My closet had been screaming for a clean-up for years. I kept coming up with excuses not to do it, until one day I just started the project and didn’t stop until everything was tidy and organised. Procrastination is something that I come across very frequently in therapy and just like my closet re-organisation, many keep procrastinating everything – from taking exercise seriously to having meaningful but difficult discussions with important people in their life or doing tedious chores that might have emotional strings attached to them.
Why does procrastination happen?
We tend to procrastinate on things that we don’t feel like doing. We might be hoping that the issue might resolve by itself, or we want to plan accurately before acting, or else focus on more important things. However, studies show that procrastinating important activities might have a detrimental effect, impact the way we see ourselves and relate to the world, and even influence our mental health.
Why doesn’t procrastination work?
Research shows that procrastination can lead to stress and poor performance. A study on college students who procrastinated showed that they experienced higher levels of stress and illness and had poorer grades by the semester’s end.
If we procrastinate, there is a higher possibility that we experience negative feelings when we have a task that we know we should have done but did not do.
Although some argue that procrastinating might be positive as it helps us ponder our alternatives and prioritise. Procrastinating invariably leads to a self-defeating habit of not doing things, thus not making progress. As demotivation to work might result in self anger for not working hard enough at the right time, stress might occur when we need
to finish a project. With non-adequate results, feelings of disappointment might occur, possibly impacting how we view ourselves.
Some might argue that procrastination pushes us to do our best work due to time constraints. However, this habit usually results in doing important tasks at the last minute – resulting in a poor outcome, and the feeling that you could have done better with more time.
How does it affect our relationships?
At times, doing things at the very last minute, or not at all, will add to the workload or tension of others. Consider a student working on a group project, leaving everything for the last minute. His poor outcome will not only affect his grade but the grade of the entire team. With work or home procrastination scenarios, it is easy to understand that it might result in the people surrounding the individual feeling either resentful or disappointed.
Moreover, those around us might see us doing less important things and not focus on important issues. This might send the message that we do not value this task or that we expect others to do it for us. This can lead to resentment and a strained relationship as the other partner might feel disrespected or not heard when this happens.
Thus, in such situations, it might be helpful to shed light on why procrastination happens. Reflecting on the aspect that it might be linked to an emotional block and a fear of failure is also important. Thus dialogue, rather than conflict, might help to find the necessary support and overcome this hurdle.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Sonya Galea is a family therapist with the Willingness Team. She works with families and. couples experiencing couple relationship issues and parenting struggles.
1. Jaffe, E. (2013) Why Wait? The Science behind Procrastination Retrieved from: Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination – Association for Psychological Science – APS
2. Kane, S. ( 2018) 10 good and 10 bad things about procrastination. psychcentral.com Retrieved from 10 Good and 10 Bad Things About Procrastination (psychcentral.com)
3. McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning Princeton University (2007) Why do so many people procrastinate and how to overcome it? McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning Princeton University Retrieved from: Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination | McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning (princeton.edu) 4. Wohl M.J.A., Pychyl T.A., Bennett S.H., ( 2010) I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences Volume 48, Issue 7, May 2010, Pages 803-80 Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.029