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Avoiding Procrastination Is Important for Your Health

Author:NeuroGym Team

Procrastinating Has Many Negative Effects on Health

At some point we’ve all put something off. We all procrastinate, but some people do so chronically. Let’s look at why avoiding procrastination is important to your well-being.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

The word procrastination comes from the Latin word procrastinare, which can be broken down into pro, meaning “forward,” and cratinus, meaning “until the next day.” Basically, procrastination is deliberately delaying what you should be doing. This is different from being unable to do something due to outside interference.

We can procrastinate for many reasons, including anxiety and nerves over doing something. We can also procrastinate because of perfectionism, as we may put something off because we want to do it perfectly and feel we need to wait for a better moment.

Procrastination Becomes A Habit

We all have habits, and we all have some bad ones among them. Bad habits are very easy to form, but take a lot of work to break. But how is this relevant to procrastinating?

Well, when we constantly put things off we fall into the habit of procrastinating. Whether it’s putting off meeting friends, sending an email, or completing a college assignment, procrastinating is an easy trap to fall into.

Behind any habit, there’s a trigger, a behavior, and a reward. The trigger is the feeling that sets the habit in motion, the behavior is the thing you do during the habit, and the reward is the benefit you get from doing the behavior. For example, if you feel boredom, this can trigger the behavior of scrolling through social media on your phone, which gives you the reward of no longer being bored.

Avoiding Procrastination

In relation to procrastination, we fall into the habit of avoiding a task. When we’re faced with having to do something, we may experience a range of feelings, anything from boredom to anxiety, nerves, and fear. These feelings trigger our behavior of avoiding what we are supposed to be doing and undertaking a more preferable task. This leads to us being rewarded by not having to face a situation we don’t want to. When we do this continually, we learn that we are rewarded for avoiding a task we don’t want to do, and so we keep avoiding tasks.

Chronic Procrastination

Everybody puts off doing something they should be doing now and then. Doing this on occasion doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a procrastinator as such. Sometimes we put things off because we’re worried about failing, or just feel like we’re not in a good headspace to complete it.

Procrastinating infrequently isn’t the same as being a procrastinator. Research has shown that up to 20% of adults throughout the world are chronic procrastinators. The psychologist who conducted this research notes that people who chronically procrastinate often undertake counseling for lifestyle issues like relationship problems, work-related difficulties, or substance use, but rarely seek help for procrastination.

There are also mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions which can lead to chronic procrastination. These include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. This is a neurodevelopmental disorder which can be broken down into three categories:

  • predominantly inattentive
  • predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
  • combined

Predominantly inattentive type ADHD can present as someone not paying close attention, losing focus easily, not listening well when spoken to, and forgetting things. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type ADHD can present in someone who constantly fidgets, is overactive, talks too much, and is unable to stay seated. Combined type ADHD is a combination of both. It’s common in someone with ADHD that they will have difficulty engaging with tasks that take a great deal of mental energy, and they may forget to do important things.

Depression and anxiety can also play a role in chronic procrastination.

Avoiding Procrastination

Why Avoiding Procrastination Is Important

Although procrastinating may feel rewarding at the time—and if you get the work finished in the end it may seem like no harm was done—there are many negative effects of procrastinating. There have been scientific studies undertaken that link procrastination to both poor mental health and poor physical health.

One of these studies found a link between chronic procrastination and high stress levels. Having higher stress levels in turn leads to stress-related health problems and can do long-term damage to our bodies. This study also found that people who are prone to procrastination tend to put off appointments with the doctor or dentist, which can lead to more problems down the line.

Another study which was conducted with the previous study’s findings in mind focused on college students. Over 3,500 were initially studied, with 2,500 taking part in a questionnaire that followed a number of months later. The results showed that there was an association between chronic procrastination and health problems. It was found that students who often procrastinated had symptoms of anxiety and depression, and had experienced stress. There were also notable physical issues in the students who procrastinated, with many experiencing bodily pain, particularly in the arms or shoulders. Further findings showed that those who were procrastinating also struggled with sleep problems and financial issues.

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Negative Effects

Taking these studies into account, we can see that there are many problems that occur with consistent procrastination in terms of mental health, physical health, and lifestyle. These three things are, of course, linked and contribute to more problems under each category. Negative effects of procrastination include higher levels of stress, which can lead to physical issues like weight changes, increased blood pressure, and problems sleeping. 

If you’re staying up all night to complete a task, you’re disrupting your sleep pattern and won’t be well rested the next day. If you keep putting off a task you know needs to get done, you can experience guilt over not completing that task. You can also experience anger and frustration over why you didn’t do the task earlier. And if you have to spend a long period of time doing one task that you’ve put off, you may not have time to eat right or exercise. If this continues over a long period of time, it can lead to poor physical health. After all, when it comes to being in a rush to complete things, you are more likely to be snacking than preparing a proper meal for yourself. Keep that up and you’ll feel worse in the long run.

Overall, long term procrastination can lead to worse mental and physical health. If you continue procrastinating, you’ll experience high levels of stress and an overall decreased quality of life.

Changing Your Mindset

If you find you’re a chronic procrastinator then it’s important that you deal with the issue. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy aimed at helping people change the way they relate to and act out their thoughts. This can be helpful for challenging our own mindsets.

It’s also important to look at why we do what we do. Do you keep putting things off because you’re worried you’ll fail or because you think you aren’t good enough? It can be helpful to keep a reflective journal in which you write about how you feel when you put things off. 

Thankfully, our brains are built with the ability to change. We are all able to break our bad habits and form new ways of thinking. When it comes to stopping yourself procrastinating, set yourself some goals. Start small and build from there. Goals will help you in structuring your routine.

A good way of dealing with a task you’re hesitant to undertake is by breaking it down and doing a little bit at a time. Getting started is the hardest part of any task, so look at the different components of what you have to do and start with something simple.

Avoiding Procrastination

Structuring Your Routine

If you have a good routine you can ensure that you can do everything you need to get done in the time you have, with a lot less stress. A great way of getting yourself into a good routine is by setting SMART goals. This stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. SMART goals are focused on getting the right results the right way. When you set a SMART goal, make sure to be specific in what you want to achieve. Specify what you want to do (specific), ensure you can evaluate how well you have done it (measurable), choose a goal that’s achievable with your current skill set (attainable), and make sure it’s appropriate for what you’re trying to do (relevant). As for time-based, set yourself a time scale in which you want to evaluate your results.

If you get into a good, well-structured routine you can avoid procrastination. A key part of a good routine is reflecting on how you’re doing and planning ahead; this way, you can avoid putting things off.

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In Summary

We all procrastinate from time to time, but if we do it chronically it becomes a big issue. Take charge of your life and your goals by structuring your routine so that you can finish what you need to every day!

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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