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Procrastination Negatively Impacts You And Others – What Can You Do About It?

Dean Nelson is the best-selling author of three self-help, inspirational, and motivational books with another in the works. For nearly 30 years, he spent countless hours attending seminars, researching, studying, and seeking out ways to awaken his potential.

 
Executive Contributor Dean Nelson

Procrastination may seem harmless, but it negatively impacts you and others in myriad ways. What is procrastination, and what can you do to change it?


Bored lazy girl hands wasting time playing with pens sitting on a desk

Procrastination is delaying or postponing tasks or events, which can have adverse short-term and long-term consequences. The underlying causes are difficult to zero in on as they can be very complex. People procrastinate for a multitude of reasons depending on their state of mind, personality, genes, childhood experiences, and/or current situations in life.

 

Why people procrastinate

 

  • Overwhelm. People may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of their workload or the complexity of the tasks. These perceptions will likely lead to stress, anxiety, or even paralysis, causing them to procrastinate.

  • Attempting to avoid discomfort. People tend to avoid uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, frustration, or general stress. The temporary alleviation of these feelings acts as a coping mechanism for avoidance and leads to the delay of tasks.

  • Perfectionism. Procrastinating perfectionists can be hyper-focused on producing flawless work. They succumb to the pressures of attaining high standards, which can paralyze efforts and lead to delays until perfection is achieved.

  • Fear of failure. Procrastinators may suffer from a fear of unmet expectations of themselves or others. This fear may stifle their initiative and deter them from starting or completing tasks. Their perceived failure is a threat to their self-esteem or reputation.

  • Lack of motivation. A lack of inherent motivation or interest in tasks can lead to procrastination. Motivation will wane if there is little or no personal investment in task engagement.

  • Poor time management skills. Prioritizing tasks requires effective time management skills. Without proper plans and schedules, people may engage in less productive but more enjoyable activities.

  • Distractions and temptations. Television, music, social media, phone calls and texts, nearby conversations, and many other sources can easily distract many people. The appeal of immediate gratification from these distractions causes them to focus on less rewarding tasks than challenging ones.

  • Inadequate self control. Self-regulation or impulse control can be difficult to manage for some people, causing them to prioritize immediate pleasure or relief over long-term intentions. They lack the self-discipline to stay on task and succumb to the impulse to procrastinate.

 

Most actions or inactions have consequences. With procrastination, the inactions cause suffering to the procrastinator and others involved. For example, failing to complete an annual report on time results in a serious reprimand from your supervisor and a notation in your personnel file. Your supervisor then receives reproach from his superior, resulting in your entire department getting put on notice. Everyone suffers as a result of your procrastination. Everyone is upset with you. And yet, you will do it repeatedly with subsequent poor performance ratings and possible job terminations.

 

Procrastination is the enemy of efficiency. Delaying tasks can damage one’s emotional well-being and cause others to question or doubt your intentions and abilities.

 

Consequences of procrastination

 

  • Strained Relationships. Delaying tasks can cause colleagues, family members, and friends to become annoyed or angry. Failing to meet deadlines or fulfill promises leads to distrust. It may also create financial penalties or academic repercussions and harm personal or professional relationships.

  • Subpar performance. Postponing tasks until the last minute can result in poor work quality as there is less time for thorough and effective completion.

  • Limited opportunities. Procrastination can restrict personal and professional expansion opportunities, preventing people from reaching their goals and living their dreams.

  • Guilt and regret. Negative emotions such as guilt, disappointment, and regret are experienced when one realizes that procrastinating interferes with accomplishing one's goals.

  • Diminished productivity. Stifled productivity, fueled by procrastination, is experienced by people who avoid important responsibilities and take the path of least resistance, focusing on trivial tasks instead of important, more meaningful work.

  • Health consequences. Procrastinating can adversely affect one’s health by elevating stress and anxiety while generating fatigue and insomnia. One's quality of life suffers incrementally.

 

Procrastination impacts many areas of life for the procrastinator and anyone involved. It can cause people to feel helpless and compelled to delay completing difficult tasks, offering no respite for their guilt and shame. Many people may find it difficult to change this behavioral pattern, but there is hope. It is merely because they have not been exposed to corrective means of avoiding procrastination.

 

To overcome procrastination, it is paramount to utilize effective time management strategies, along with self-awareness and self-discipline.

 

The following suggestions for climbing out of the procrastination pit may not work for everyone, but one or more should provide relief. Start slowly by choosing one or two items from the list you feel comfortable with, then expand as your confidence increases. The positive results will motivate you to succeed.

 

The way out

 

  • Resist perfectionism. By realizing how perfectionism can hinder productivity and progress, you can shift into a mindset of “acceptable” instead of perfect. Concentrate on accepting tasks that do not require perfection for completion.

  • Establish clear intentions. Establish clearly defined goals and prioritize them. Manage your tasks in small batches and understand what you need to do to keep focused and motivated.

  • Employ time management techniques. Experiment with various time management techniques, such as Pareto Analysis, Pomodoro Technique, or Time Blocking Method. Do not attempt to multi-task, as this can be counterproductive.

  • Schedule your tasks. Use a to-do list or create a schedule to define specific tasks and target completion dates. Time management is foremost and requires organized engagement to allocate sufficient time for each task to avoid overwhelm.

  • Eliminate distractions. Distractions equal disaster. Minimize distractions such as TV, phone calls, texts, emails, social media, news, and general workplace clutter. Insist your work area to be free of distractions so you can stay focused and perform optimally.

  • Break down tasks. Create smaller manageable steps by breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones. As momentum builds, a grand sense of accomplishment will be gained. Incremental progress will be satisfying and reduce the possibility of overwhelm.

  • Be accountable. Accountability is achieved by setting specific project completion dates or times and staying on track. You may wish to share your goals and timelines with others to help ensure motivation and increase accountability.

  • Be flexible. To improve your chances for success, learn to be adaptable and flexible. Adjust or reorder your plans and strategies as required to allow for the unexpected.

  • Be positive. A positive attitude is contagious. As you achieve success, reward yourself in whatever appropriate manner you choose. Focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

  • Be compassionate with yourself. Occasional delays are an expected element of the process. Be patient, kind, and forgiving with yourself. Learn valuable lessons from your mistakes and avoid self-criticism.

 

Consider the possibility of overcoming procrastination. How will it improve your productivity? How will it improve your effectiveness in achieving your goals? How will these strategies assist you in cultivating good habits of proper time management and self-discipline? How will it improve your life?

 

Most people may not be aware they are procrastinators and do not realize the harm they do to themselves and others in some situations. I cannot help but empathize with those afflicted, as procrastination causes suffering. Their inactions create additional, unwanted stress in their lives. Once they realize the negative impact on themselves, coworkers, friends, and family, it may prompt them to work diligently toward reducing or eliminating these bad habits. The journey begins with awareness.

 

 

Dean Nelson, Author and Philosopher

Dean Nelson is the best-selling author of three self-help, inspirational, and motivational books with another in the works. For nearly 30 years, he spent countless hours attending seminars, researching, studying, and seeking out ways to awaken his potential. His sincerest passion and mission in life is to provide simple shortcuts to living a more fulfilled and inspired experience. For those who are struggling and ready for change, Nelson shares his enlightening psychology for those seeking an immediate positive transformation.


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