Mental Wellness Motivation Personal Positive Thinking

How Does Procrastination Affect Your Sense of Happiness?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In September 2014, two British professors embarked on a study to uncover the repercussions of delayed assignment submissions among students. The outcomes of their research were astonishing, shedding light on a significant incentive for students to overcome procrastination.

Professors David Arnott and Scott Dacko set out to identify procrastinators as those who consistently submitted their end-of-term tasks on the final day. They examined five years’ worth of submission data from 777 marketing students at Warwick Business School. Surprisingly, only around a hundred students out of the cohort managed to submit their assignments ahead of the deadline, while a staggering 669 students waited until the last 24 hours to hand in their tasks. In essence, a staggering 86% of students were categorized as procrastinators.

A parallel study conducted at the University of Vermont in 1984 unveiled that 46% of students admitted to procrastinating when it came to academic paper writing. This statistic may not be entirely astonishing, given the tendency for students to procrastinate on their homework worldwide. It’s a common phenomenon, particularly considering the hectic schedules that college-goers often face. Thus, the 86% figure might not be entirely unexpected.

However, the true revelation emerged within the final 24 hours. As Arnott and Dacko meticulously analyzed the submission data, they observed a troubling pattern unfolding on the last day. Students who submitted their assignments within later hours began to receive progressively lower marks. This decline occurred incrementally, with each passing hour leading to diminished scores. For instance, a student who submitted at 3 pm received lower marks compared to those who had submitted at 2 pm.

It appeared that every hour closer to the deadline was eroding the quality of their work and subsequently impacting their grades. Strikingly, those who opted for last-minute submissions experienced a substantial 5% drop in marks compared to their peers who had submitted their assignments earlier, even before the final day commenced. This 5% discrepancy could be pivotal, potentially translating to a lower grade—a ‘B’ could easily transform into a ‘C+’ due to late submission.

The Implications of Procrastination on Happiness

Undoubtedly, procrastination is a foe to happiness. Numerous studies and surveys have converged to establish this connection. The Procrastination Research Group conducted a comprehensive survey involving over 10,000 respondents, revealing that a staggering 94% of participants acknowledged the negative impact of procrastination on their overall happiness.

According to insights from “Procrastination and Science,” nearly 70% of habitual procrastinators reported lower levels of happiness compared to the average individual. The Warwick study’s findings further supported this notion, as it became evident that waiting until the eleventh hour to complete assignments correlated with poorer grades, ultimately affecting one’s sense of accomplishment and contentment.

The far-reaching consequences of habitual procrastination extend beyond academics. In the realm of relationships, procrastination can lead to damaged bonds, foster a perception of negligence, and hinder career advancement. Procrastinators often resort to fabricating excuses for their delays, but their deception is frequently uncovered, resulting in unfavorable outcomes. These setbacks can indeed erode a significant portion of one’s happiness.

The Root Causes of Procrastination

Procrastination is intricately intertwined with one’s perception of time and is often fueled by a complex interplay of psychological factors, particularly self-esteem-related issues. The primary triggers for procrastination include:

  1. Lack of Interest: Tasks deemed uninteresting or devoid of enjoyment tend to be postponed indefinitely. This behavior stems from the basic human inclination to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, a principle known as task aversiveness.
  2. Impulsiveness: Paradoxically, procrastinators often exhibit impulsivity, leading to an inability to manage goals effectively. This impulsiveness drives them to hop from one task to another, leaving a trail of unfinished endeavors.
  3. Low Self-Confidence: Procrastination frequently arises from a lack of confidence in one’s abilities, fostering fear of failure or success. Low self-esteem plays a pivotal role in perpetuating this behavior.
  4. Anxiety: As deadlines loom closer, anxiety can trigger heightened procrastination. This anxiety-driven response leads individuals to engage in unrelated activities to distract themselves from the impending task.
  5. Unclear Goals: Lack of clarity in goals, distant future objectives, or a complete absence of goals can contribute to procrastination.
  6. Perfectionism: A pursuit of perfection often results in prolonged delays. While certain fields demand meticulousness, excessive perfectionism can hinder timely completion.
  7. Hereditary Factors: Research suggests that up to 46% of procrastination tendencies could be heritable. Genetic predisposition might play a role, but environmental factors also contribute significantly.
  8. Mental Health: Procrastination frequently accompanies various psychological conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, and strained relationships.

Overcoming Procrastination through Scientific Insights

Tackling procrastination requires a comprehensive approach rooted in scientific understanding:

  1. Avoidance: The most effective approach is to actively avoid procrastination. Educators can identify habitual procrastinators and assist them in cultivating improved study habits. Setting clear, achievable goals, breaking them into smaller sub-goals, and tracking progress at defined intervals are key strategies.
  2. Growth Mindset: Adopting a growth mindset, as outlined by psychologist Carol Dweck, fosters a belief in the potential for development through dedication and effort. Embracing challenges as opportunities for growth enhances self-worth and encourages tackling tasks head-on.
  3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Incorporating mindfulness-based psychotherapy like ACT can reduce procrastination, particularly in academic settings. Accepting external factors beyond personal control and committing to enriching actions can mitigate this behavior.

In conclusion, the research conducted by professors Arnott and Dacko, coupled with broader studies on procrastination, underscores the detrimental effects of procrastination on academic performance and overall happiness. While procrastination is a common inclination, its roots often lie in complex psychological dynamics. Employing evidence-based strategies can empower individuals to overcome this hindrance and embrace a more proactive and fulfilling approach to their pursuits.

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