Procrastination – the Thief of Time

“Never do today what you can put off until to tomorrow”.  We are all well aware of this syndrome. But this thinking has many negative consequences both emotionally,  physically and mentally.  This is a learned behaviour and can be unlearned. Procrastinators are not born,  they suffer from fooling themselves that they are avoiding doing what will eventually have to be done.. A recent study carried out in the USA has shown that 20% of the general public say they are chronic procrastinators. They don’t pay their bills on time, continually leave duties undone, are always late for appointments and leave  important things to the last minute or beyond. Their relationships suffer because their partners are having to do tasks that should have been already done and feel they carry all the burdens of responsibility ensuring that jobs are completed.

When it came to the student population this increased to an alarming 70% who identified with “leaving things on the long finger”. Procrastinators sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their own path, and make choices  that hurt their performance. There is one sure way to become unsuccessful, and that is by procrastination. With young people this may be a form of rebellion and is often reinforced by their peers who condone or are more tolerant of excuses of why an assignment is not completed on time. Students fool themselves into thinking they have lots of time to do a job, or underestimate the time it takes to complete a job or task in hand and they overestimate how motivated they will be the next day. They also mistakenly believe that working when not in the mood is an option and foolishly delay things until next week or even next month. They tell themselves they work better under pressure, thinking they will get it done tomorrow, squandering their time and other resources.

Procrastination has many damaging effects on health. Putting off doing things leads to high stress levels and increase health issues like insomnia, colds and flu, and gastrointestinal problems.  In a study over one term, it was found that

students who procrastinate suffered higher levels of alcohol consumption, drink more than they had intended to, laze about or doing things that are not important,  which are also manifestations of the lack of self regulation and discipline.  Procrastinators are also people who find it hard to make a decision, because that absolves them of taking responsibility for the outcome of events. If you don’t do the job, you cannot be judged.  In the workplace, procrastinators destroy team work and other team members feel they are carrying a bigger load than if everyone got things done on time and become resentful and unhappy. They also feel that the burden of responsibility shifts to them , making for an unhappy environment.

Those who put off doing tasks have very negative feelings about themselves and very often do not know what they are avoiding or why they cannot finish a job in time. If you are punctual and get things done on time either in the learning environment, the workplace or in your private life, you gain the respect of others in society. The ability to get things done in time necessitates a lot of discipline and will power as well as the motivation to succeed. People who deliver on time have proven to be more successful in their life. They grasp every opportunity and seize it,  before it disappears into the midst of lost opportunities as may happen with procrastinators. In every  walk of life people who get the job done are held in high esteem and all employers seek their services.

Time never stops, time never slows down, and once gone, is  gone  forever. Time is the one resource that can  never be replaced. If you spend money, you can always get it back, if you expend energy it can be replenished, but all the money  minted, can’t buy one minute back.  It is our use of valuable time that matters. Successful people do not waste time, the most successful managing on little sleep and are always punctual in their daily efforts to finalise whatever job they are involved in. Procrastinators look for distractions, especially ones that do not take a lot of commitment on their part. Success is the difference between the doers and  those who choose to delay and fill their time otherwise.  Good ways  to help stop procrastination are found in the following suggestions;

  1. Make a list of everything you need to do.
  2. Write down a timeframe for completion.
  3. Set realistic goals.
  4. Break task to be done into specific areas.
  5. Make your task more meaningful.
  6. Promise yourself a reward.
  7. Eliminate tasks you never plan to do and be honest about it.
  8. Estimate the time you think it will take to complete the task and increase the time by 100%.

As we start a new year, those of us who are procrastinators, who regularly keep putting off doing what should be done now, should look at how we could better our lives  by “ never putting off until tomorrow what we can do today”. It is one sure way of getting our lives in order, having a more relaxing time, having a mind free from the stress of the added pressure of thinking we “must do” and being in control of our free time. All of these changes will bring happiness, peace of mind and open the door to success in a way that we never thought could  be achieved by such small changes.  Once that change is made, the rewards are so great that when a job needs to be done, we do it now.  Try it for a week and see.