The Negative Effects of Procrastination

My clients ask me a common question: "why is procrastination bad?" My response is that procrastination is a learned behaviour and it is essential to realize that it is something you've likely experienced for a long time. It may feel 'normal', but the effects of procrastination impact you, your family, and your relationships. For example:

  • Not making it to the gym (again) may cause you to be angry with yourself for not fulfilling your commitments to yourself. 
  • Saying "I'll be there" and then not turning up disappoints the kids in their school play who were expecting you. 
  • Not completing that work report on time has again caused friction between you and the boss. 

All these procrastination examples result in a change in the way you and others think about you as not so reliable, and this can hurt personally and professionally. 

Here I want to discuss the negative effects of procrastination on

  1. Your happiness and stress levels
  2. Your relationships
  3. Work, time and money

1. Negative Effects of Procrastination on Happiness and Stress Levels

Perhaps the most poignant piece of research on this topic is this one from The Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Canada

When posed the question, to what extent is procrastination having a negative impact on your happiness, of the 2700 responses,

  • 46% said quite a bit or very much. 
  • 18% proclaimed it was an extremely negative effect.

Procrastination means that you let yourself down or the burden of the activity falls on somebody else. This can reduce people's well-being and induce negative emotions such as shame, guilt or frustration.

The University of Windsor in Ontario reported that adult procrastinators had higher stress levels and more acute health problems than individuals who completed their tasks in a timely manner. In fact, procrastination is associated with a wide range of mental health issues and disorders such as depression and insomnia.

In one study of university students, procrastinators were more likely to (when compared with students who did their work promptly)

  • consume more alcohol, 
  • sleep less, and 
  • eat poorly.
effects of procrastination

2. The effects of procrastination on your relationships

Procrastination also has an impact on relationships.

For example, procrastinating about taking the kids to football, fixing that leaking tap, or mowing the lawn means someone else has to complete the task.

This shifts the responsibility for getting things done onto others, usually those closest to you. This may, over time, create resentment.

At work, procrastination may cause bottlenecks that prevent your team from completing a project. Failure to fulfil one's duties by a chronic procrastinator means that the team has to pick up the slack or miss the deadline.

These numbers speak to the rising impact of procrastination on our lives. 

3. Procrastination costs you time and money?

If you feel a little exposed right now, don't worry too much as you've got plenty of company. Nearly 20 per cent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators (if you happen to be studying, that number rises to 75%)! 

Those self-professed procrastinators confess to

  • not paying their bills on time, 
  • missing concert tickets because they left it to the last minute, and 
  • leaving Xmas shopping until Xmas Eve.

But the real humdinger of this lot, is this old chestnut from 2002, when the total amount in tax over-payments caused by procrastination was $473 million in the US alone…that hurts if you are the one paying….

Procrastinators don't just lose time, they are also less effective at work.

In a 2012 poll of 10,000 US workers, the average worker self-admitted to wasting 2.09 hours each day on non-job-related activities. If we take the average employee income of $39,795 then procrastination could be costing $10,396 per employee.

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