Is procrastination a bad thing?

Procrastinate: put off till another day or time; defer; delay.

Is this such a bad thing? I mean, we’ve all put things off ’til tomorrow, next week etc. Right? i.e. I’ll start my new diet Monday but never do, I’ll start cramming for my exams soon, I’ll wait ’til hubby’s in a better mood to tell him about the latest credit card bill. And who hasn’t made New Year resolutions? Or who’s said, I must start saving for retirement?

For many people, a little procrastination isn’t harmful — like 15 minutes lost in Facebook or putting off doing the ironing for a few days. However, for some people, procrastination can create massive problems at home, at university and in their workplace. In fact, it can impact on every area of their lives.

According to Joseph Ferrari (Professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done), around 20 percent of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators. Psychology Today UK agrees “Approximately 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators.” Yet more, a recent poll by Nationwide Building Society found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of those questioned identify themselves as procrastinators (Luke O’Reilly, The Metro, UK, 2014).

Deposit Photos

A common misconception is that procrastinators have poor time management skills and tho’ this can sometimes be the case, there could be deeper issues at play. Ferrari says “It really has nothing to do with time-management – to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

Neil Fiore (The Now Habit, 2007) also wrote that “procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic.” It may be a self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth i.e. better not to start the diet than to start it and admit failure to lose weight or better not to put in the exam paper/essay than to put it in and fail – some would rather be seen as being unable to manage time than fail the task itself.

Maria Lamia (What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success) says our emotions are what motivate our behaviour, and that procrastinators are motivated by their own particular emotional history. She wrote about two types of procrastinator: those who procrastinate and don’t get the job done and those deadline-driven procrastinators who do get the job done (and they almost always do it well).

“Many people who delay and don’t get the job done – they delay and fail – often say ‘my problem is that I’m a procrastinator’. We have to remember that failure, for some, creates shame, and people who continuously fail have a lot of shame. They’re not motivated by emotional responses at a deadline, but rather they’re inhibited by them. So when a deadline passes, they blame it on procrastination in order to save face… what’s better than blaming it on procrastinating, rather than look at the emotional issues that are really interfering with you doing the work?” So there are some psychological and emotional elements at work here. Is it a mental health problem?

Although procrastination itself is not a mental health diagnosis, it is linked to a number of disorders, including ADHD, depression and anxiety. On the other hand, procrastination can prompt depression and anxiety.

My youngest son had a real problem with procrastination a few years ago and, at the time, I hadn’t really understood how much it affected him emotionally or mentally. As Head of the Science Department (at the tender age of 26) for a large inner-London High School his procrastination had him preparing lesson plans last thing on a Sunday evening, ready for Monday mornings. Subsequently, leaving it so late led to anxiety and panic attacks. He obviously did well as the school’s Science grades went from being one of the lowest in England to having the biggest increase in grades that year. However, he then became depressed and I was so afraid for him, knowing what that feels like. Fortunately, he sought counselling, where he was able to discuss what was going on for him and work through the emotional issues affecting him. Thankfully he left that job to return to study and now enjoys being a Physiotherapist. He still catches up with his counsellor now and then and I’m really proud of him for seeking help when he needs it.

I suppose I procrastinate too – it’s taken me three days to get this far through my post. But I don’t think I’m a chronic procrastinator and I don’t believe it’s about emotional issues for me – on this post anyway.

Wow! I swear, I have literally just realised why I’m finding it difficult to complete my post about my Psychotic depression – I started it on the 7th of this month! Duh! Emotional issues.

Are you a procrastinator? Does procrastination impact on areas of your life? I’d really love to know.


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

35 thoughts on “Is procrastination a bad thing?”

  1. Well, with me, it has to do with will power. If it requires will power, I probably won’t do it. Examples: dieting and saving money. If it requires focus rather than will power, then I have no difficulty at all. Examples: writing, woodworking. Will power is a serious issue for me, and I think it’s more about that than procrastination per se. I’m very good at making steady goals toward a project (e.g., writing a novel), but whenever I try to lose weight, it’s just disastrous.

    1. Diet! What’s that lol. Unfortunately my hubby’s a feeder and I have no willpower. He drives me nuts. I say don’t offer me chocolate etc but what does he do? Now I’ll have to lose a few pounds so I can eat plenty over Christmas. Focus is good and I think I can do it sometimes but I’m not really good at following goals I’ve set. So is that procrastination. I don’t know. Hey, woodworking sounds interesting!

