Ever get a sinking feeling when you set out to complete a task—especially one that’s boring, difficult, or time-consuming? We’ve all been there and felt that sense of foreboding. However, if you recognize what that sinking feeling represents, you’ll take decisive action instead of giving in to procrastination.
By choosing to procrastinate—and let’s be clear, it’s definitely a choice—you postpone the opportunity to take decisive action. Psychology Today notes that “everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20% of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available.” And like anything else, procrastination can build its own negative momentum. It can destroy potential, impede progress, and sabotage results. If you value excellence and want your performance to reflect it, why not be intentional, skip procrastination, and just eat the frog.
Here are three ways that procrastination hurts your performance:
1. It mitigates the sense of urgency.
When you procrastinate, you remove or dilute the sense of urgency associated with the tasks at hand. With no pressure to perform, chances are you won’t. And when you are conveniently poised to “do things later,” you create significant barriers to preparation and performance. Urgency is critical, though, to positively shape the quality of your results. By chunking tasks and releasing feelings of urgency, you can create forward momentum and move closer to accomplishing your goal. Taking early action in a proactive, focused way is the key to harnessing urgency.
2. It distorts your sense of time.
Time is a non-negotiable, nonrenewable resource. And you won’t get any more of it than the next person. When you tell yourself that it’s OK to procrastinate, you are saying that there’s more time somewhere and that you’ll be able to take advantage of it when you need it. Sadly, however, that’s not often the case. Procrastination is fueled by fear, and fear is a powerful emotion. It urges you to suppress action and distort time in exchange for a temporary and false sense of relief. Don’t fall for the head fake. Respect the finite nature of time, and structure your resources so that you can deliver polished, timely results.
3. It increases stress and decreases the quality of your performance.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the relationship between stress and the quality of your performance can be significant, especially when people “choke.” Harvard psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson note that too much stress—as well as to little—can impair performance, so understanding how to strike a balance is critical. Further research demonstrates that as procrastination increases, so does stress; and as stress increases, the ability to properly prepare and effectively perform decreases. But lucky for us, psychological resilience can be taught, experts say. If you want to decrease stress and increase the quality of your performance, the message is clear: Don’t procrastinate.
Have you been guilty of chronic avoidance? Remember you can always choose to be proactive and eat the frog. The choice is yours, and so are the results.
To your success!
Karima Mariama-Arthur Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, WordSmithRapport.com.