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11 Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching
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We all procrastinate differently, and we have all put off something that we needed to do. Last year, I delayed packing for my move and missed a significant reduction in delivery costs. It’s a common trap; I thought there was plenty of time, right up until there wasn’t. Interestingly, research suggests that 20% of US adults are chronic procrastinators, consistently postponing decisions and actions across all areas of life, from home to work to school, even in relationships. That’s a higher percentage than those dealing with clinical depression or phobias.[1]
But what are the effects of procrastination? How does it affect our everyday lives?

If you think that it’s just as simple as postponing things, you’re not entirely wrong. But procrastination affects us deeply. In fact, it can affect many aspects of our lives aside from simply not getting things done.

Extreme procrastination has serious and inevitable consequences and it can ruin lives. Just like stress, the effects are not so obvious, until it’s too late and awareness is often not enough impetus to break the vicious cycle.

Why Is Procrastination Bad and How Does It Affect Us?

What most people don’t realize is that procrastination doesn’t only affect our life, productivity, and happiness but our mental and physical health too. Some of the least obvious and most damaging effects of procrastination are the following:

Effects of Procrastination (1)

    1. Creating Limiting Beliefs

    When you put something off and continue to do so, you start to create and then reinforce limiting beliefs about yourself and what is possible in life. These beliefs eventually become your identity and you start to procrastinate more and more.

    When you start to lose faith in yourself and what you can do, you don’t tap into the potential that you have, and you start to go into a downward spiral in life. You will see yourself as a failure more and more, continue to doubt yourself, and only create more of what you don’t want.


    I used to have a colleague who was always second-guessing himself. He hesitated to start his own business, convinced he couldn’t make it work. Every time he put it off, his doubts deepened, trapping him in a cycle of negativity. His experience shows just how much procrastination can reinforce our limiting beliefs.

    Learning to manage your emotions effectively is key to managing procrastination and being able to stay clear of adopting limiting beliefs about yourself that undermine your success and overall happiness in life.

    2. Blowing Opportunities

    How many opportunities have you wasted because you didn’t take advantage of them when they were there? Was there a job you wanted to apply for but you waited until the deadline passed? Or perhaps a course that could have advanced your career yet you delayed enrolling until it was no longer available? These were moments that the effects of procrastination made you really want to kick yourself.

    What you don’t realize is that the opportunity could have been life-changing, but you missed out on it. Most opportunities only come around once; you are never guaranteed a second chance. Not so obvious missed opportunities could be procrastinating with a presentation or pitch, leaving it to the last minute, and not giving it your all.

    Opportunities are the world’s way of giving you more, so do yourself a favor and grab them with both hands as soon as they present themselves.

    3. Sabotaging Your Goals

    Procrastination seems to come on with full force when we entertain the thought of goals, of wanting to achieve or change something. You might have a strong desire to change, but you just can’t seem to take the first step forward. Maybe you set yourself a goal but you take no action.

    This is normally confusing and perplexing. You might find yourself thinking, “why is it so hard to go for something that I want so badly?”


    Only you can answer that and you’ll have to explore a little deeper into the resistance.

    We set goals because we have a deep desire to better our lives in some way. If you don’t do this because of procrastination, you reduce the possibility of a better life.

    Uncover the root cause behind your procrastination if it’s preventing you from achieving your goals, or you may never attain them.

    4. Ruining Your Career

    The way you work directly affects your results on how much you achieve, and how well you perform. So the effects of procrastination can end up being detrimental to your career if you’re constantly procrastinating. In fact, research shows that high levels of procrastination are linked to lower salaries, shorter job tenures, and a higher chance of being unemployed or underemployed instead of holding a full-time position.[2]

    Procrastination may prevent you from meeting deadlines or achieving your monthly targets.

    • What consequence will this eventually have on your career?
    • Is this the work ethic you want to follow?
    • Will this affect your clients, colleagues, boss, company, or business?

    You might miss out on promotions or even be at risk of losing your job. You can try to hide it for a while, but don’t doubt that long-term procrastination at work will almost certainly ruin your career.


    5. Lowering Your Self-Esteem

    This is one of the vicious circles you might find yourself in. We tend to procrastinate because low self-esteem makes us feel that we won’t be able to get a task or project done the right way. Unfortunately, procrastinating only increases feelings of low self-esteem, making us doubt ourselves even more.

    One study involving 426 college students found that “academic procrastination was negatively predicted by self-esteem and self-control”. [3]

    When we have low self-esteem, we hold ourselves back, feel unworthy of success, and begin to self-sabotage. Procrastination slowly eats away your confidence but it can be inevitable if you don’t do something about it.

    If this resonates with you, focus on building your self-esteem instead of holding on to the illusion that you should be able to do something better. This only forces you to engage in something you are not ready to do anyway.

