The Harmful Effect Of Procrastination: Creating A Downward Spiral

Sabina Nisioi
Sabina Nisioi
consequences of procrastination

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Never put off ‘till tomorrow what may be done… the day after tomorrow just as well.

Why is procrastination bad

Let’s assume this article was due on December 12th, 2022. Today it’s December 12th. Guess when it was actually written. Nailed it – December 12th. It’s not like I didn’t know about it until now, or that I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I couldn’t get things going. I just like fooling myself that I work better under pressure. Or that…

what does procrastination lead to

… I’m procaffinating. Well, neither is true, and the consequences of procrastination are real and harmful. Today, we’ll talk more about what procrastination actually means, what procrastination leads to, and the negative effects of procrastination. Whether you’re an employee with a bunch of tasks on your to-do, or a student with several projects and essays to write, stick with us. This article will motivate you to stop procrastinating and set things in motion.

What is procrastination?

To procrastinate is to put off making decisions or taking action until the last minute or after the deadline. 

Procrastination is not always a sign of a serious problem. Actually, it’s a common tendency that most people succumb to at some point. According to studies, procrastination affects 15%-20% of adults on a regular basis, and approximately 25% of adults regard procrastination as a defining personality trait. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that an increasing number of people engage in various forms of procrastination in general. For example, in a study of an adult sample, 74% of those polled stated that they go to bed later than planned at least once a week for no apparent reason.

This problem appears to be especially prevalent in certain people, such as students. According to research, 80%-95% of college students procrastinate to some extent, approximately 75% consider themselves to be procrastinators, and approximately 50% procrastinate in a consistent and problematic manner.

No matter how organized and dedicated you are, chances are you have found yourself wasting hours on meaningless things (updating your IG description, watching TV, changing your Whatsapp profile picture, shopping online) when you should have been focusing on work or school-related projects.

Procrastinators frequently assume that projects will take less time to complete than they actually will, which can lead to a false sense of security when they believe they still have plenty of time.

How many types of procrastination are there?

According to science, there are 2 main types of procrastination (active and passive), but there can also be other categories, based on the behavioral styles of individuals.

  1. Active procrastination happens when people deliberately postpone action because they perform well under pressure. According to some experts, active procrastination may not have the same negative consequences as passive procrastination on the individual’s mental and physical health. It might even be beneficial. Another interesting thing is that active procrastinators resemble non-procrastinators in terms of purposeful use of time, belief in their ability to execute tasks, and time control.
  2. Passive procrastination is the type in which individuals find themselves paralyzed by their inability to complete a task on time. This is more common and triggers several negative effects.

Other types of procrastination: 

  1. The ‘crisis-maker’: Postpones because they enjoy working under extreme stress. This is also referred to as the active procrastinator.
  2. The ‘dreamer’: Puts off things because they lack attention to detail.
  3. The ‘perfectionist’: Postpones tasks because they are afraid of not being able to complete them perfectly.
  4. The ‘worrier’: Puts off tasks due to fear of change or leaving the comfort of what’s known and familiar.
  5. The ‘defier’: Does not believe that anyone should tell them what to do and when to do it.
  6. The ‘overdoer’: Takes on too much and struggles to find time to begin and finish tasks.

The main insight is the following: the effect of procrastination is powerful no matter what. Your job, grades, and life suffer whether you’re putting off finishing a work project, avoiding homework assignments, or ignoring household chores.

What does procrastination lead to?

Procrastination is linked to a number of risks and negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, poor financial status, relationship problems, decreased well-being, and poor mental and physical health.

Besides that, many of these issues are interconnected, which means they frequently occur together, and some of them can cause or exacerbate others. Procrastination, for example, can lead to mental health issues such as stress, which can lead to issues such as decreased well-being, poor physical health, and poor academic and job performance.

Why is procrastination bad?

procrastination problems

In other words, what are the negative effects of procrastination? 

1. It creates a downward spiral of poor decisions and actions

One of the most serious consequences of procrastination is poor decision-making. When you procrastinate, you make decisions based on criteria that would not have existed if you had not procrastinated. Here are some examples: concentrating on potential opportunities or returning to the work you put off, choosing whether to address a personal or professional issue first, and feeling pressed to make a decision because time is running out.  

Emotions strongly influence our decisions, and procrastination exacerbates negative emotions. This forces us to make decisions that will not benefit us in the long run. You will make decisions based on fear, which is never a good place to be.

Instead of rushing through decisions while procrastinating, write them all down and find a quiet moment to weigh the pros and cons of each. You may have already procrastinated, and there isn’t much you can do about it, but you can influence how you make decisions in the future.

