Procrastination is something I have struggled with for the greater part of my career and life in general and it is a feeling I am sure many of us have all faced at some point. For some of us, it’s occasional, whereas for others like me, procrastination is a never-ending battle to be fought. It has a way of sneaking into our lives at different points in time. Sometimes, it’s a gradual build-up, and other times it’s a defiant feeling of “I am not dealing with this right now,” or “I will do it tomorrow,” but it feels like a cycle of silent anxiety and inaction.

The shocking reality is that there is a real hidden cost of procrastination and we must confront this if we are to overcome its grip. Here are five profound truths about procrastination, along with strategies to counteract its effects.

1. The Hidden Cost of Delaying Things

Perhaps the most glaring truth about procrastination is the missed opportunities. By failing to take action and apply for that exciting job opening and missing the deadline, the chance to be part of an exciting project but the catch is filling out the 5-page long application form, postponing tasks can lead to missed chances that could significantly impact our lives. Once missed you start counting the opportunity cost and waiting for the next opportunity which may not present itself for a while.

This was the situation with Tower Records, a leading vendor of records and the case is the same for many other traditional music stores who saw the early rise of digital music and online platforms. Despite early signs of the digital shift, Tower Records delayed adapting to the changing landscape, leading to financial struggles and eventually bankruptcy. To counter missing opportunities, prioritising tasks, and mastering time management techniques becomes crucial. Innovation is almost often time-sensitive. You enjoy an early adoption advantage when you pivot early or apply on time. As it is the case with most things, by the time an idea is no longer fresh or innovative and becomes mainstream it becomes too late. Don’t let this happen to you. ‘Delay is not denial’ and ‘what’s for you is for you’ and so many other sayings can still apply but it is not an excuse to constantly delay and procrastinate and find yourself out of time. Learn to allocate dedicated time towards the completion of critical tasks and set tight deadlines, to ensure we don’t let crucial opportunities slip through our fingers.

2. Demotivation and the Erosion of Productivity

The development of the BlackBerry smartphone in the mid-2000s revolutionised mobile communication. Did you have a Blackberry or a BB as it was known in Nigeria during its popular era? From the Torch to the Bold to the Storm versions, BlackBerry was officially the hottest device globally at a point and Nokia was milking it. However, the company’s co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, failed to pay attention to the rise of touch-screen smartphones such as the iPhone. Their delay in embracing the shift led to a massive loss of market share and declining morale among employees, ultimately impacting BlackBerry’s once-dominant position in the market. 

Procrastination has the uncanny ability to sap our motivation over time. When we consistently put off tasks, we not only fail to accomplish them, but we also erode our sense of accomplishment and self-worth. The cycle of demotivation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to a decrease in overall productivity. Therefore, to combat demotivation, we need to set SMART achievable goals and celebrate small victories along the way. SMART goals mean your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Without a clear plan, procrastination becomes more tempting.

3. Procrastination: The Fear Factor

This reminds me of the struggles of J.K. Rowling, author of the immensely popular “Harry Potter” series. n. She faced the fear of rejection when submitting her manuscript to publishers. In fact, she was famously rejected x number of times before finding a publisher to take on her story and the rest is history 

 Fear tends to build up psychological walls and mental barriers and each rejection adds to the trauma. So, digging deeper into the psychology of procrastination reveals that fear is often at its core. Fear of failure, fear of success, or even fear of not meeting our expectations can lead us to put tasks on the back burner. To tackle this, practice self-compassion and adopt a growth mindset. Understand that setbacks are part of the learning process, and progress is more important than perfection. By reframing our perception of failure, we can mitigate the fear that feeds procrastination.

4. The Paradox of Doing Too Much and Too Little

The irony of procrastination is that it often stems from feeling overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of a task. Hello, Procrastinators Anonymous (well not anymore) this is me. Paradoxically, the same overwhelming feeling can arise when attempting to tackle multiple tasks at once. To navigate this paradox, incorporating productivity hacks can be immensely beneficial. Yahoo met this paradox unprepared, and the one in a wild world organization fell for it. Yahoo faced a paradox of attempting to do too much while not fully capitalising on its core strengths. As the internet evolved, Yahoo spread its resources thin by diversifying into various sectors without a clear focus. This led to a lack of innovation in their core services and contributed to their decline in competition against more focused companies like Google. The inability to prioritise effectively highlights the dangers of spreading oneself too thin. The following techniques have proven effective in enhancing focus and minimising procrastination;

  • Pomodoro Technique: This method involves focused work intervals followed by short breaks. It enhances focus and prevents burnout.
  • 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle): Prioritize tasks that yield the greatest results. Focus on the vital few that contribute to the majority of outcomes.
  • Time Blocking: Allocate specific time blocks for different tasks. This prevents multitasking and enhances concentration.
  • 2-Minute Rule: Commit to working on a task for just 2 minutes. This small effort can lead to significant progress.
  • Second Brain: Utilize digital tools to organize and access information, enhancing focus and creativity.
  • Morning Routine: Establish a productive start to your day by incorporating positive habits.
  • Automation: Identify repetitive tasks and automate them where possible to save time and reduce the risk of procrastination.
  • Eat the Frog: Conquer the most challenging task early in the day to build momentum and overcome procrastination.

Which is your favourite? I tend to use time blocking and have a multiple-second brain. I love Otter which helps me share my raw thoughts and ideas and transcribe faster and I love Monica on Google Chrome extension for quick email replies.

5. Time as a Finite Resource

One truth that procrastination forces us to confront is the finite nature of time. Every minute we delay a task is a minute we can never get back. Cultivating a sense of urgency can be a powerful antidote to procrastination. The launch of Apple’s iTunes in the early 2000s transformed the music industry by offering legal digital music downloads. The recording industry’s initial procrastination in adapting to digital distribution led to rampant piracy and revenue loss. This also led to rampant piracy and revenue loss. So, Visualisation techniques that highlight the consequences of not acting can provide a jolt of motivation. Combine this with the Pomodoro technique, which involves working in focused, timed intervals, followed by short breaks. This method can help maximize productivity while keeping the ticking clock in mind.

I hope you enjoyed this and can use this to come up with some new strategies for dealing with your procrastination. When in doubt just the eat frog.