6 ways chronic procrastination can hold you back from true success

We all procrastinate from time to time.

Like me, staring at the blank page for 40 minutes, unable to come up with an engaging way to start this article.

Or like George R. R. Martin, who might never finish The Winds of Winter, to the dismay of fans worldwide.

That said, there’s a difference between delaying a task for a short while and repeatedly postponing things you *need* to do until the avoidance affects your well-being.

Here are 6 ways chronic procrastination can hold you back from true success.

It’s time to break this pesky habit.

Preferably now and not next Monday or next month.

1) It leads to missed opportunities

Delaying action may lead to doors closing before you even get the chance to knock.

Think about it.

If you don’t ask out your crush, somebody else will.

If you don’t go for the promotion, somebody else will get it.

If you don’t sign up for the stand-up open mic night, somebody else will take your spot.  

A favorite band of mine is going on tour this year, and one of their stops is only a short flight from where I live.

None of my friends were interested in coming with me, and I was reluctant to go alone.

I kept refreshing the ticket page for days, telling myself I’d buy one eventually and hoping to find the courage to finalize the purchase.

The tickets sold out. I sighed in disappointment, knowing my procrastination was the only one to blame for me missing out.

I felt disappointed with myself and annoyed that I kept postponing making a decision.

A few months later, the band announced they would perform at a festival in the same city, also this year.

I jumped at the chance.   

I’m still reluctant about attending the concert alone, but I knew I would have regretted it otherwise.

Stop letting procrastination stand in the way of you getting what you want.

2) It causes anxiety

Procrastination generally entails postponing something you don’t really want to do in favor of something that brings you pleasure.

It’s why we make another coffee before working on that report and scroll social media in our workout clothes before exercising.

Ironically, postponing doesn’t help you relax – it actually increases your stress and anxiety.

The more you delay a task, the more it will bug you.

You’ll suddenly remember that thing you didn’t do as you go about your day and realize that you still need to do it.

The looming pressure of unfinished responsibilities casts a long shadow over your quality of life.

3) It makes you feel bad about yourself

Chronic procrastination undermines your self-confidence.

Constantly falling short of your own expectations erodes self-esteem and creates a self-fulfilling cycle of doubt.

I know because I’ve been there many, many times.

As a freelance content writer, my schedule is fairly flexible.

So much so that I can dabble in procrastination freely, thinking I have all the time in the world to finish my work in a timely manner.

In reality, I don’t.

I often end up working late into the night or during weekends solely to compensate for the fact that I procrastinated a little too much during the day or the week.

Whenever that happens, I get overwhelmed and feel like a loser for failing to manage my time better.

I criticize myself, I doubt my competence, I scold myself, I remind myself I know better.

This only makes me feel worse.

If you’re the same, being stuck in a vicious circle of chronic procrastination puts a damper on your mood and makes you even less likely to go after what you want.   

Success becomes more distant.

4) It makes you compromise on quality

ways to overcome procrastination 6 ways chronic procrastination can hold you back from true success

True success demands a commitment to delivering high-quality results consistently.

When you procrastinate and are forced to rush through tasks at the last minute, the quality of your work suffers.

You’re less attentive to detail and can deliver shoddy results because you didn’t give yourself enough time to take care of the finishing touches.

This doesn’t apply exclusively to work, either:

  • When you start exercising later than you should have, you speed through your sets and pay less attention to form
  • When you postpone cooking dinner until the last minute, you enter the kitchen extra hungry and are more likely to reach for a quick, unhealthy meal
  • When you delay purchasing a gift until the final hour, you panic buy the first thing you see, regardless of whether the recipient might like it or not

Done may be better than perfect, but perfect is preferable.  

5) It sets you back financially

Chronic procrastination has negative effects on all areas of your life, including finances.

Procrastination in pursuing career goals or acquiring new skills, for instance, hinders professional growth.

This delay may cause you to stagnate in your career and miss out on better-paid gigs.

Additionally, if you keep neglecting your finances for months or even years, your avoidance can have a significant impact on your financial security later on.

Budgeting and crafting a sound financial life plan are essential tasks.

Postpone them for too long, and it will be that much more challenging for you to achieve any long-term financial goals.

Self-care isn’t just about treating yourself to an overpriced coffee and taking a day off from work to rot in bed.

It’s also about ensuring you’re doing everything you can to be comfortable.

Now, but also later.

Procrastination keeps you from doing that.

Stop setting yourself up for failure.   

6) It negatively affects your relationships

The definition of success varies from person to person.

Yet, I’m sure that, for many of us, it involves being surrounded by people we love and who love us back.

The ugly truth?

Chronic procrastination negatively affects your relationships, too.

It often leads to unmet commitments and broken promises.

Whether it causes you to be perpetually late, miss social events, or fail to fulfill responsibilities, such behavior erodes trust.

It can also make you avoid big conversations or delay important decisions, resulting in miscommunication, tears, and frustration for everyone involved.

For example:

  • You want to do something special for your anniversary, but you postpone planning until it’s too late, disappointing your partner
  • You procrastinate talking to your partner about a disagreement, so the conflict lingers and escalates 
  • You hurt a friend and need to apologize, but keep postponing the call until you realize you haven’t spoken in months
  • You want to move in with your partner but delay taking the plunge until your partner gets frustrated and bails

You get the idea.

Bottom line

Until recently, when I didn’t feel like doing something, I used to say it was Future Me’s problem.

I dumped all sorts of nonsense on her and chuckled at my ingenuity.

Problem is, I eventually became Future Me and suffered because of my bad choices.

Now, I treat Future Me as a friend.

What can I do today to make her life a little easier?

Maybe I can do the dishes, so she wakes up to a clean kitchen.

I can go grocery shopping, so she has a few healthy food options in the fridge.

I can skip this frivolous purchase and save cash, so she’s covered in case of emergency.

The strategy might sound dumb, but it works.

Overcoming chronic procrastination is a crucial step towards unlocking your full potential.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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