Consequences of Procrastination

We spoke last week about Why People Procrastinate; however, it’s also important to identify what the consequences of procrastination are. Some of the consequences might be positive, while some are negative.

Positive Consequences

Relieve Discomfort. Often, people procrastinate because there is discomfort around the task they need to complete, so it makes sense that if you don’t complete the task, you will temporarily reduce your level of comfort. This discomfort may be anger, resentment, frustration, boredom, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, depression, etc.

Allows you to stick to unhelpful rules and assumptions. Another positive is that you don’t have to challenge your rules and assumptions. For example, by procrastinating you may feel one of the following things…

  • Need to be in charge: an increased sense of power and control because you’re doing things on your terms.
  • Pleasure seeking: an increased sense of pleasure, because you are living for the moment;
  • Fear of failure or disapproval: a reduced likelihood of failure or disapproval from someone else, because you haven’t put yourself out there to be evaluated in anyway.
  • Fear of uncertainty or catastrophe: an increased sense of certainty or that you have averted catastrophe because nothing has changed in your life that could tempt fate.
  • Low Self-Confidence: your self-image stays intact because you haven’t challenged yourself and potentially revealed your incapability or inadequacies
  • Depleted Energy: you think you are doing the right thing to replenish your energy, because you are taking it easy on yourself and avoiding challenges.

Negative Consequences

More Discomfort. Although procrastination can relieve your discomfort in the short term, it actually cause more discomfort in the long term. The more you procrastinate, the more you feel guilty and ashamed of your actions. You may feel more anxious, because the tasks is getting worse and more overwhelming the longer you put it off.

Your Unhelpful Rules and Assumptions Stay intact. The unhelpful rules and assumptions you have, which are the cause for your procrastination, tend to stay in tact the more you procrastinate. When you procrastinate, you avoid engaging in tasks and goals that have the potential to challenge your rules and assumptions. For example, by procrastinating, you never learn…

  • Need to be in charge: you can tolerate doing things you don’t want to or that someone else has told you to do at times, and that when you do these things, ti doesn’t make you weak at all, but a normal functioning member of society.
  • Pleasure seeking: You can tolerate boredom and frustration, and that at times short term boredom will be worthwhile in the long run and will make your pleasurable times even sweeter.
  • Fear of Failure or Disapproval: You can do things imperfectly and not fail or be judged badly, and generally it is very seldom that you outright fail or get judged poorly, and on the rare occasion, this does happen  you can tolerate this and move forward.
  • Fear of Uncertainty or Catastrophe:  uncertainty is a part of life that everyone has to tolerate, and not taking action just keeps you stuck and stagnant, rather than making anything more certain or preventing a catastrophe. On the whole things work out OK, and on the times they don’t there are things you can do to cope and survive.
  • Low Self-Confidence: you can do more than you give yourself credit for, you are not incapable or inadequate, but merely have strengths and weakness just like anyone.
  • Depleted Energy: you can do more than you think when your energy is low, and your energy, stress, motivation and mood often improve the more you tackle things step by step, rather than rest.

Self Criticism Backfires. As a result of procrastination, people tend to beat themselves up and become highly self critical. THey will say things like, “you lazy so and so, pull yourself together and get started, you know you should do this!” While you may be attempting to motivate yourself using “tough love,” it actually ends up backfiring and makes you chastise yourself more.

Things Pile Up. The more you put something off, the more tasks pile up around you, the more demands you have to meet, and the more time pressures you face.

Punishment or Loss. As a result of things not getting done, you may end up experiencing a punishment or loss from the environment around you. For example, you might lose your job, or a relationship. You may get a bad mark on an assignment, the health checks you have to do may even be more unpleasant the longer you wait.

Stay tuned next week, when we’ll talk about how to go about changing procrastination.

Nicole Paulie is an author, Counselling Psychologist and co-founder of MyMoodandMe. She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

This blog post was adapted from Module 2: Understanding Procrastination Part II.

Consequences of Procrastination
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