rest. When we listen to the monkey, it causes us to procrastinate. We postpone something we don't like in favour of something else that we will get more satisfaction from at that point in time. When we don't listen to the monkey, we are applying willpower. We shut up that part of us that does not want to dedicate itself to a certain task, and overcome the momentary difficulty that this choice may cause, knowing that we will benefit in the future.
Procrastination is the struggle between these two opposing parts within us; if we are chronic procrastinators, it simply means that the monkey wins this battle too often. That's all.
The good news is that we can learn to get the better of the monkey within, and learn to impose our willpower much more often.