We have all been known to procrastinate from time to time. You probably put off writing a paper in high school or may have waited until the last minute to turn in a big project for work.

But now that you work for yourself, procrastination is dangerous for both your health and your business.

Chronically procrastinating weighs on you and makes you less productive. It also sucks the joy from your day, because you’ll end up constantly stressed about looming deadlines. Here are just a few of the ways procrastination steals our joy.

What is procrastination?

Psychologist Dr. Bruce Liese explains that procrastination is an avoidance of our obligations. Procrastinating is merely putting off the inevitable. It may feel better in the moment to watch Real Housewives instead of returning client emails, but deep down you know it’s adding to your stress.

The trouble is that we humans are wired to procrastinate. “We’ve got the deck stacked against us,” Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa told The Globe and Mail.

When we make plans for the future, we use the frontal cortex of our brains, but when it’s time to carry out those plans, the limbic system becomes involved. It’s that limbic part of our brains that is ruled by emotion. So when you don’t feel like tackling that big project, it can feel impossible to get started.

Procrastination costs you time and money

Little episodes of procrastination can quickly add up, especially when it comes to work and business. It’s estimated that procrastination can cost up to 25 percent of a worker’s annual salary. Imagine what that means for a new business or freelance career! According to H&R Block, putting off your taxes can cost you hundreds come April.

Studies show that procrastinators are less healthy than their go-getter friends.  

“It may be that putting off looking after one’s health both preventively and therapeutically, rather than stress alone, is responsible for procrastinators’ poorer health,” Dr. Pychyl told National Post.

Procrastination makes you less productive

Some people argue that they need to procrastinate in order to be productive. They work well “under pressure” and thrive in high-stress environments. Not true. We actually don’t work well under that kind of stress. And in today’s world of constant distractions, procrastinators are feeling the pain.

Social media makes procrastination a lot worse. Dr. Liese explains that our brains now have to decide between the temporary pain of working on the project that we want to avoid or the instant gratification of scrolling through our friends’ pictures. Because social media rewards us for procrastinating, it’s imperative that we log off when it’s time to work.

Procrastination hurts your heart

Research shows that chronic procrastinators experience more stress and less well-being than the people who work ahead. And that chronic stress can start to affect our heart health. Psychological scientist Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University in Quebec found that chronic procrastinators have a higher rate of heart disease, regardless of their age race, educational level or other factors. Procrastinators also report more headaches, digestive problems, colds, and flus than non-procrastinators.

Where do we start?

Once you’ve established yourself as a chronic procrastinator, it can be hard to get out of that pattern. If you’re always behind on projects, how can you ever get ahead?

The best thing to do is commit to just ten minutes of work. This small amount of time doesn’t sound so scary, and once we start we’re more likely to keep going.

Doing this “primes the pump for action,” Dr. Pychyl told The Globe and Mail. Research has shown that once you start a task, you will see it differently, and it won’t seem so overwhelming. It also shows that our self control and willpower are muscles that we can strengthen. Start with a small task and then build up from there.

If you’ve found yourself in a state of constant procrastination, don’t beat yourself up. Simply forgive yourself, dust yourself off, and sit down at your computer. You’ve got this!

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