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What does procrastination cost you?

a woman sitting at a desk with a pencil in her mouth

Did you know that partially finished projects weigh more heavily on your mind than those you’ve completed? This effect was observed in the 1920s by a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, when she asked participants to do twenty simple tasks (solving puzzles, stringing beads, etc). However, during some of the tasks, participants were interrupted. Afterwards, she asked them which activities they remembered doing. The result? People were twice as likely to remember the tasks they were interrupted doing than those they completed.


No doubt you’re well aware of the obvious ways procrastination impacts your life – late for a meeting (again), the fully-booked house you wanted to reserve for the holidays, or the apologetic call to a client for not delivering a project on time.


But what you might not realise is that you’re paying an even bigger price in lost opportunities and bottom-line financial costs.


Why do we procrastinate?


Experts in the field believe there are three primary contributors to procrastination:


  • Adrenaline rush – the last-minute adrenaline-fueled race to complete the task.
  • Analysis paralysis – when you overthink something and never actually get going.
  • Self-sabotage – a fear of not knowing how to get the job done or where to begin.


Regardless of why you drag your heels, the impact can be much bigger than you realise.


How procrastination affects your bottom line


Those studying procrastination also point out five main ways in which procrastination harms our productivity, self-worth, and bottom line include:


  1. You will probably feel stressed, guilty and in a state of crisis.
  2. Your productivity will be poor.
  3. Your friends and colleagues will lose faith in your commitment.
  4. Your reputation will take a knock and you’ll probably lose business when you consistently miss deadlines, and
  5. You’ll be perceived as being lazy.


And, when you combine all these factors, they’re likely to cause even more procrastination that, ultimately, costs you even more.


Are you procrastinating?


If you need to delay a task to deal with something important, you’re prioritising not procrastinating. However, if the same task is left untouched indefinitely, you’re probably avoiding it and, in this case, you’re procrastinating.


Other sure-fire ways to tell procrastination from priority, include:


  • Filling your day with low-priority tasks.
  • Leaving items on your to-do list for days on end, even though they’re important.
  • Wasting time when you should be working by checking emails or social media.
  • Starting high-priority tasks and then going to make coffee.
  • Doing unimportant tasks for other people instead of important tasks already on your list.
  • Starting work on an important deadline-driven task at the last minute.


So, how do you beat procrastination?


It’s important to know why you procrastinate so that you can work out how to overcome it.


In an article published by (link below), to overcome dragging your heels they suggest starting by establishing your goals and then reflecting on when, how, and why you usually find yourself procrastinating.


Then they recommend creating a plan of action that includes relevant anti-procrastination techniques and implementing your plan. Over time, monitor your progress and refine your plan by modifying or dropping techniques based on how well they work for you. Add new ones if you think they will help.


Here are some anti-procrastination techniques you can try:


  • Prioritise tasks based on how important they are.
  • Break large and overwhelming tasks into small and actionable pieces.
  • Get started on tasks by committing to only work on them for a few minutes.
  • Remove distractions from your work environment.
  • Identify when you’re most and least productive, and schedule your tasks accordingly.
  • Set intermediate deadlines for yourself on your way to your final goals.
  • Create a daily goal and mark streaks of days on which you’ve successfully achieved it.
  • Reward yourself when you successfully implement your plan of action.
  • Focus on your goals instead of on the tasks you must complete.
  • Visualise the future you experiencing the outcomes of your work.
  • Count to ten before you indulge the impulse to procrastinate.
  • Avoid a perfectionist mindset by accepting that your work will have some flaws.
  • Develop a belief in your ability to successfully overcome your procrastination.


This article only scratches the surface of the complex topic of procrastination. If you’re worried about how procrastinating may be affecting your bottom line, offers some great advice.

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