      1. HA HA! Yeah, diet is a foreign word around here! I live with my dad, and he’s the same way! If I’m on my period or generally crabby or disconsolate, what does he bring me? Chocolate. [Shakes head in despair.] Yeah, woodworking is fun!! I love my table saw!! Good luck losing weight before the holidays! I’ve been trying to lose some ’cause I’m traveling soon, and it hasn’t been going well at all. 😮

  2. I’ve worked in software development my whole life. In that field, there is an idea called “just in time”, i.e. you don’t do things until you absolutely need to do them. I think that principle is very valid in life in general. Procrastination is good, because the more we think about something, the better our final decision, just so long as we realise that there is a time when you need to jump one way or the other.

  3. I do procrastinate all the time and it is an emotional issue. Also one of self-esteem. When I do things I really like to do, I sometimes tend to put them off too. I’m learning now not to think too much about the task at hand and to do the things I want to do immediately. I’m clearer with myself; instead of procrastinating (which is actually a lot of head-work) I come to terms with myself; that I just don’t like to do that and I don’t do it. I try to live more honest with myself and more in the moment. The laundry will be there tomorrow that is one thing I don’t need to think about!

    1. I also put off some of the good things – like cancelling outings with friends at almost last minute – which isn’t fair, I know. And now I get advice from my son lol when I’m flapping or saying ‘I hate myself when I can’t do things like I used to’ (cos of physical disability). He’s like “Mama, you need to be more accepting of yourself and more compassionate towards yourself.” I don’t care too much about the laundry etc and I really try to live in the moment but I am a bit of a flapper.

  4. I’m not a big procrastinator because I know that procrastinating causes me more stress than just getting something done. If I do procrastinate, it’s usually because there are other emotional issues getting in the way or because the task isn’t that important and I’m not especially motivated.

    1. For me procrastination used to be a huge problem. I was always putting things off and running into problems. Now my procrastination has gone to the other extreme. Never putting things off. I do think some balance here is needed. Starting to feel like somedays I have taken on to much. Being able to put some things off with be good.

  5. Smiles… Your last comments got me… 😀
    I don’t really procrastinate. Because I could forget it if I left it unattended to. 🙈

    Glad your son is doing what he loves and got over it. 🤗

    Thanks for sharing this ma’am. 🙂

  6. I had never thought of how procrastinating might feel less intimidating than the possibility of failing at a task. That’s very helpful to put it in perspective.

    Personally, I’m more of a deadline-driven procrastinator. Deadlines cause me so much anxiety that I will push myself harder than is healthy for fear of missing it. However, that isn’t the best reason to do something, so I’m trying to at least give myself a bit of wiggle room in my personal life. I still have to set some sort of deadline or I’ll never do anything, but I don’t want to make everything a mad rush.

  7. Procrastination is closely associated with fear of failure and making mistakes. I just wrote an article about that how people won’t start doing anything because they are simply scared of getting done it wrong. Since early childhood, everybody has heard how bad it is to make mistake. It is so deeply tooted in human conscious mind that we do not even notice that.
    I do also put off things. It can be because I am tired or because I see no point in doing that, I mean, there is not enough motivation to go for something. Sometimes it could be pure reluctance to do anything. Well, I never give myself hard time about not being super-efficient. When the time is right, I’ll catch up.
    Chronic procrastination is a sum of quite a few aspects. Previous failures, lack of confidence, physical exhaustion, tired mind, tired body of different reasons, seeing activity as non-rewarding, but time-consuming, like cleaning the house or similar. There are lots of people also who literally live on excuses.
    I teach classes, so, I have seen quite a lot of this population. I am also writing another blog along with art blog, and lifeschool articles are on that one.
    Thanks for thought provoking post!

    1. Yep, they say fear of failure. Particularly the second born who has an older sibling to keep up with (my sons). The eldest one Aced everything and the youngest one (I think) always felt like he had to keep up. Had a look at your blog too and your artwork is amazing. Thanks for stopping by. Caz x

  8. I procrastinate tasks that are boring. Like cleaning. Paying bills. I do have a couple of mental disorders but I don’t blame it on them. Honestly, I’m just lazy! Once I told a therapist that I was lazy and she hit the roof….she said I shouldn’t say that! I’m not lazy! Like I had just admitted that I collected child porn. Why is being lazy so looked down upon? It works for me 😀❤️💥

  9. I admit to being the occasional procrastinator, and it often depends on the level of importance I place on a task. Some people do seem to work better ‘under pressure’ (not me). Thanks for the great and informative blog.

  10. I think I’d not like to call myself a procrastinator. I find it having a negative impact on me. Instead, I’d like to say that I have my cheat days.. days when I feel like just not doing things. Delaying things is a lot dependant on their important and urgency and my liking for them.

  11. You make some great points – it really is a fine line between putting things off to prioritize other aspects of our lives and putting off everything/stalling your personal growth, career development, etc. Finding that balance is the ultimate challenge… one that we all need to work on to some degree.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights