Procrastination comes with benefits and consequences, depending on how you approach it.
Certain activities are just more challenging to complete than others. After all, filing your income taxes doesn’t have the same enjoyment factor as watching your favorite Netflix show.
If you ever put off important tasks for later, you might consider yourself a procrastinator. Nearly all humans procrastinate at one time or another, but some delay the inevitable more often than others.
While persistent procrastination can lead to stress and lower performance, research shows intentional stalling may not always be bad. Sometimes, delaying a deadline may render a positive result.
Procrastination is the voluntary and unnecessary postponement of important action. Often, people will procrastinate because they don’t enjoy performing the task that requires completion.
There are many other valid reasons for procrastinating, including:
- feeling overwhelmed
- perfectionism or fear of failure or criticism
- low self-esteem
- not having enough time
- a lack of interest
- mental health conditions
Distractions like phones and other digital devices are also common culprits for procrastination.
Chronic procrastination may be linked to certain mental health conditions, such as:
Active vs. passive procrastination
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Active procrastination is when people purposefully delay action because they work well under pressure. Passive procrastination is the type most people think of, where individuals find themselves paralyzed by their inability to complete a task on time.
Some experts claim that active procrastination may not pose the same negative consequences as passive procrastination. It may be constructive.
Many people consider procrastination to be harmful. Many find it frustrating and would like to reduce their procrastination. Here are some reasons to avoid procrastination:
1. Links with other health problems
Research from 2022 shows people who chronically procrastinate have higher levels of stress and are more likely to experience acute health problems, such as:
- digestive problems
- muscle tension and pain
2. Putting off regular health checkups
People who procrastinate might risk health problems if they put off important doctor’s appointments.
An older 2007 study shows that those who report higher procrastination are less likely to be up to date on medical and dental checkups.
3. Lowered academic performance
Between 80% and 95% of college students report that they procrastinate.
But a 2015 analysis shows that putting off assignments or putting off studying can lead to:
- lower grades
- poorer performance on tasks
- higher levels of stress
4. Impacts on job performance
Like students, employees experience negative consequences when they procrastinate.
5. It can make you feel bad
People who procrastinate may experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety. A 2012 study found procrastinators are less likely to demonstrate self-compassion.
While there are downsides to consider, not all types of procrastination are detrimental. Here are some positives about procrastination:
1. Active procrastination may not harm your health
The study mentioned above on active, intentional procrastination found this habit didn’t cause paralyzing worry like passive procrastination.
Researchers say the active procrastinators were more like the non-procrastinators when it came to:
- purposeful use of time
- belief in their ability to execute tasks
- control of time
- academic performance
2. More time to plan
Putting off a task for a specific time may give you more time to plan and develop creative strategies. You might come up with an idea or solution that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
3. Lets you finish other tasks
If you are truly an active procrastinator, you’re not just sitting around avoiding all of your tasks. There’s a purpose to your procrastination.
Waiting may allow you the opportunity to mark off other important items on your to-do list. Completing these tasks might motivate you to start on the big one you’ve been delaying.
4. Requires you to work efficiently
If you wait until the last minute, you’ll need to work quickly to complete your assignment or project.
For someone who thrives under pressure, this can be an advantage. They may spend less time completing a task because they don’t have time to waste.
5. Increases motivation
Some individuals find that delaying a task can be motivating. An assignment that once felt mundane can become exciting for people who like to work under pressure.
A person who welcomes active procrastination might need a fast-approaching deadline to feel inspired.
Although conventional, passive procrastination can lead to poor performance and undesirable mental and physical health effects, a more active approach may not be bad. When procrastination is done deliberately and with purpose, it could offer benefits.
If procrastination is negatively affecting your life, you might want to set up a schedule for your projects and stick to it. Prioritizing your to-do list is another way to avoid postponing important tasks.
If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, you may want to see a mental health professional who can offer effective treatment options and help devise strategies for managing procrastination.
Looking for a therapist but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.