15 Examples of Procrastination in School, Work, and Life

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We have all put off doing something that we didn't look forward to. For most people, this doesn't happen often. For others, however, procrastination is so ingrained that this happens regularly… even when it’s something positive. It’s as if they are sabotaging their own happiness.

Chronic procrastination is something that needs to be addressed and corrected, as it can have a profoundly negative effect on the quality of your life.  “There is no time like the present.” This is true for so many reasons.

In this article, we will address some of the causes of procrastination, as well as offer several examples of procrastination. Believe it or not, it’s not always obvious. Instead, it may be disguised in a way that you won’t recognize it until it is too late. 

What Is Procrastination?

Procrastination is defined as the act of unnecessarily delaying or postponing something. This action normally involves some task that is either unpleasant or seems overwhelming, but there are many other reasons that can contribute to this.

For the person who is a habitual procrastinator, learning how to stop isn't simply a matter of “Just do it.” Distractions come too easily. It helps to first understand the different types of procrastination and learn to identify what reasons are behind the behavior.

Two Types of Procrastination

There are two types of things we procrastinate on… those with deadlines and those without. The tasks with deadlines normally end up getting done eventually. They may involve a great deal of panic as the deadline approaches, and even some missed deadlines. Deadline-based goals include tests to study for, a report due at work, or paying household bills.

The most harmful tasks are those without deadlines. When there is no sense of urgency, these tasks tend to get pushed to the bottom of our to-do list. As a result, they run a greater risk of eventually disappearing from our radar completely. 

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The most harmful tasks are those without deadlines.

Examples of this type of procrastination include booking a dream vacation, going back to school to advance your career, or simply getting in shape. Putting off things such as these can cause the most harm in our lives. They so often lead to missed opportunities, delayed personal growth, clutter and regret. 

With either type of procrastination, you tend to sell yourself short. The things you have to do may happen eventually, but rarely will the things you want to do. There are many things, other than regret, that are at stake for the constant procrastinator.

Harmful Effects of Procrastination

Procrastination can lead to a great many problems in addition to guilt, dread, and anxiety. Repeated stress from procrastination can also lead to physical problems. Some of the more common problems include:

  • Academic issues such as poor exam scores, course failures, and an increased chance of dropping out.
  • Employment issues such as lower salary, shorter duration of employment, and under-employment. A study done showed that chronic procrastinators tended to have a $15,000 lower salary than those who get things done when needed.
  • Interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and coworkers due to chronic lateness and being undependable.
  • Well-being suffers as feelings of guilt, shame, frustration, and sadness set in.
  • Health issues arise as procrastination leads to not only delays in making medical appointments but the having to deal with issues caused by lack of sleep and stress such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

With all of these bad effects of procrastination, it is essential that you examine why it happens to start with. Only by understanding the cause can you begin to push past it.

Reasons for Procrastination

Many people think that procrastination is simply a lack of self-control or plain laziness. While these are two possible reasons, the subject is a lot more complicated. For some people, it is a combination of reasons.

Taking the time to look deep inside yourself, you can begin to see a pattern in your procrastination. Then, it will be easier to start to change your behavior. In some cases, you may need help with this.

Changing won't happen overnight, but it will happen with continued persistence. Let's look at some of the possible reasons for your procrastination.

  • Abstract goals. It can be difficult to act on something that is unclear, such as “get in shape”. You need to have a good idea of how you will do something.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Anxiety
  • You don't like the task.
  • Perfectionism. 
  • Fear of negative feedback from those whose opinions matter to you
  • Fear of failure
  • ADHD. This often creates a lack of ability to maintain focus long enough or the ability to organize your task.
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Choice paralysis when there are too many options
  • Lack of impulse control

Let's take a look now at a view of procrastination that isn't often discussed.

Is Procrastination Always Bad?

There is a form of procrastination called productive procrastination that can be beneficial when used sparingly. This type of procrastination involves doing constructive tasks, while avoiding the main one. For example, you may finish off the majority of your to-do list while you are avoiding one of the major tasks. There are other potential benefits such as:

  • You can gain more time before acting, giving you clearer direction.
  • You can reserve your resources if you are limited in time or energy.
  • Prioritizing your work becomes easier.
  • Focusing and entering flow may happen better once panic sets in.
  • Feelings of control can be enhanced.

