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The Costs of Procrastination

If time is money, then why do several people, especially college students waste it intentionally? It can be easily attributed to one of the most and oldest human traits called procrastination. Many people, guided by their survival instinct, procrastinate more than others. The difference between a procrastinator and a non-procrastinator lies on to what extent their limbic system, the origin of pleasure and fear, takes over the prefrontal cortex, the rational and future planning thinking. In some cases, impulsiveness and task aversion can become a serious problem. In fact, procrastination is the main cause why PhD students are unable to finish their projects on time, people get big amounts of debt and governments avoid to get long-term concerns. 

Interestingly, contrary to what is believed, procrastination does not always mean laziness. For instance, a perfectionist is also a procrastinator because spending time on unnecessary tasks such as polishing every detail leads to irrational delays. The fact that this modus operandi works for many people is the main reason why they do not change their habits. Pieter Steel, the author of The procrastination Equation highlights why people procrastinate. In his book, he explains that the reason behind putting things off can be grounded on lack of motivation, value and time. 

Studies done by Pieter Steel show that college students are an important population of procrastinators. It can affect their academic and personal performance as well as their daily life routines.  For instance, they tend to get lower grades than non-procrastinator students, incomplete projects, and have more short-term distractions. Indeed, it increases the probability of leaving work for tomorrow, while problems of anxiety and depression are serious outcomes for procrastination. 

Despite efforts to clean up bank accounts and saving enough money after their retirement, people tend to put off financial matters for later, increasing their debt without clear financial goals. People tend to procrastinate two hours out of eight out of procrastinating, with high opportunity costs that cannot be easily regained. Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize winner states that currently human capital is the most important form of capital in increasing wealth. A research about the costs of procrastination done by Pieter Steel demonstrates that in the United States, a sample of 130 million of workers dithering for two hours, represent a cost of more than a trillion dollars. Expensive, right? This problem is also related to the long-term government concerns like environmental degradation as they represent high social costs for countries. Outcomes like rising sea levels and air pollution urge people to reconsider the effects of procrastination in society. 

What can you do to fight against the monster of procrastination? 

Start reading motivational books, create your own support group, do volunteer work for more responsibility, either at school, work or in your community. Travel to places you have always wanted to go but thought you never would, try adventure courses, challenge yourself by pushing an old hobby to a new level. You can also make a list of the ways you habitually procrastinate, try to avoid them and, in case you hinder your progress, develop a disaster recovery plan ahead of time. Take some time to reflect upon the times you lose the track of your plans and acknowledge that procrastinating once again is an endless habit that you should change to see more progress in your life. Put away distractions, frame your goals in specific terms and divide long-term goals into short-term objectives, organize your goals into routines that happen at the same time and place and, make things happen. Humans procrastinate, but also create great things when we decide to change the world and it starts by changing yourself. 


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