You've likely experienced the effects of procrastination without trying, especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator, or have ever procrastinated on a task. While the first act of procrastination could be remedied with swift and immediate progress on the task you’re avoiding, the worst effect is that procrastination creates unnecessary burden and suffering for you and those around you. Thus, procrastinating doesn’t only halt progress, but it gives birth to new worries that didn’t previously exist.
The effects of procrastination can be a bottomless list, depending on who you are, and how long you’ve been procrastinating. Yet, most people experience the following:
1) The task takes 500% longer to complete after first procrastinating. Some researchers agree that when we procrastinate, it takes an extraordinary amount of time to re-visit that task. One reason is because we haven’t truthfully addressed why we procrastinated in the first place. It’s too easy to ditch the task repeatedly, especially if the initial consequences of procrastinating didn't hit hard the first time.
2) It’s Emotional. There’s a strong emotion associated with procrastination. There are reasons we put things off. Whether it’s anticipation of failure, fatigue, fear or an honest inability to follow-through at the time, an emotion goes along with the reason. We easily feel embarrassed, without direction, and overwhelmed when procrastinating feels like the only solution at the time. Yet, being emotionally driven can thwart your progress and chances for the 'good-life' right into a ditch, unless you get clear about what you’re feeling.
3) Anticipation Fuels Procrastination. Ever notice that anticipation is always worse than the actual feared-thing? Well, before we even procrastinate, anticipation fuels our anxiety levels. Thus, anticipating anything can create such an emotional strain, that it’s better to procrastinate than simply anticipate. We often never even attempt the task because anticipation drives us away. Thus, allowing anticipation to determine the outcome is a destructive pattern that needs to cast-aside. You can actually stop procrastinating and enjoy the relief of making progress.
4) Procrastination Has Ugly Cousins. Yes, that’s right, procrastination is part of a larger family of negativity. It invites guilt, shame, fear, cruelty to self and others, as well as lowered self-esteem. The more we procrastinate, the harder it feels to address our own diminishing self-worth, as well as embarrassment if the task involves a promise to others. See how this whole thing grows out of control?
First things first! Stop giving yourself such a hard time. The story we create about ourselves as procrastinators is far worse than any task that needs our attention. So, follow our 4 steps to address the effects of procrastination: Here’s how:
1) Drop the Story. It's time to be honest with yourself. There are plenty of times you've been timely and successfully followed-through. Remember how it felt to finish something as promised to yourself or others. Once you recall these examples, enjoy the satisfaction of that experience, because you've just proven that you’re not a ‘procrastinator.’ There’s no such thing.
2) Get a handle on 1 thing at a time. Our Monkey on Your Back story about procrastination addresses this step well. Take one thing and follow it through to the end. Don’t try to fix everything at one time, as this causes overwhelming feelings and procrastination all over again. Commit to one item you’ve avoided, choose a date and time to have it done, and stick to it. Then, move on. It doesn’t matter what you address first, but I recommend tackling the easiest thing on your procrastination list or the item causing the most anxiety, so you can get the ‘ball-rolling’ with your progress.
3) Just do it – and only that one thing. Choose a date that you’ll tackle this procrastination item and then just do it. Understand that emotions may arise when you begin to address it, but that’s more habit than truth. Be objective and stick to your commitment to yourself to follow-through. One of my favorite books is called, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” This is exactly the mindset to have in place when addressing each task.
4) What’s your well-being worth? Ask yourself - If I don't make progress, what’s the alternative? Do you really want to spend your life avoiding? Life is too short, and the 'good-life' can be enjoyed today - with just making progress. Procrastinating is not freedom from commitments. Instead, it's holding imaginary bars to your face – creating a personal prison of quiet suffering.
Remember that you deserve the best life possible for yourself. The emotions and negative effects of procrastination don’t deserve the energy they get from you. The time spent on worry and anticipation is better served doing something you truly love. Also know that the satisfaction of simply making progress is extremely helpful. You don't have to finish the task to start feeling good again.
Read our story about the Monkey on Your Back for other strategies on effects of procrastination!