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What Does Procrastination Do To Your Happiness?

What Does Procrastination Do To Your Happiness?

In September 2014, two British professors wanted to find out what happens when students do not hand over their assignments on time. Their study threw up an alarming surprise, which, if the students knew, would make them give up procrastination forever.

First, the professors David Arnott and Scott Dacko decided to define the procrastinators as the ones who wouldn’t submit their end-of-term tasks until the last day. Then they dipped into five years of submission data on 777 marketing students from their own Warwick Business School, and found that while each of these students had four weeks or more to hand over their assignments, only about a hundred had done so before the last day. The rest (669 of them) waited out until the last 24 hours to submit their task.

That is, 86% of them were procrastinators.

In a different study at the University of Vermont done in 1984, it was found that 46% of the students had reported they procrastinate writing academic papers. But even that figure might not the surprise all of you. Students are known to be ‘natural-born’ procrastinators to school homework across the world. Everybody knows how busy the lives of young college-goers can be. So, 86% could seem unsurprisingly normal.

The real surprise uncovered itself in the final 24 hours. As they analyzed the data, Arnott and Dacko found a disturbing pattern emerge as the last day of the submission had begun. The students taking another hour from here on started getting lower marks. It was happening by the hour. For example, someone who submitted at 3pm got lower marks than those who did at 2pm.

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It was as if every passing hour was chipping away their scores. The worse the procrastination, the worse were the marks. So clear was the pattern that those who handed in their assignments at the last minute, had the worst grades of all. In fact, these last-minute guys saw a full 5% drop in their marks over those who had checked in their tasks before the start of the last day.
Now, mind it, those five percentage points are substantial for students, because they could well translate into a half or a whole letter lower grade. A possibly ‘B’ could end up getting ‘C+’, just because they handed in their tasks late.

What Procrastination Does To Your Happiness?

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    The verdict is out: Good things don’t always come to those who… procrastinate. Procrastination takes away your happiness. It has been proven over many studies and surveys.

    Procrastination Research Group carried out a survey with over 10,000 respondents, and found that 94% of them reported that procrastination indeed does have some negative effect on their happiness.

    According to Procrastination and Science, almost 70% of the procrastinators were found to be less happy than an average person.

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    As the Warwick study showed, when the students waited until the last minute to tie up their assignments, they got the worst grades.

    Habitual procrastination could damage relationships, create an unflattering reputation of carelessness, and invite setbacks in career and work prospects. Procrastinators frequently resort to lies to reason out their delays, and are often found out, leading to disastrous consequences. And you could swear that all of that can take away a sizable bit of their happiness.

    The big culprit here is regret. It’s a story that goes around in a predictable circle: Procrastinators begin with hope, then go into anxiety, guilt and self-criticism, and end up in regret. Next project, same cycle.

    What Do You Know About Procrastination?

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      Procrastination is not taking action. It is avoiding starting something you mean to start. It is avoiding finishing something you’re supposed to finish. It is doing something else, or lots of something else, when you know you should be doing a certain important thing.

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      Experts classify it into two types – decisional (putting off taking decisions) and avoidant (putting off doing things).

      Perhaps, all of us procrastinate at some of the times. While some of us do it more, and some less, but the truth is none of us do it all of the time.

      The three main areas of our life that we procrastinate on are education, career, and health.

      1. Education: We saw in the opening paragraphs how pervasive is procrastination in the education field. For many of us, this problem can be traced back to our earliest school years when we were perhaps slow learners, and got labeled by our peers and teachers. And we carry the label long after school.
      2. Career: On the career front, most of us know at least one person who despises his current job and desperately wants to change it, but doesn’t. Like a lost soul swimming in circles in a small fish bowl, perpetually planning to dive out into bigger water, but never makes the jump. That lost soul is often the person we know the best – our own self. Are you sure that person isn’t you?
      3. Health: We’re really bad procrastinators when it comes to health. Think of the new year’s day health goals that you set for yourself and kept delaying starting out on them, year after year. Think of that regular half-hour yoga that never came around, or those eight glasses of water or those eight hours of sleep that could never become a reality. That smoking habit that you left and picked up back so many times that you feel ashamed to even whisper it.

