Procrastination: Gateway to Failure


Edited by Brooke Thimmig

“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.”

The avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished, further stated as a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite its negative consequences, is known as procrastination. A common human experience involving delay in everyday chores or even putting off salient tasks such as attending an appointment, submitting an academic assignment, or broaching a stressful issue with a partner is perceived as a negative trait due to its hindering effect on one’s productivity, and it is often associated with depression, low self-esteem, guilt, and inadequacy. Longitudinal studies of procrastination have estimated that one-fifth of adults and half of all students procrastinate, and they have stated that procrastination “appears to be a self-defeating behavior pattern marked by short-term benefits and long-term costs.”

Despite knowing that procrastination and holding off your tasks until the very end causes stress, you continue to stall, and you wait until the last minute over and over again, as the pattern repeats itself. You feel caught and trapped in a vortex of anxiety, stress, and procrastination. Some procrastinate because they are lazy, or worse, they just don’t care enough; however, most of the time, this is far from the truth. Procrastinators are often smart, capable, hard-working people that just can’t get things done on time and can’t seem to figure out why.

When faced with a task, you may think of all the things that could go wrong, or you picture how the important people in your life might react if you failed. Or worse, you believe it’s better to not try at all than to try your best and fail. This common reason behind your procrastination is the fear of failure. The thought of putting in effort but still failing makes you anxious, and so you choose avoiding and end up procrastinating instead.

Perfectionism may underlie your avoidance if you believe that you must do something perfectly, and you find it difficult to persist when things aren’t going just right. Because you are determined that things should be done perfectly, the result is that nothing gets done at all. When faced with a task, you become overwhelmed and frustrated by the impossible standards you place upon yourself.

While the reasons for procrastination may vary, the results are often the same: a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety, avoidance, and shame. Nothing gets done, and you can’t enjoy anything with that guilt hanging over your head. You can never really relax because there is always something else you should be doing. Procrastination doesn’t work because avoidance doesn’t erase anxiety- it only delays its onset.

The reason any particular individual procrastinates can vary idiosyncratically, so the “cure” for procrastination is to respond to whatever reasons might be specific to you.

What you must do is try to talk to yourself with kindness. Accept that you’re human, and be an optimistic coach rather than a negative critic. Talk to yourself about the negative consequences your role models, parents, friends, and siblings face when they procrastinate. Find new inspiring people to mimic, specifically those who take action and experience positive results because of it.

Challenge yourself to open your mind and prove your bias wrong. Use the task at hand as an opportunity to combat your delaying tendencies. Work on diminishing the importance of doing things perfectly and emphasize the priority of completing tasks in a timely fashion. Keep a list of examples of moments when perfectionism has been unhelpful to you and of times when task completion has been more beneficial to you.

“Kill the darlings in your life. Laziness, wishful thinking, procrastination; kill them.”