Procrastination Is Probably The Root Of All Your Stress, Not Just In College

by Erica Gordon

Procrastination is one of life's greatest paradoxes because it involves the incomprehensible choice to avoid doing something that we would certainly be better off doing.

Procrastinating is something we're often guilty of, despite its harmful consequences: stress, anxiety, depression, guilt, identity issues, self-doubt, tarnished reputations, lost opportunities, low self-esteem and unreached goals.

Researchers have studied the phenomenon extensively, and Psychology Today dubbed it the most common form of self-sabotage.

Procrastination is categorized as a self-limiting paradox because, when you make the choice to procrastinate, you're actively limiting yourself, instead of achieving more for yourself.

We often procrastinate due to some sort of emotional obstacle or mental blockade. The emotions driving procrastination involve a fear of success, feelings of self-doubt, lack of self-esteem or even a psychological attachment to self-deprivation.

A deprivation attachment typically occurs in individuals who have grown accustomed to disappointment. They're used to feeling disadvantaged, empty or unfulfilled.

The attachment occurs when you're so used to your life going a certain way, so it's tough to picture something better. If you're familiar with deprivation, disappointment, failure or feeling unfulfilled, then it's possible you've associated yourself with it and actively seek it out. It's a destructive form of self-sabotage.

You'll know you have a deprivation attachment if you have consistent negative feelings or thoughts, you engage in acts of self-sabotage or you have self-destructive tendencies, including substance abuse, procrastination, over-eating or underperforming.

For example, if your emotional blockades behind procrastination involve low self-esteem, then you're likely familiar with failure, so you don't identify with being productive.

Perhaps you're not actively pursuing your goals because you fear failure, or even success. Or perhaps others have doubted you, and it's inadvertently caused you to doubt yourself.

The deception of limits will ruin you.

It's as though you're keeping yourself locked up behind metaphorical prison bars. Believe that your capabilities are limitless, actively stay focused on your pursuit of new achievements and acknowledge the possibilities of what's bigger and better. Otherwise, you might never be motivated enough to stop procrastinating.

Once you recognize your specific hang-ups and the forms of self-sabotage associated with these damaging patterns, you can be more conscious in your actions. In time, you can consciously decide to seize each day instead of wasting valuable time that could be spent perfecting, performing and achieving goals.

Having a fear of success adds another layer of stress to the mix, but it's still possible to overcome. Some of us can't imagine what achieving real success would be like. The fear of the unknown and the fear of success go hand-in-hand.

Once I thoroughly researched procrastination, I soon realized it was the number one cause of my stress and anxiety.

On Wait But Why, Tim Urban further broke down some of the psychology behind procrastination: Procrastinators obviously engage in unearned leisure time, which “isn't actually fun because it's completely unearned, and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred and dread.”

It makes sense that, if you're doing one thing when you should be doing something else, you're going to feel anxious the entire time you're doing it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's simply not worth it. Procrastinating is, if nothing else, completely nonsensical.

Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, take a minute to step back from what you're doing, look at your actions and decide if it's helping you get to where you want to be. Ask yourself if these distractions line up with your goals. Odds are, they probably don't.

Instead of sabotaging yourself, fight for yourself.

Life isn't a season of "Big Brother," where it's up to a jury of evicted house guests to determine whether or not you win or lose.

You are in control of how rich, full and successful your life will be, and that's actually a pretty scary thought. But what you become is in no one's hands but your own.

Imagine what you could get done if you developed a sense of urgency, instead of falling into a habit of procrastination. Why prolong your life's mediocrity, when you could act now and become something great?

In general, change is scary, but don't hold yourself back because you're afraid of change. Embrace it. If you do, the best year of your life could soon follow.