      Why Do We Procrastinate?

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        Procrastinators have a complicated relationship with time, and often believe Time is up against them and they have outsmart it somehow. But even then, procrastination is not just an matter of time-management. Rather, it is a complex psychological problem with deep roots into self-esteem issues.

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        The main reasons that make procrastination likely are:

        1. Uninteresting: We delay doing it till eternity because we find the work utterly boring and without any fun. That comes from the human nature’s basic Pain-Pleasure Principle – we run from painful activities and go after pleasurable ones. Scientists call it task aversiveness.
        2. Impulsiveness: Procrastinators have been found to be largely impulsive too. Being impulsive, they fail to handle their goals effectively, and keep jumping from task to task leaving most of those unfinished. Some researchers even argue that procrastination is a by-product of impulsiveness, even when these two behaviors seem polar opposites (just give it a thought!).
        3. Low Confidence: We don’t feel sure of our abilities and presence that we can tackle something effectively. We don’t do things because of fear of failure or even fear of success. This is the issue of low self-esteem that is believed to be the strongest reason.
        4. Anxiety: We have often felt that when a deadline is right upon us, we end up procrastinating more. That is anxiety causing us to procrastinate. In that anxiety, we drive ourselves busy doing everything else other than the project at hand. Suddenly, our desk clutter needs to be cleared immediately, and our cars need to be taken for service.
        5. Goal Problems: When the goals are not clear, or the goals lie too far into the future, or there are no goals at all, we procrastinate.
        6. Perfectionism: People who search for perfection often end up procrastinating. Perfectionism in certain fields is demanded by default, as in competitive sports and classical music. But for most, this is a handicap that leads to an unending delay in finishing things.
        7. Heredity: Procrastination could be 46% heritable, as a study on 347 Colorado twins indicated. Which means there is half a chance that you may have got it from your parents. But remember, that’s half a chance. The rest is how your environment molded you into.
        8. Mental Illness: Procrastination has been found to occur in some serious psychological illnesses, as borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety, addiction problems, as well as in strained relationships.

        How Can We Beat Procrastination With Science?

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          1. Avoid Procrastination. This is the best method. As the professors hoped after the Warwick study that the teachers recognize the habitual procrastinators in time, and help them change their study habits. To do this, set clear goals with realistic timelines, break each goal into many sub-goals, and measure and review progress at fixed time-points.
          2. Get A Growth Mindset: This is a concept researched and presented by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” she writes. Building into yourself a growth mindset can increase your self-worth, and help take new tasks as challenges to thrive on rather than shirk from.
          3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy that centers around accepting what is outside your personal control, and committing to action that enriches your life. It has shown remarkable short-term as well as long-term effects in decreasing procrastination, especially academic procrastination. If you want to learn mindfulness quickly, here’s how: Mindfulness in 7 Steps.

          Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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          Sandip Roy

          Medical Doctor

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          Last Updated on March 15, 2019

          How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

          How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

          When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

          Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

          In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

          What Makes a Leader Fail?

          A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

          If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

          And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

          What Is Effective Leadership?

          Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

          Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

          Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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          “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

          How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

          To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

          1. Courage

          The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

          “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

          Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

          For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

          In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

          It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

          Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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          2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

          If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

          The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

          To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

          3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

          Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

          Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

          4. Likability

          Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

          When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

          Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

          So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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          5. Vulnerability

          Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

          When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

          6. Authenticity

          Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

          Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

          7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

          Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

          Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

          Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

          Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

          As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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          “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

          8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

          Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

          This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

          9. A Passion for Continual Learning

          Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

          These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

          Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

          The Bottom Line

          No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

          Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

          More Resources About Effective Leadership

          Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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