We're all guilty of putting off an assignment or two from time to time, but what happens if you're constantly procrastinating?
A little procrastination can actually be useful when it comes to getting projects done the right way. Having some degree of capacity for procrastination may be valuable in that it gives people the ability to think, reflect and evaluate what they're doing, said Leslie Sherlin, co-founder and chief science officer at SenseLabs, a company that uses neuroscience research to help improve human performance.
However, too much procrastination can cause more trouble than it's worth.
"Many individuals have a challenging time managing last-minute expectations, and therefore the procrastination process leads to failure rather than success," Sherlin said. "[These people] wait until the last minute because they are either playing triage with other duties, haven't yet formulated what they want to talk about or how to effectively satisfy the task, or they just simply are [uninterested.]"
Sherlin said the problem with this scenario is that when you wait until the last minute, the pressure mounts, and many people perform less than their best under pressure in a medium-stakes environment. Having a little bit of "pre-game jitters" can be effective, but there's a threshold to it — if the pressure reaches that threshold, your performance will suffer, Sherlin said.
If you spend most of your time in the workplace procrastinating, it's likely you aren't doing your best. And doing so could be affecting your affecting your health, too. According to Sherlin, there's a large body of evidence that shows how procrastination contributes to feeling unrested and experiencing increased sleep disturbances, which causes a sort of snowball effect as that lack of sleep can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated and cause you to procrastinate more.
"Working to decrease our behaviors that contribute to procrastination will reduce the snowball effect and lead to better outcomes in life, [as well as] a healthier, happier lifestyle," Sherlin said. [Quiz: Is Your Work-Life Balance Healthy? ]
So, are you just an occasional procrastinator, or is putting things off a real problem for you in the workplace? Take Sherlin's quiz to find out. Simply answer "true" or "false" to the following questions, and see how your scores add up below.
1. __________ I rarely start a task immediately after receiving it.
2. __________ I like to think about all the angles of a situation before responding.
3. __________ The excitement of the last minute makes me perform better.
4. __________ Sometimes I delay starting a task because it might change and I don't want to waste time.
5. __________ The best deals can often be had at the last minute.
6. __________ I like to start and finish a task straight through without trying to create smaller steps.
7. __________ Sometimes the last-minute anxiety is more than I can handle.
8. __________ I like to push things off, giving myself more time to reflect and strategize about their completion.
9. __________ I often find myself turning things in at the very last minute.
10. __________ My boss rarely knows if I procrastinated.
Mostly true: If you answered true to seven or more statements, then you are definitely a procrastinator and may need to take some steps toward being timelier in completing work.
Equally true and false: If you answered true to four to seven statements, you are a moderate procrastinator. You might not need to take immediate actions but should recognize patterns that might cause you to be less successful.
Mostly false: If you answered true to three or fewer statements, you definitely are not a procrastinator and likely pride yourself on turning in work early.