Positive and Negative Effects of Procrastination
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain time; an intentional delay of starting or finishing the assignment despite knowing it might have negative consequences in the future. Most students have procrastinated at some point, doing more enjoyable things instead of the less enjoyable ones. Even when they know that there might be negative consequences while they procrastinate, they continue doing it for different reasons.
In clinical psychology counseling there appears to be a connection between procrastination and issues with anxiety, a self-defeating mentality, and a low sense of self-worth. However, the majority of studies on procrastination among people that are not in need of psychological services, show that it is strongly connected with lack of self-efficacy, self-regulation or just disliking the responsibility.
Procrastination also occurs when people fear, dread, or have anxiety about the important task awaiting them. To get rid of this negative feeling, people procrastinate by doing other things, like reading a book, playing video games, going for a walk, or even doing the dishes; anything that takes time and distracts them from the pending task. Doing things that distract them will help them feel better temporarily, but they will eventually have to do it, or face the negative consequences. Once the reality of the deadline sets in again, the procrastinator will feel more shame and guilt for not completing the work. However, for some extreme procrastinators, those negative feelings are just another reason for them to delay the task, causing the procrastination to turn into a self-defeating cycle.
People can be different kinds of procrastinators; some procrastinate by doing useless things, like watching cat videos on Youtube or taking “What Holiday Candle Scent Are You?” quizzes on Buzzfeed. Others actually accomplish things, cleaning their homes, working on other jobs, cooking or walking their pets, but never getting to the things they really need to accomplish.
Procrastination reflects struggles with self-control as well as the general inability to accurately predict how they will feel tomorrow, or the day after. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; to them, it feels more acceptable to never actually complete the task than to have the possibility of falling short on performance. A lot of procrastinators may say that they perform better under pressure, but research shows that it is not true; it's just their excuse for justifying why they’re putting things off. Procrastination also involves some degree of self-deception; at some level, procrastinators are aware of the consequences of their actions.
Despite the fact that procrastinating often leads to negative consequences and low self-esteem, there are some benefits to procrastination as well. Procrastination helps you learn to manage delay. However, there’s a difference between active procrastination and passive procrastination; active procrastination means doing other things in order to avoid the more pressing task, but passive procrastination is just sitting around doing nothing in order to avoid doing anything. Knowing when to act, even though that may mean delaying something else, is beneficial.
Sitting around getting nothing done is clearly bad for your physical health. However, it provides time to reflect on other important things in life. Not in the sense that you’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues, but just by thinking about what’s most important to you. By taking your time to think through some things – or think of nothing at all so that your mind can clear, you’ll discover the pieces of importance that reside in your mind; then, you can act accordingly.
You can get to finishing the other things you need to do when you engage in active procrastination. There might be some tasks or projects that are complex, complicated, time-consuming or just difficult, onerous and not something you want to dive into; and you know you’ll have to deal with them eventually, but finishing the half dozen small things on your to-do list allows you to get a lot done, be more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment. Finishing all these small tasks might even encourage you to start working on the big one that you kept delaying. Active procrastinators also have lower stress levels, show less avoidant tendencies, and have a healthier self-efficacy. Some of your most creative thoughts could come through procrastination; there is a school of thought that the first ideas or solutions to your problems aren’t the best ones. If you stop working so diligently on a task and sit down to think about it instead of working on it, you might even get a better idea on how to finish it, an idea that could make it more interesting more enjoyable.
Even though there are so many benefits to procrastination, there are a lot of negative effects to it as well. While some of them may seem obvious, like lower grades, higher levels of stress, negative feelings, poor self-compassion or self-defeating behaviour, there are some not so obvious effects as well.
Putting off what needs to be done likely results in a poorer result. Some people say that procrastinating helps motivate them to do their best work under pressure. While that may be true for a few people, it isn’t the general outcome. Rushing to accomplish that important project or school paper at the last minute will probably not make it your best work.
With procrastination, you get things done, but they aren’t the things that urgently need to be finished. Putting the important task at the bottom of your to-do list and focusing on the other easy, quick ones you could do any time, gives you the false reassurance that you’re accomplishing a lot. Even though active procrastination allows you to get things done, they’re not as important or out of priority.
When you procrastinate, you add to the workload of other people. No one likes having the work another student failed to do put into their responsibility. It creates resentment, adds to the dumped-on students’ workload and creates feelings of anxiety and resentment for others.
Chronic procrastination may result in mental health issues in the future. A study of the costs and benefits of procrastination, performance and stress, found that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior pattern characterized by short-term benefits and long-term costs, for example, an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
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