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Procrastination is a powerful source of emotional resistance that affects us all.

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It doesn’t matter how smart or focused you are — we all put things off until later.

We are all prone to pushing tasks further into the future, thinking that somehow we will be able to deal with them as soon as we get more time on our hands.

However, sooner than we’ve expected, that future becomes our present and we still haven’t managed to tackle our tasks.

What is Procrastination?

We talk about it a lot, but the idea of procrastination can seem like a total abstraction. Let’s first define the term.

According to Wikipedia, “procrastination” refers to the action of postponing a task or avoiding performing it. This is the practice of choosing more pleasurable things over those tasks that are less pleasurable.

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Procrastination can appear in any area of life and can wreak havoc in our lives.

For instance, repairing a leaky roof, submitting a job report, seeing a dentist, or dealing with a stressing issue with your spouse might seem minor at first, but once they pile up, you might find yourself dealing with feelings of depression, self-doubt, guilt, and inadequacy.

Can procrastination make you unhappy?

Experts agree, and I can attest, the decision to postpone important tasks has a big impact on our level of happiness. As it turns out, watching cat videos instead of doing your homework leads to feelings of guilt and regret.

Procrastination is nothing new, especially for students. A study conducted in September 2014 by two British professors proved that over 86% of students weren’t able to submit their end-of-term papers on time until there were 24 hours or less left until the deadline.

Another similar study conducted in 1984 at the University of Vermont proved that 46% of students were procrastinators when it came to writing their academic papers. The surprise came as the deadline loomed closer.

The professors involved in the study noticed a disturbing trend — the closer the students were to the deadline, the worse their marks were. It was as if their scores were dropping by the minute.

The reason for this disturbing trend is simple — procrastination has affected their level of happiness and therefore their skill for writing good papers. And, of course, procrastination does not allow time for the revision necessary to produce quality work.  

What does procrastination actually do to your happiness and well-being?

According to a study conducted by the Procrastination Research Group, 94% of people believe that procrastination can have a negative impact on their happiness, and many other studies have proven this theory to be true. 

Habitual procrastination can lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace, problems in relationships, loss of reputation, decrease of self-esteem, and the list goes on.

Procrastinators have been found to resort to lies in order to reason out their unexpected delays. This leads to regret, guilt, and shame.

The cycle of procrastination is quite predictable — it all starts with hope, which then transforms into anxiety, self-criticism, and guilt, and then moves towards regret. Another project or task comes by, and the cycle repeats itself.

Here are the ways procrastination eats away at your well-being:

Damages relationships: Being late to dates or postponing that important talk with your spouse could damage your relationship in the long run.

Wastes opportunities: Just think of how many opportunities you’ve missed by falling into the trap of procrastination. One thing is sure — missed opportunities never come back. If seized, some of these opportunities might have made your life happier.

Kills time: Losing time is obviously something that will affect your happiness. If you put a huge emphasis on time, then your level of happiness will decrease exponentially by wasting it procrastinating.

Lowers self-esteem: According to numerous studies, people who are not able to complete tasks on time tend to experience a decreased level of self-esteem and confidence in themselves, which will automatically lead to a lower level of happiness.

The 5 Main Reasons We Procrastinate

Procrastination usually affects us in three main areas of our lives: education, career, and health. Procrastination can be either decisional, which means putting off taking decisions, or avoidant, which means putting off doing certain things.

Procrastination never comes alone.

Procrastination is typically triggered by environmental cues. Research shows that the main reasons we procrastinate are as follows:

  1. Impulsiveness: Being impulsive makes you jump from one task to another, making you leave some tasks unfinished in order to complete others that seem more important.
  2. Being uninterested: When we are not interested in doing something, whether it’s a project or a resume update, we are actually procrastinating. It’s human nature. We prefer to run from painful activities and chase more pleasurable ones.
  3. Anxiety: More often than not, when a deadline is upon us, we procrastinate more instead of striving to meet that deadline.
  4. Perfectionism: Perfectionism also leads us to procrastinate. While in some areas, such as sports or music, perfectionism is a must, for most people this desire to be the best represents their downfall.
  5. Low confidence: Ultimately, having a low self-esteem and a low level of confidence in yourself leads to fear of taking action, whose outcome is procrastination.

3 Ways To Beat Procrastination

The good news is that procrastination is not an insurmountable enemy. You can actually overcome this limitation with ease. Here’s how:

  1. Get into the right mindset: For starters, you should begin by changing your mentality. Carol Dweck, the famous author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has revealed that a proper mindset enables people to accomplish great things. Simply build yourself into a winning mentality and you are two steps closer to experiencing success.
  2. Avoid it: Probably the simplest method to stay away from procrastination is to avoid it in the first place. To do this, set a few clear goals that have realistic expectations. As Tony Robbins says, the best way to stop procrastinating is by putting it off until later.
  3. ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy): Ultimately, ACT is your last resort to defeat procrastination. This mindfulness-based therapy helps you to accept yourself and take control over your actions.

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