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Every person occasionally postpones tasks at hand for various reasons, such as fatigue, unwillingness to engage in it at the moment, or lack of spare time to spend on the issue. However, some people get into the habit of delaying things that they have to do, thus disregarding deadlines and causing troubles for themselves and those around them. It is called procrastination, which is, as stated by Ferrari et al., “derived from Latin verbs, ‘pro’ refers to forward motion, and ‘crastinus’ refers to belonging to tomorrow” (qtd. in Abbasi and Alghamdi 59). It is worth mentioning that postponing a task to perform a more important one does not refer to this phenomenon. In this case, it is setting priorities, which has nothing to do with procrastination. The habitual delay of tasks is caused by several factors, such as perfectionism, fear of uncertainty, lack of motivation, and distractions, each of them leading to unpleasant consequences.
Perfectionism and Fear of Failure
Although perfectionism seems to be a positive trait at first sight, since it implies that a person attempts to do his work brilliantly, it is, in fact, a drawback in many cases. Voltaire is believed to have said: “The best is the enemy of the good,” which is applied to perfectionists. Instead of submitting a well-done task in time, they leave it to the last minute because they do not consider it perfect.
Not all people tend to develop perfectionism because it depends on personal attitudes. According to Dweck, there are two types of mindset, which define an individual’s behavior and beliefs: “the fixed mindset” and “the growth mindset” (7). People with the first type are convinced that they have “a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character,” which cannot change over time (Dweck 7). Individuals possessing the second type of mindset; on the contrary, believe that their abilities are improvable, and “everyone can change and grow through application and experience” (Dweck 7). Thus, perfectionists have a fixed mindset since they always have to prove that they are superior and worthy, which makes them waste much time and effort and causes them to procrastinate.
Perfectionism is closely related to another cause of postponing tasks, which is a fear of failure. Some people are so obsessed with the ambition of being the best that they cannot afford to fail. However, it leads them to reject challenges and opportunities, which could contribute to their personal growth because they are sure they will not cope with them. If they cannot refuse such a task, they delay it for as long as possible since they are afraid of failure. In the workplace, such behavior leads to “low salaries and short employment durations,” as well as unemployment (Abbasi and Alghamdi 61). Thus, obsessive pursuit of excellence leads to procrastination, which, in turn, deprives people of a possibility of personal growth and makes them miss valuable opportunities.
Fear of the Unknown
Sometimes, people put their plans off because they are uncertain of what they are going to experience. It particularly concerns health and relationships because, in these areas of life, there are no deadlines, and individuals have to decide for themselves when to take action. For example, a person, having noticed a rash on the skin, may postpone a visit to a doctor, hoping that it will get better on its own. Another instance is a woman who wants to break up with her partner but delays this decision since she expects her life to improving suddenly. In both cases, people procrastinate because they fear the consequences of their actions and prefer to live in uncertainty.
Procrastination due to the fear of the unknown generally results in negative outcomes since problems rarely disappear on their own. For people delaying health issues, it may lead to “hazardous consequences in terms of health, especially when a disease may be progressive” (Kroese and de Ridder 317). Procrastination also influences people’s quality of life since, instead of eliminating disturbance by making the desired change, they continue to postpone problems and waste their mental energy on them.
Lack of Motivation
Individuals may delay fulfilling a task because they are not interested in it and have no essential reasons for doing it. Instead, they prefer performing more pleasant though less important work. Motivation is influenced by the environment, especially when there are other procrastinators who affect their coworkers through “second-hand procrastination” (Abbasi and Alghamdi 60). Furthermore, people face this problem if the task at hand misaligns with their priorities or is vaguely stated.
As a result, procrastination due to the absence of motivation leads to poor individual performance. Postponing tasks causes a person to have fewer career opportunities since “employers are less likely to retain procrastinators for jobs requiring high motivation” (Abbasi and Alghamdi 60). It applies to not only work but also academic achievements, switching to a healthy lifestyle, and any other activity requiring an internal stimulus to get down to action.
Procrastination takes place when many distractions hinder a person from concentrating on a task. This problem is especially significant in the contemporary environment since smartphones and free Internet access has made it difficult for people not to redirect their attention from work to entertainment. Furthermore, in the workplace, colleagues also may contribute to attention distraction (Sirois and Pychyl 245). Thus, people have to choose between pleasant things and their own obligations, which Milkman et al. called a “should-want conflict” (qtd. in Sirois and Pychyl 245). It serves as a cause for procrastination since individuals often prefer instant gratification instead of committing to work.
Like in the cases mentioned above, procrastination caused by distractions has negative effects on people’s performance and well-being. Abbasi and Alghamdi argue that students who engage in entertaining activities rather than studying are likely to submit their assignments after the deadline and generally have poor academic achievements (60). Furthermore, since procrastination often involves excessing the time limit, people apt to postponing tasks complain of “higher levels of stress and anxiety” (Abbasi and Alghamdi 61). Consequently, the problem of not completing work in time leads to not only falling behind peers in studies and career but also having health issues.
In conclusion, it should be said that procrastination is rooted in many causes, such as numerous distractions, lack of motivation, fear of uncertainty and failure, and perfectionism. Each of them leads to negative consequences that concern career, studies, health, and personal qualities. Thus, procrastination prevents a person from rising through the ranks, succeeding in training, and developing as a personality. These are serious obstacles on the way to success and life satisfaction, which is why it is crucial for people to begin to struggle with procrastination as soon as they discovered it in their behavior.
Abbasi, Irum Saeed, and Nawal G. Alghamdi. “The Prevalence, Predictors, Causes, Treatments, and Implications of Procrastination Behaviors in General, Academic, and Work Setting.” International Journal of Psychological Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2015, pp. 59-66.
Dweck, Carol. Mindset – Updated Edition: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential. Hachette UK, 2017.
Kroese, Floor M., and Denise T. D. de Ridder. “Health Behaviour Procrastination: A Novel Reasoned Route towards Self-regulatory Failure.” Health Psychology Review, vol. 10, no. 3, 2016, pp. 313-325.
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Sirois, Fuschia M., and Timothy A. Pychyl, editors. Procrastination, Health, and Well-being. Academic Press, 2016.