Procrastination: The Antagonist in Your Success Story

01/30/2017 05:27 pm ET
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The diet you’ll “start on Monday.” The abandoned to-do list. The term paper due next week. You put it off; fall victim to distractions. Wait until crunch time—or a tomorrow that never seems to roll around—to complete it.

Sweeping responsibility under the rug may give you a temporary sense of satisfaction, but it also comes with a price. It can hold you back; reduce the quality of the project or task at hand or worse: it can burn the bridge between where you are now and where you could be financially, healthily, or successfully.

So is procrastination really worth it?

Better now, never later

Any thriving entrepreneur or iconic scholar (in a textbook you’re probably avoiding reading right now) will note the grey area between “now” and “later” as critical to one’s success. The people who “make it” in business and in life do so by being conscious of time and managing it wisely, not putting things off until the last minute.

And yet many people rationalize procrastination by claiming they “work best under pressure.” You’ll find them hunched over a computer screen at the office or library, chugging their seventh coffee of the evening as they type feverously in order to make a deadline. This not only causes unhealthy (and unnecessary) tension and stress, it also leaves too much room for error.

When you wait until “crunch time” to complete an assignment or report, you propel yourself into execution mode. There’s little to no time on the clock for all-important deductive reasoning, trial and error, attention to detail and defects, or purposeful craft. Cutting corners in exchange for a quicker turnaround creates a cheapened product, which can yield poor results.

Distractions do damage

Ever knock out one item on your to-do list or workout plan, and then take a break to reward yourself? Sometimes that “break” lasts longer than the original effort. That casual Facebook scroll-through becomes a journey down a long and winding road of photo albums and news articles (like this one). You become blinded by life’s simple pleasures, and success struggles to stay atop your priority list.

If you do eventually return to your remaining exercises or task list, you’ll do so with less motivation, energy, and focus. It might take you longer to reach your goals than you had originally intended. And this is the part of the story where people get frustrated and give up altogether.

Not very rewarding, is it?

The waiting game

Procrastination can affect your work ethic and make you develop “grinder mentality.” Grinders are, essentially, people who “get ready to get ready”: creating lengthy to-do lists that never get completed, flagging emails they’ll never read, and using excuses to push back their goal timelines. They overpromise, under deliver, and wonder why their paycheck is sub-par.

What they don’t understand is that achievement is fueled by action, strategy, and effort—which a distracted mind can hinder.

Those who don't “get it” are quick to rebuke, “Everyone procrastinates sometimes.” While this may indeed be true, remember: not everyone becomes a millionaire, or an award-winning novelist, or the top earner in his or her sales district, either. If you want to be great, you must be willing to do what others won’t, and without hesitation.

Becoming the exception

Whether you find yourself putting off objectives occasionally or habitually, take a moment to envision how different your life would be if you hadn’t. Would you get that promotion you were banking on? Would you have done better in school? Would you have crossed off more items on your bucket list?

It’s possible.

And while procrastinating doesn’t rush “the end of the world” by any means, it can be the beginning of a series of missed opportunities. Keep this in mind next time you brush off pursuing a goal, preparing for a meeting, or following up with a sales lead. Staying committed is the only way to keep your most coveted aspirations from eroding into sand at the bottom of an hourglass.

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