Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily postponing decisions or actions. For example, if someone postpones an assignment until right before the deadline, despite the fact that they intended to work on it earlier, that person is procrastinating.
Procrastination is associated with a variety of dangers and negative effects, including worse academic performance, worse financial status, increased interpersonal relationship issues, reduced wellbeing, and worse mental and physical health.
Furthermore, many of these issues are connected with one another, which means that they tend to occur together, and that some of them can cause or exacerbate others. For example, procrastination can lead to mental health issues such as stress, which in turn can lead to issues such as reduced wellbeing, worse physical health, and worse academic and job performance.
Understanding the dangers of procrastination is important, because it can help you identify when and how procrastination is negatively affecting someone, including you, and because being aware of these issues can increase your and other people’s motivation to overcome procrastination. As such, in the following article you will learn more about the dangers of procrastination, which will allow you to identify and handle them as effectively as possible.
The dangers and negative effects of procrastination
For students, procrastination is associated with a wide range of academic issues, such as worse exam scores, worse grades, increased course failures, increased course withdrawals, and an increased likelihood of dropping out.
These issues are associated with the fact that procrastination tends to consume a lot of the students’ time, as students often report that procrastination occupies over a third of their daily activities, usually in the form of behaviors such as sleeping, watching TV, or playing video games.
Employment and financial issues
Procrastination is associated with various employment and financial issues, such as earning a lower salary, having shorter durations of employment, and having a higher likelihood of being unemployed or under-employed (as opposed to working full‐time).
For example, a large-scale study found that an increase of a single point on a 5‐point scale measuring the tendency to procrastinate is associated with approximately a $15,000 drop in salary. Furthermore, the study also found that when people are split into two groups based on how much they procrastinate, those who tend to procrastinate more comprise 57% of the unemployed.
Procrastination is also problematic from the employer’s perspective, as it can reduce productivity and performance among employees. For example, procrastination often means that employees spend large portions of their day wasting time, and that they often rush to complete tasks right before deadlines, which can lead to low-quality work. Furthermore, because procrastination can make people more frustrated and stressed out at work, it can also make them more interested in leaving their current employer for a different one. Finally, procrastination can cause other types of issues for employers, for example when decisional procrastination among people in leadership positions negatively impacts the innovation of their employees.
Interpersonal relationship issues
Procrastination can lead to various issues when it comes to interpersonal relationships. For example:
- Procrastination can lead to issues in relationships with coworkers, for instance if you always fail to take care of your part of shared assignments on time.
- Procrastination can lead to issues in relationships with friends, for instance if you always show up late to events that you’re supposed to attend together.
- Procrastination can lead to issues in relationships with romantic partners, for instance if you always postpone taking care of household chores.
In one survey, for instance, 94% of people indicated that procrastination has a negative effect on their happiness, and 18% indicated that this effect is extremely negative. Similarly, when students were asked how they felt after procrastinating, over 80% of their responses were categorized as negative.
Worse mental and physical health
Furthermore, procrastination is also associated with issues when it comes to adjusting to and properly dealing with health conditions.
In addition, specific types of procrastination are associated with specified types of health issues. For example, bedtime procrastination, which involves unnecessarily delaying going to bed, is associated with issues such as lack of sleep and increased fatigue.
Finally, procrastination is also associated with various disorders, such as depression and insomnia, but it’s unclear whether these associations are correlational or causational, and if they are causational, then in what direction, meaning that it’s unclear whether procrastination leads to these issues directly.
Delay in getting help
Not only does procrastination lead to various issues, but it’s also associated with an increased tendency to delay getting help for those issues, for example when it comes to seeking treatment for problems with mental and physical health.
Furthermore, procrastinators may delay or avoid other behaviors that can help them deal with their issues, as in the case of not exercising even though doing so could help them feel better both mentally and physically.
Increased future procrastination
Procrastination can, in various ways, lead to an increased likelihood of future procrastination, which can sometimes create a vicious self-perpetuating procrastination cycle.
For example, bedtime procrastination often leads to lack of sleep, which can lead to reduced capacity for self-regulation, and consequently to increased procrastination, which can lead to further lack of sleep, and so on.
Similarly, when someone repeatedly procrastinates on a certain task due to anxiety, this can make them more anxious about dealing with it, which can increase the likelihood that they’ll procrastinate on the task again in the future, as well as on related tasks.
In addition to the main dangers outlined above, procrastination can also lead to various other types of issues.
For example, procrastination can cause people to miss out on important opportunities, such as the opportunity to apply for a prestigious scholarship, or the opportunity to ask out a potential romantic partner.
Similarly, procrastination can delay people’s personal growth, for instance when it causes them to postpone learning valuable skills that they’re interested in, such as programming, or when it causes them to postpone developing useful habits that they’re interested in, such as reading.
Procrastination is a common problem
In addition to being associated with a wide range of dangers and negative effects, procrastination is also a highly prevalent phenomenon.
Furthermore, many more people than that engage in various forms of procrastination in general. For example, in a study on an adult sample, 74% of people who were surveyed indicated that they go to bed later than they planned to at least once a week, with no external reason for doing so.
Finally, procrastination is especially common among certain populations, such as students. For example, studies show that approximately 80%–95% of college students engage in procrastination to some degree, approximately 70% consider themselves to be procrastinators, and approximately 50% say that they procrastinate in a consistent and problematic manner.
How to avoid the negative effects of procrastination
To avoid the negative effects of procrastination, you should use appropriate anti-procrastination techniques, such as breaking large tasks into manageable pieces, which will reduce your procrastination, and consequently also the negative effects that you experience as a result of it.
To figure out which anti-procrastination techniques you should use, start by reading the guide about why people procrastinate, to identify the causes of your own procrastination, and then read the guide on how to stop procrastinating, to select the anti-procrastination techniques that will be most appropriate in your particular situation.