It is important to understand that most things in life do have both good and bad points. In the case of procrastination, the good effects can be realized in a small number of cases, but the poor outcomes far outweigh the good.

15 Examples of Procrastination

Now let's take a look at fifteen examples of procrastination. You may be surprised at some of them and may recognize yourself in others.

Examples of Procrastination in School

1. You wait until the night before a big project is due. You end up working all night and end up tired the next day and hand in work that isn't anywhere near what you are capable of.

2. You want to participate in the school play but you keep putting off signing up for tryouts. By the time you decide to make the move, the sign-up is closed.

3. You want to attend the school dance with a certain person. You keep finding reasons why it isn't the correct time and the day of the dance arrives without you ever asking.

4.  You are paired up with a partner on a very important science project. You keep delaying the tasks you need to perform and your partner not only has to do their part but also yours. If there isn't enough time, you both end up failing and you lose a friend.

5. The final test is scheduled to happen in two weeks. You keep meaning to study but distractions seem to be everywhere. You may try studying the night before, but you are so overwhelmed by the amount of material you give up. You enter the classroom feeling defeated before you even see the test.

Examples of Procrastination at Work

6. You are due to make a presentation at the annual meeting of stockholders. You keep putting it off and on the day of the meeting, you walk in completely unprepared.

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Many people think that procrastination is simply a lack of self-control or plain laziness.

7. Getting ready for work in the mornings, you keep finding things you feel you have to do such as taking out the trash, fixing school lunches, and scheduling an appointment. This becomes an almost daily habit and you always end up late for work, which results in you being reprimanded and risking being fired.

8. A coworker asks you for help on a project that they can't handle alone. You start feeling overwhelmed with adding that work to your own but don't want to disappoint them. Their project keeps getting pushed to the end of your to-do list. You arrive to work on the day the coworker needs your part of the project and you don't have it. They get in trouble and you create tension with the entire office staff.

9. You own your own business as a construction worker. A large project comes in that could make your business stand out. You take it on but are soon questioning your skill so you fill your time with researching lumber prices, recalculating material sizes, etc. You miss the day the client expects the project to be done and they take the project elsewhere.

10. It is your job to entertain visiting corporate leaders. You arrive late to pick them up. What is worse is that you failed to make a reservation for the restaurant they are expecting to eat at and by the time you made their room reservations, the hotel only had inferior accommodations. You end up losing your job.

Examples of Procrastination in Life

11. It is your job to arrange the wedding reception for your sister. You can't make up your mind on the details and keep finding things to change. On the day of the reception, you discover you missed making a final decision on both the menu and flowers. Your sister is extremely disappointed as you run around trying to fix things, and you feel like a complete failure.

12. You have been having stomach pains regularly but haven't made an appointment to see your doctor because you fear what he will say. You end up being rushed to the hospital with a ruptured gall bladder and need emergency surgery.

13. You would love to run the annual marathon but need to get in better shape to increase your endurance. You want to start running but keep finding other things that you put more importance on. A week before the marathon, you feel defeated and wonder if you should even bother next year.

14. You have always dreamed of becoming a nurse. You need to go to nursing school but tell yourself you'll do it when you save enough money not to need loans. Then you need to wait until the kids are in school. Then you find yourself waiting until they leave home. You reach a point where you feel you are too old and are disappointed that you never achieved your dream.

15. Your kids want to participate in afterschool sports but they need you to sign paperwork and take them for physicals. Between work and taking care of the house, you keep “forgetting: or telling yourself you will do it in the morning when you are less tired. Deadlines pass and your kids are disappointed and angry and you are beating yourself up because you feel like the worst parent ever.

Final Thoughts on Examples of Procrastination

When you take a good, hard look at your life… what do you see? Are you among the small percentage of people that blame procrastination for the majority of your disappointments and failures? Do you make excuses more than you make things happen?

If so, you should educate yourself on The Anti-Procrastination Habit Companion course we developed. It is designed to help you get back control of your life and start living up to your full potential, personally and professionally. Don’t waste any more time. Take back control of your life!

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15 Examples of Procrastination in School, Work, and Life