Constantly putting things off can increase your risk for the number one killer in America. Find out why, and how to stop procrastinating

By Rachael Schultz
March 30, 2015
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Most procrastinators don't think much of their dilly-dallying ways, but a new study suggests that the bad habit isn't so harmless: People who admit to procrastinating throughout their life are more likely to have heart disease, according to new research in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. (Find out Why the Diseases That Are the Biggest Killers Get the Least Attention.)

What gives? Researchers only looked at the link between health and habits, not the "why", but it stands to reason that the lifestyle of procrastinators isn't exactly heart healthy. Those who put off big decisions and tasks are not only more likely to be stressed in the 11th hour, but those decisions they're delaying could include medical choices and healthy changes-both of which can increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular woes. (Not to mention the effect of stress eating! How to Stop ProcrastinEATing.)

The good news? The research specifically links a lifetime of procrastination with the top killer in the country. That means if you break the bad habit, your heart has a healthier future. The problem is, that's easier said than done: A10-year study found that a put-it-off propensity is an inherent personality trait, much like introversion and extroversion. In fact, the tendency to procrastinate may actually be in your genes, according to a study last year from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Luckily, there are small tricks to finding motivation-and acting on it ASAP.

1. Admit that only you can help. Those who think their romantic partner will help them with a task are more likely to delay tackling it, says a study in Psychological Science. Whether it's knowing the dishes need to get done or trying to get back to the gym, don't fool yourself into thinking anyone else is going to do it for you.

2. Forgive yourself and move on. In a study of slow-starting students, those who forgave themselves after procrastinating (and performing poorly) on the first exam were less likely to delay studying for the second one. Just because you put it off till the last moment last time doesn't mean you have to do that again.

3. Adjust your outlook. We tend to look at tasks in terms of the present and future-categories which also say "do this now" and "do this sometime later" to our brain, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But putting things into the future bucket allows your brain to neglect tasks because it thinks you have infinite time to complete them. Instead, divide your tasks into do today, do this week, and do this month. A looming deadline of the 31st will keep things from slipping through the cracks and give you a concrete completion date to hold yourself to.