Procrastination is when we put off doing important work and plan to do it later instead. Delaying any action or decision also counts as procrastination.
It may seem like a good idea at the time, but then we start rushing to complete the work as the deadline approaches. Panic sets in, and the work may be substandard or remain unfinished.
If you are a procrastinator, know that you are not alone — procrastination is a widespread global phenomenon. About 25% of adults agree that they procrastinate, while the number of college students who put off important tasks is much higher at 70%.
More than 50% of people report using the internet to procrastinate and avoid doing what they should be doing. Some people are chronic procrastinators, while some are occasional.
Their reasons for avoiding work can be entirely different, from mental fatigue to stress to burnout to excessive family pressure.
What causes procrastination?
Let’s take a look at possible causes of procrastination:
Fear of criticism
Fear of failure
A tendency to self-defeat
Lack of focus
Tendency to wait until the last minute
Indecision or decision fatigue
Difficulty defining goals
Lack of energy
A disconnect with the future self
Procrastination stops you from achieving your goals — in your career, studies, relationships, and much more. It hinders teamwork, triggers depression and low self-esteem, and may even lead to job loss.
Many people even forgo essential wellness habits such as regular exercise and health check-ups due to procrastination.
Understanding the effects of procrastination
The negative effects of procrastination may range from missing a project deadline to something more severe, like losing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get your dream job.
You should avoid giving in to your tendencies to avoid important tasks. Procrastination can have life-altering effects for those who don’t choose to deal with it. However, conscious efforts to curb procrastination should help you gain control over it.
1. Losing precious time
Have you ever contemplated how much time you may have wasted procrastinating? It suddenly makes you realize that you’ve grown two, five, or ten years older, but nothing significant has happened in your life.
The helplessness and feeling of regret will resonate. You will feel frustrated knowing that your situation cannot be reversed. Yet, all this could have been different had you taken the first step to fight procrastination.
2. Blowing opportunities
How many opportunities could have been seized had you not put them off? This realization will prompt you to knock procrastination out of your life.
One study found that 80% of people have experienced the negative effects of procrastination. You need to embrace all life opportunities with open arms as soon they are presented to you. Overthinking and procrastinating will result in you getting left behind.
3. Not meeting goals
Procrastination tightens its grip when we let our minds wander with thoughts of what we want to achieve in life. Your intense desire to change something should propel you into taking action, but you seem to be stuck in the spiral of your thoughts.
Our goals drive us to success. If those goals are not pursued, you don’t progress, and the chances of making your life better diminish significantly. If procrastination prevents you from accomplishing your goals, you should first unearth the root cause and resolve it.
4. Ruining a career
Procrastination may become an impediment to achieving monthly targets or meeting your deadlines. This can have dire consequences on your career.
Even a single percentage point increase in procrastination can lead to a decrease in salary. You may miss out on annual promotions or be laid off from your job.
5. Lower self-esteem
Low self-esteem can make us feel incapable of completing an important task or project.
It triggers feelings of self-sabotage and being unworthy of success. It slowly breaks your confidence, demoralizes you, and turns you into a procrastinator.
6. Making poor decisions
Indecision or decision fatigue is one of the major effects of procrastination. Our decisions get clouded by our negative emotions, and procrastination takes over. It pushes us to make flawed decisions that may have a severe bearing on us in the long run.
As a rule of thumb, you should never make a decision while procrastinating. Instead, write down all the options and analyze their pros and cons as soon as your mind settles down.
7. Damage to your reputation
Think of a scenario where you keep making promises but don’t deliver. People will eventually begin to lose trust in you, and your reputation takes a beating. Your self-confidence and self-control are also tarnished.
People will become aware of your avoidant attitude and refrain from offering you new opportunities. They may be worried that you will procrastinate, and they will have to clean up your mess.
8. Risking your health
Procrastination aggravates serious mental health issues like anxiety and stress. Leaving them unattended for long may result in irreversible health risks.
For example, depression can affect multiple areas of your life, from personal to professional.
How to overcome procrastination
Let’s focus on the brighter side now and find out how you can eliminate procrastination from your life. Follow the below steps to prevent procrastination from controlling you:
Knowing yourself solves half the problem. You need to understand the root cause of your procrastination before you can start dealing with it.
For example, do you avoid a specific task because you do not find it pleasant and exciting? If your life is wrapped around the mundane aspects of the job, it’s time to change your mindset. Instead, focus on the fulfilling and enjoyable aspects of your job.
Practice time management
Consider adopting some time-management techniques to help you regain focus. Efficiently managing time and self-regulating can help you concentrate on your tasks.
For instance, the Pomodoro technique is an excellent time-management strategy in which you track time using a timer. This helps you organize and manage your workflow.
Change your perspective
Replace the phrases “have to” and “need to” with more positive ones like “choose to” and “like to.” These positive words reassure your mind by implying that you have full ownership of what you do.
This, in turn, makes you feel more empowered and confident and helps you take control of how you react to a situation.
Commit to assignments
Instead of avoiding a task, you should focus on doing it. Writing down each task and assigning a timeline for completion will help you deal with your to-do list
Work in productive environments
Finish all your tasks as soon as they are assigned to you and avoid spreading them over future dates.
Since the internet is the main distraction for 50% of procrastinators, stay offline to boost your productivity. Switch off social media and email notifications and avoid watching television while working.
Set realistic goals
Setting achievable goals for yourself is the first step to overcoming procrastination. Make sure to define your goals clearly. Setting vague goals will resurrect your procrastination habit.
Break the habit of blaming yourself for everything and embrace self-forgiveness instead. Forgiving yourself will significantly reduce the likelihood of future procrastination.
Learn from mistakes
It’s okay to make mistakes as no one is perfect. Don’t let the fear of committing mistakes stop you from attempting anything at all.
Avoid denying or justifying your procrastination and instead take responsibility for your actions. This will quickly help you understand that you should have acted differently.
Plan for obstacles
Planning for obstacles coupled with a goal-oriented mindset will help you break the procrastination cycle.
If you are not prepared to deal with obstacles, hitting a roadblock will lead you to procrastinate even more.
Create a reward system
If you manage to accomplish a challenging project, reward yourself with a cup of coffee or a slice of cake. It will lighten your mood and help you realize how fulfilling it is to wrap things up on time.
Identify the problem
Understanding the nature of your procrastination problem will help you successfully deal with it.
For instance, does working from home make you put things off more than you do at the office? Seeking answers to such questions will help you effectively deal with procrastination.
Sharing your concerns with close friends and like-minded colleagues will help.
If opening up to close friends seems challenging, use online tools like Procraster to monitor yourself.
How to continue beating procrastination
Procrastination is just like a riddle that you can solve. Create and follow a robust plan of action to overcome procrastination and take control of your life.
Use these strategies for overcoming procrastination and break down your to-do list into smaller, more manageable chunks. Focus on getting started with your tasks rather than completing them.