Procrastination is the Thief of Time

Procrastination is the Thief of Time

Are you a procrastinator?

‘Procrastination is the thief of time’.  Have you heard this phrase before? Well, it’s an old adage coined by the English writer Edward Young in his 10,000-line poem entitled: The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, more simply known as Night-Thoughts.  In the poem, Young muses on death and urges us to ‘be wise to-day’ as life and opportunities can slip away quickly.
Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push’d out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
A similar thought is found in Robert Greene’s Gwydonius (1584), in which he wrote that delaying breeds danger and that “procrastination in perils is but the mother of mishap.”

What does Procrastination Actually Mean?

To procrastinate means to intentionally and habitually delay or put off doing something till a later time. People procrastinate because of many reasons such as those listed below:
a)  The task is too long, complicated, boring, not important or not likeable
b)  They prefer to choose doing their own pleasurable activities
c)  They are too over-confident and believe that they have enough time or the competency to complete the task
d)  They have a ‘care less’ attitude and always believe that nothing bad will happen if they hand in late work and that people will always forgive them
e)  They do it due to peer pressure as they fear being mocked or ridiculed if they turn in their work early  
f)  They procrastinate due to nothing else but pure laziness

The Perils of Procrastination

Postponing doing something is detrimental to yourself as well as others.  It wastes your time and that of others.  Why others?  Because we are living in an interconnected world.  Whatever we do will always affect others in one way or another.  The repercussions of your procrastination will not only hurt you but will cause a ripple effect to other things or people around you.  
For a student, missing deadlines for assignments or being late studying for exams can lead to bad grades and even failures.  When you fail, you either have to repeat your year of study or retake the examination.  This could add more to your already long list of tasks that you need to complete.  Not only time is wasted, but also money and resources.  Even if you don’t fail, doing last-minute work could result in low-quality work, resulting in a lower grade than you are capable of.  Those poor grades will definitely not look good on your testimonials.  But what’s worse is that your poor grades can demoralise you or affect your parents, and other family members.
For an employee, procrastination can also lead to missed deadlines or sloppy work.  Procrastination will do you more harm than good as you are putting yourself under undue stress and pressure.  Steve McClatchy, president of Alleer Training & Consulting and the author of the New York Times bestseller ‘Decide’ said, “When quality matters, then procrastination is not a smart choice. When you have to do a high-priority task or produce high-quality work, or it’s the first time you have ever done a task, then waiting until the last minute to do it precludes your ability to control the quality output of the task making procrastination a poor decision.
In fact, your substandard work may just cause your company to lose profits or important business deals.  This is definitely an unforgiveable act and could very well jeopardise your career.  
Doing things last minute can cause you a lot of stress.  Procrastination is a stress because it often causes you to cram at the last minute.  Stress affects your ability to think properly, remember things, process new information or be creative and critical.  When stress and anxiety attack you, you are mentally exhausted, and you will be easily distracted and prone to making costly and even harmful mistakes in your job.  Stress can also cause a host of other symptoms like headaches, sleep disorders, vision problems, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal systems, to name but a few.  Taking a few days leave to finish your work will not solve your problems as your pending work will accumulate during your absence and generates even more stress when you return.  
Now, even if you managed to get by and submit your work before the deadline, you know for yourself how you have done.  Knowing that you have submitted a less than acceptable quality job, you will continue to worry whether your submitted work meets the criteria set and will be approved by either your superior or your teacher.  The fear of fiasco or failure will start to set in and haunt you day and night.  Such worry and fear can affect a person with a low emotional and mental threshold, lead to breakdowns and depression.  And that is definitely a mishap that we want to avoid.  

Procrastination can Shatter Relationships

Delayed jobs can cause altercations and sour or shatter relationships between children and parents, between husbands and wives, between superiors and subordinates and between friends.  When you are stressed for time to complete your delayed task, you get frustrated and tempers may flare.  You may even have to work twice as hard to complete the task.  As the deadline draws nearer, you may neglect or ignore your other responsibilities, thus causing a rift with your family members, colleagues and friends.  Such stressful situations could have been avoided in the first place. 

Procrastination is a Waste of Time

Time is an essential aspect of our lives. Procrastination leads to loss of precious time.  Time once lost, is lost forever.  It can never be regained.  With time, gone will be the opportunities that come with it.  You will never acquire those opportunities again.  The more we hesitate to do the thing at the moment when it is supposed to be done, the more we tend to lose out.  Time is also associated with money.  By rescheduling things that can be done today to tomorrow, we may have lost what we could have gained today and tomorrow.  Nothing that you do can ameliorate the situation.  Procrastination definitely robs away the treasures that time brings us.  
Some people have a penchant for procrastination and believe that it provides them with the adrenalin to do their tasks last minute.  But this doesn’t work for everybody nor for every situation.  We must also realise that we are not living in isolation and what we do or don't do will definitely have a ripple effect on other people in our lives.  That, by itself, is a selfish and egotistic attitude. 

Benefits of Being Pro-Active

Starting on your task early allows you time to plan better, gather information and make modifications or improvements to your work.  This will not only eliminate errors but will actually improve the quality of your work.  In this era where quality is of the essence rather than quantity, we cannot be more prudent than ensuring excellent work.  Quality work doesn’t come by chance.  You need to put in effort to churn out quality and creative work.  There are no short cuts to this.  So if you start early, you have a better chance of producing a superior job.
If you are punctual and complete things on time, you boost your own self-esteem and people will respect and trust you.  A person who works hard and does not procrastinate will be more successful in their career, studies, relationship and life.


Procrastination is a debilitating illness that can rob you of your success both in studies and in your career.  It’s always better to err on the side of caution than to regret for the rest of your life.  Starting work early will not cost you anything but rather can help you in doing your job better and more efficiently.  Submitting an assignment or job before the due date may give you chance to modify your work based on feedback from your teacher or supervisor.  People can forgive you better if you allow them time to make suggestions for corrections than if you cause them more problems due to your mediocre work.  Dilatory work does not benefit anyone and in fact could harm everyone.  If something needs to be done, even if the deadline is still far away, it is best to act quickly to accomplish it.  This will not only lessen the number of tasks that you have to complete, it will also de-escalate your worries.  Too much worrying over things can lead to a whole host of mental and emotional issues.

So, remember, for your own behoof, do not procrastinate and always be proactive.

MBA student Hanna Abdelwahab is a regular writer for our ‘Student Column’ for WUAS News.  This column is dedicated to various topics related to student life and the future that holds for them.  Hanna is originally from Singapore but has migrated to Egypt in 2011.  She has a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from Singapore and at present is doing her MBA in Education Management.

WUP 30/4/2019
by Hanna Abdelwahab
©WUAS Press