True Cost of Procrastination

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a couple weeks, but I kept putting it off J. So yes, I can speak personally about the cost of procrastination.

Until I did some deep-dive introspection, I assumed that the cost of procrastination was the total cost of leaving something not done. For example, not registering in time for a course and paying a late registration surcharge. Or not fixing a leaky roof until the rains set in, making the job much more difficult (or impossible). And yes ,those are real costs, and real consequences.

However, I now perceive that those are not the biggest costs of procrastination. They are merely the most visible and most direct costs, the tip of the iceberg, as it were.

The larger costs are guilt and shame. Here’s why:

Guilt: When I don’t do what I’m supposed to do or what I promised to do, I feel guilty because of my actions or inactions. The disappointment that others express reinforces that guilt. And I also remind myself of my failures. Unfortunately, guilt can be cumulative. Excising the accumulated guilt is a major topic by itself.

Shame: I used to think that guilt and shame were almost synonymous. They are not – guilt is about wrong actions (or lack of actions). Shame relates to the person instead of an action; it says I am a bad person. It is deeper and more powerful than guilt. Procrastination causes shame, because a person knows that they have made the decision to put something off – therefore, they are a bad person. They can’t count on their promises to themselves and others; their word is not worth the breath it takes to speak it (or the time to think it and make a promise to oneself).

Procrastination, by its very nature, feeds both guilt and shame, causing it to be self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. Procrastinators tend to beat themselves up for the act of procrastination. Since the procrastinator is feeling pretty low about their inaction, they tend to not have the energy to go ahead and what needs to be done (unlike the Norwegian bachelor farmers on Prairie Home Companion who eat Powdermilk biscuits). Thus, the procrastination continues in a reinforcing, destructive loop, creating a ravenous beast that can finally completely destroy a person’s sense of self-worth.

So, what are you procrastinating about?

What is it really costing you?

What can I do to help you take that first step to doing what you have been procrastinating over? Let me know – I’m here to help (and I won’t judge!) PS – please don’t say “I’ll e-mail him tomorrow.” You can do it now; my e-mail server doesn’t care what time of day you send it.

Gary Langenwalter

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