The Personal And Professional Price Of Procrastination

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The following is an excerpt from my book The Procrastination Cure: 21 Proven Tactics For Conquering Your Inner Procrastinator, Mastering Your Time, And Boosting Your Productivity! Most of us know procrastination is bad, especially when it becomes a habit. But we seldom think about the many ways it impacts our lives. Nor do we consider the extent of the consequences. This excerpt covers both.

You know intuitively that every decision you make regarding how you spend your time imposes a cost.

For example, let’s say you have two activities to choose from: activity A and activity B. You can’t do both; you must choose one over the other. In this scenario, one activity becomes the opportunity cost of the other. If you choose activity A, you must forgo doing activity B. Choose B, and you won’t be able to do A.

Therein lies the reason it’s important to identify tasks and activities that complement your goals. You lack the time to do everything.

Consider this principle in the context of procrastination. Each time we procrastinate, we choose one activity over another. The problem is, the items we postpone never go away. They linger, demanding more and more attention as time passes.

For example, your lawn will continue to grow until you mow it (or hire someone to mow it for you). Next week’s exam, one for which you’re unprepared, won’t miraculously be cancelled. The bathrooms in your home aren’t going to clean themselves.

These tasks must be addressed at some point. The longer you postpone them, the more urgent they become.

The price you pay for procrastination is not always immediate. The true cost becomes apparent via a ripple effect that expands the more you put things off. This ripple effect eventually impacts both your personal and professional lives.

The Cost Of Procrastination On Your Personal Life

Putting things off can negatively affect your personal life in four distinct areas:

1. Your relationships

2. Your finances

3. Your health

4. Missed opportunities

Following are some examples of each.

Your Relationships

Suppose you and your spouse have had a major disagreement that has left unresolved issues. You know these issues can only be settled by having a serious, and likely difficult, conversation. Postponing this conversation will only result in increasing resentment and emotional distance.

Or suppose you delay getting back to friends regarding an upcoming get-together. Doing so may result in your missing the chance to spend quality time with them.

Or suppose you postpone buying tickets to an upcoming sporting event for you and your kids. The event sells out, causing considerable disappointment for your family.

Your Finances

Suppose you delay paying your credit cards. If you end up paying them late, you’ll be charged late fines. You’ll also put your credit status at risk.

Suppose you put off filing your taxes until the last possible moment. Then, an emergency prevents you from filing them on time. You’ll be on the hook for late fees and failure-to-pay penalties. You might even trigger an audit.

Suppose you procrastinate making investment decisions. Doing so could result in huge losses if your current investments are on the wrong side of the market.

Suppose you delay setting money aside for your retirement. At age 65, you might find yourself without the funds you need to retire in comfort.

Your Health

Procrastination can even become a health risk. For example, suppose you put off visiting the doctor when you feel ill. If you’re lucky, your body’s immune system will take care of the problem on its own. On the other hand, the sick feeling might stem from a serious affliction that requires prompt medical attention. Putting off a visit to your doctor can have disastrous consequences.

Suppose you put off exercising. You tell yourself that you’ll start a daily workout regimen soon, but refuse to make a commitment. The months pass without your taking action, setting the stage for atrophied muscles, increased body fat, and even cardiac decline.

Suppose you’re in your 40s and delay scheduling a colonoscopy. You risk allowing colorectal cancer, which grows slowly and can be treated successfully if detected early, to spread.

Suppose you defer taking action on everything to the point that you’re under constant pressure as things come due and work piles up. The stress can negatively affect your body, mind, and behavior.

Missed Opportunities

We miss opportunities every day thanks to our tendency to procrastinate. For example, recall the last time you put off making a reservation at a trendy restaurant only to discover you had waited too long.

Have you ever waited to purchase airline tickets only to learn the prices had significantly increased? Or worse, all the flights were full, and you were forced to wait on standby, hoping someone would cancel at the last minute.

Suppose you delay booking a room at your favorite hotel for an upcoming vacation. You figure that you have plenty of time to do so, but find to your dismay that the hotel is now booked at full capacity.

Suppose your home needs a new roof. A reputable contractor extends an attractive discount based on his business being slow at the time. But you postpone taking action, and later find that the contractor is booked and the discount is no longer available.

The Cost Of Procrastination On Your Professional Life

Delaying taking action can also hurt your professional life in numerous ways.

For example, suppose you learn of a promising job position that you’re perfectly suited for. But you wait too long to send in your resume. Consequently, the position is filled before you have an opportunity to interview for it.

Suppose you’re in sales. You delay following up on leads, figuring you can contact them tomorrow or the following day with no ill effect. But your leads cool off quickly, becoming less receptive to your overtures. Or worse, when they don’t hear from you, they give their business to your competition. That translates into fewer sales and decreased commissions. It might even dash your chances for a promotion.

Suppose you’re responsible for creating a number of important reports for your boss. You regularly procrastinate on them, forcing you to scramble at the last minute. This habit can result in your delivering the reports late or passing along bad data stemming from avoidable errors. Neither scenario is likely to reflect well on your quarterly performance reviews.

Ultimately, procrastination is evident in our daily work habits. These habits dictate our productivity; the more we put things off, the less productive we become. Worse, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our time effectively as the postponed tasks, along with their respective deadlines, pile up.

The above examples illustrate that the cost of procrastination can be much greater than is immediately apparent. The habit produces a ripple effect that can significantly impact our personal and professional lives.

You now know what’s at stake. The rest of The Procrastination Cure shows you exactly what you need to do to start taking fast action and finally conquer your inner procrastinator!

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Photo by pnoeric

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