    6. Making Poor Decisions

    Poor decision-making is one of the worst effects of procrastination. When you procrastinate, you make decisions based on criteria that most likely wouldn’t be there if you didn’t procrastinate. Things like:

    • Being pressured to finally make a decision because time is running out
    • Deciding which you should do first between a personal or a work problem
    • Focusing on opportunities that may arise or getting back to the work you procrastinated

    Emotions heavily influence the decisions we make, and procrastination increases negative emotions. This pushes us into making decisions that don’t serve us in the long run. You will make decisions based on fear and this is never a place to decide on.

    Instead of rushing your decisions or letting procrastination take over, consider using a straightforward method. Start by categorizing your decision criteria into “Must Have,” “Should Have,” and “Good-to-Have.” This approach, part of the LifeHack framework known as The Superstructure Method, can clarify what’s truly essential for a sound decision. Curious? Dive deeper here.

    And if you’re wondering whether it’s really possible to break the cycle of delay in decision-making, the answer is yes. Research from the Journal of Research in Personality shows that decisional procrastinators aren’t haphazard or easily sidetracked. In fact, they tend to be methodical and strategic, often seeking more detailed information about their choices.[4] Remember, you’ve got this!

    7. Damaging Your Reputation

    When you keep saying you will do something and you don’t, your reputation gets tarnished. Nobody wants empty promises.

    Besides damaging your own reputation, you are damaging your self-esteem and self-confidence. You will find that it gets easier to procrastinate each time because you are not surprising yourself anymore.

    People could stop depending on you and hold back on offering you opportunities because they’re worried that you will simply procrastinate, leaving them to clean up the mess.[5]


    Even if you already have a reputation for being a procrastinator, you can turn it around. Next time someone asks you for something, use all of the tools at your disposal to get it done on time. Each time you fulfill a request, your reputation will begin to build back up, which will lead to more opportunities and better relationships with those around you.

    8. Risking Your Mental Health

    Procrastinating too much often leads to stress and anxiety, especially when it involves others. If you find yourself frequently stressed or overwhelmed, your health could suffer. Research shows that procrastination is consistently linked with higher stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue, along with lower satisfaction in various aspects of life.[6]

    The more depressed or anxious you feel, the harder it becomes to take action. Not only are you more depressed and anxious, but things also get worse.

    When you procrastinate, you are not only putting something off, you are actually choosing to be more stressed and overwhelmed. Get to the root cause of your procrastination and work on the core issues, don’t risk your mental health unknowingly.

    9. Risking Your Physical Health

    Medical research from Sweden draws a clear connection between procrastination and poor health.[7] It makes sense—when you delay things like going to the gym or taking care of yourself, you’re also putting your health on hold. Simple habits, like getting enough sleep and eating on schedule, can have a lasting impact on your overall health.

    The damages of extreme procrastination on our health, from insomnia to headaches to cardiovascular diseases.

    Another way that procrastination can affect your health in the short-term is when you continually put off check-ups, postpone appointments or avoid exercise. The problem only gets worse and the consequences more severe.


    You can have many goals in life, but when you don’t have your health, there’s not much to go to.

    10. Losing Precious Time

    It might seem obvious but we are mostly unaware of the total amount of time lost and wasted and we would be shocked. You only have one life and every time you put off your dreams and goals or delay tasks, you are wasting precious time you will never get back.

    The worst thing about procrastinating is the moment you realize that you are two, five, or ten years older and nothing has changed.

    This is a terrible feeling because you can’t turn back the hands of time. You just have to live with the helpless feeling of regret. There is nothing worse than feeling frustrated at yourself, knowing the situation could have been so different if only you had taken that first step.

    11. Ruining Relationships

    Procrastination’s impact on relationships is significant and often overlooked. The procrastinator may not realize how their delays cause frustration and disappointment, and by the time they do, it might be too late. Mary Lamia, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, notes in Psychology Today that non-procrastinators might think procrastinators enjoy the fruits of efficiency without sharing the workload. They might even believe their procrastinating partner doesn’t care enough to act promptly, interpreting this delay as a personal slight or a lack of consideration.[8]

    Perhaps you’ve canceled plans with loved ones because you put off important tasks, or maybe your partner’s confidence and trust in you have eroded because you didn’t keep your promises. The partner of a procrastinator can end up feeling unimportant and neglected, leading to a cycle of distrust and resentment. Repeatedly doing this can severely damage relationships, sometimes irreparably.


    Final Thoughts

    The effects of procrastination build up over time and can lead to stress, anxiety, broken dreams, and low self-esteem. Instead of letting procrastination take hold of your life, take the time to develop time management and emotional techniques to help you deal with it when it appears. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said,

    “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”


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