The harmful effects of procrastination on our confidence, and our life
Put your hand up if you procrastinate.
Keep your hand up if you have goals or dreams.
And keep your hand up if you sometimes struggle to achieve those goals and dreams.
Is your hand still up? If so, then this post is all for you.
Psst – my hand is still up – so this is for me too!
As a serial-procrastinator I have learnt a thing or two about it, and it is not pretty.
Time is the obvious cost.
Do you know the hidden cost? The real reason procrastination is so harmful?
Procrastination hurts our confidence too.
Here is what I have learnt about procrastination and why over the longer term we need to get on top of this unhelpful behaviour. By doing so we can live our lives confidently, reaching our potential.
Procrastination – At First It Seems Like Fun
There is a newly-created opportunity to indulge in something more enjoyable, more relaxing, more anything-other-than-what-we’re-supposed-to-be-doing.
It also means we are not having to show up yet. We can delay facing that point when we need to prove to ourselves, and to the world, that we have what it takes.
This is a form of not believing in ourselves enough to just tackle the issue right away.
Time moves on and it is too late to do that thing anyway. Too late in the day, too late for our energy, too late because we have another commitment to keep. Too late because it will take more effort and skill than we feel we have right now.
Procrastination – Then It Feels Not-So Fun
Eventually we approach our deadline.
We tell ourselves it will now be a half-baked job anyway. Which means we are even less interested in doing it. We also know it will take far more effort, and we don’t feel up to it.
We know the quality and results will not be there. We had the opportunity, we wasted it, and we know it.
The task has now become more difficult, and less desirable to approach. Our reluctance to take action increases.
And yet, this is all thinking and feeling, and still no doing. Until…
Procrastination – Then It Gets Real
Oh no! OK, OK. We can do this. We have to do this.
We tell ourselves these things, because even though the deadline loomed, we still didn’t get it done. And now we face an even sorrier-situation.
While facing this pressure, we also face our doubts head-on.
Not only do we have less time, we also feel worse about our starting point.
We created a set of conditions where it is difficult to perform. Now we have to face reality and take action.
Subconsciously, we have conditioned ourselves that we didn’t have what it takes. As a result, the action takes an incredible about of effort and confidence. Confidence that was not all there to begin with.
How Procrastination Steals Our Confidence
Procrastination is a thief of time, and it takes away our confidence. It causes us to lose out, at least twice.
Firstly, when we decided to do something else. Because our chosen option can never be enjoyed to the full.
We’re doing something that we know we shouldn’t, and there is a nagging feeling, diminishing any joy we could feel from the activity.
We also feel down about our abilities. If only we were stronger, or more dedicated, or smarter, we could jump in and get it done.
Secondly, when we finally get to completing our obligation.
When we are in the moment of getting it done, we know our work could have been better. Then we feel worse about the end result and this impacts our confidence.
Sadly, this increases our likelihood to procrastinate again.
Why This Matters
There are two different types of procrastination in our lives.
The first is the commonly recognisable procrastination of putting off action until the deadline, leaving things to the last minute.
Imagine the above scenario, and picture that you’re trying to do an assignment. It is quite relatable. I’m sure most of us did this at school, at least once.
But there is a second type of procrastination. It is much more significant.
It is when we don’t have a time pressure, because there is no deadline.
It is called life.
Some people say that life is short. I agree.
But I also think it is true to say that life is the longest period of time we will ever have.
Think about it. Life is the longest period of time we will ever have. To get things done. To dream, to believe, and hopefully to achieve.
If we procrastinate over our life’s goals, then we face a much deeper pain of regret than we could ever imagine. It pales in comparison to the regret of a few all-nighters to get an assignment finished.
I don’t want that for any of us.
I want us to live our life confidently, and live to our potential, reaching our goals, achieving our dreams.
Do you want that for your life too?
How Do We Get There?
Here is my plan for how to do it….
That’s it. There is no step 2.
Ok, so there are more steps…
Picture yourself reflecting on the completed activity. Feel the pride of accomplishment this brings. Know that you have done a great job, and you are capable.
3. Make a plan
If you need to, set out the steps into smaller, more manageable chunks of work.
4. Take action
Taking action is the only way we can overcome our confidence issues. Taking action is the only way we can bridge the gap between now, and the time when we reach our goals.
5. If in doubt, refer to items 3 and 4, then repeat
If you’re struggling, refer to your plan. Tweak it if needed, but don’t spend too long on it. You know what needs to be done. Get started, feel confident, live to your potential!
If you would like to learn more, I highly encourage you to watch this 14-minute TED talk by Tim Urban on procrastination. It is hilarious! But it also comes with a wonderful life lesson – a takeaway message that hits hard, and makes you stop and think.
But we know this time you’ll only stop and think for a moment. Because you’ve got goals you want to achieve. And now you’re going out to get them.
Look at you go!