2. It puts your mental health at risk 

If you put off doing something for too long, it will most likely stress you out and cause anxiety, especially if other people or things are involved. If you are frequently stressed or easily overwhelmed and anxious, it’s no wonder that you will have poor health outcomes. When asking researchers ‘what does procrastination lead to?’, we find out that depression is another negative effect of procrastination. The more depressed you are, the more difficult it is to take action. Not only are you depressed, but it is worsening, because when you procrastinate, you are not only putting something off, but you are also choosing to be more stressed and overwhelmed. 

Don’t put your mental health at risk by not addressing the root cause of your procrastination.

3. It puts your physical health in danger

You can have many goals in life, but without your mental and physical health, there isn’t much to aim for. When you put off going to the gym or simply taking care of yourself, you are essentially putting off being healthy, and this has a negative impact on your health. Simple things like getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night and eating the right things at the right times have a long-term impact on your overall health. Evidence now shows that extreme procrastination has negative effects on our health, ranging from insomnia to headaches to cardiovascular disease.

Another way procrastination can harm your health in the short term is by putting off check-ups, postponing appointments, or avoiding exercise. The problem is only getting worse, and the consequences of procrastination are becoming more severe.

4. It messes up your relationships

Often, procrastinators are unaware of the other person’s growing frustration and disappointment. Worse, by the time they realize it, it may be too late. Perhaps you frequently cancel plans with family members or friends because you have procrastinated on something that is now a non-negotiable. Perhaps your partner begins to lose faith in you because you never follow through on your promises and words.

Doing this a few times will undoubtedly ruin any relationship, and the damage can be irreversible. Hence, it’s safe to say that the negative effects of procrastination on relationships are not to be taken lightly. 

5. It endangers your career

The way you work has a direct impact on how much you achieve and how well you perform. If you are constantly procrastinating, the effect of procrastination will certainly be detrimental to your career.

Other procrastination problems could be keeping you from meeting deadlines or meeting your monthly goals. These will have an impact on your clients, coworkers, boss, company, or business. You might even miss out on promotions or even risk losing your job. You can try to hide it for a while, but long-term work procrastination will almost certainly ruin your professional life.

6. It ruins your reputation

Nobody wants empty words. When you keep saying you’ll do something and then don’t, your reputation suffers. You are harming your own reputation as well as your self-esteem and confidence. You will notice that it becomes easier to procrastinate each time because you are no longer surprising yourself. People may stop relying on you and withhold opportunities from you because they are concerned that you will simply procrastinate, leaving them to clean up the mess. 

Even if you already have a reputation as a procrastinator, you can change your ways. When someone asks you to do something, use all of the tools at your disposal to complete it on time. Each time you help someone, your reputation improves, leading to more opportunities and better relationships with those around you.

7. It has a negative impact on self-respect

This is an example of a vicious circle you may find yourself in. We procrastinate because low self-esteem makes us believe we won’t be able to complete a task or project properly. Unfortunately, procrastination exacerbates feelings of low self-esteem, leading to even more self-doubt.

According to a study of 426 college students, ‘academic procrastination was negatively predicted by self-esteem and self-control.’ When we have low self-esteem, we limit ourselves, believe we are unworthy of success, and begin to self-sabotage. Procrastination slowly erodes your confidence, but it may be unavoidable if you do nothing.

8. It makes you waste valuable time 

It may appear obvious, but most of us are unaware of the total amount of time lost and wasted, and we would be surprised. The worst part about procrastinating is realizing you’re two, five, or ten years older and nothing has changed. You only have one life, and every time you postpone your dreams and goals or put off tasks, you are wasting valuable time that you will never get back.

This is a terrible feeling because you can’t turn the clock back. You must simply accept the helpless feeling of regret. Nothing beats feeling frustrated at yourself because you know the situation could have been so different if you had just taken that first step.

How to overcome procrastination?

  • Assess your procrastination type. First, identify situations in which you procrastinate unnecessarily to determine what you procrastinate on (let’s say, writing) and how you do it (by scrolling on Instagram). Then, consider those situations to determine where and when you procrastinate (at the office, at home – if you’re in remote collaboration, in the first part of the day, in the afternoon, or in the evening). Finally, after figuring all these things out, move on to the next step;
  • Recognize the warning signs: Pay attention to any procrastination thoughts and try your hardest to fight the urge. If you find yourself thinking about procrastinating, force yourself to work on for a few more minutes;
  • Use time-management tools;
  • Create starting rituals (you could count down from 10 to 0);
  • Develop self-efficacy, by thinking of your productivity and achievements;
  • Set deadlines of your own and force yourself to stick to them; 
  • Eliminate potential distractions (leave your phone in another room or put it on ‘DND’ mode);
  • Break tasks into manageable steps;
  • Start with the easiest things first;
  • Make work more enjoyable (play some music, engage in fun activities with your colleagues);
  • Set specific and realistic goals;
  • Take coffee breaks and socialize with your team (fun icebreakers for work or team building questions are great options for recharging your batteries);
  • Reward yourself when you cross something off your to-do list;
  • Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

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