Procrastination is a Good Thing: Quit Trying to Overcome Procrastination
Just DON'T do it! Let the Project Sit
Procrastination is talked about in two ways – as an obstacle that ruins any chance of reaching goals, or procrastination is a badge of honor posted on social media sites with memes that ooze sarcasm. Rarely is procrastination talked about as a good thing.
Procrastination is blamed when people can’t manage their time. For some people It’s the rationalization that gives them a way out of not reaching their goals or objectives.
But for some of us, putting things off is how we work best - it's our driving motivation to success. But society treats it like a disease that that has to be cured, which leads to unnecessary stress.
Procrastination by definition means “the action of delaying or postponing something” – it does not mean the “something” will never be done.
Why do you Have to Overcome Procrastination?
What if you could leverage procrastination and use it to work towards something – and never fail? To find out how to do this I suggest you read the entire article because you’re sure to find the answers to your struggles with procrastination.
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Procrastination Gets a Raw Deal
Procrastination by definition means “the action of delaying or postponing something” – it does not mean the “something” will never be completed.
We develop procrastination habits as children; and it starts with being told to clean our bedrooms. Hours later it’s still not done – even if there is a threat of grounding or some other punishment, we’re still not motivated to do it.
When we move into our teens, we have assignments due but suddenly realize on the day its due that we haven’t even started it. So we quickly slap something together, hand it in and then get a low grade.
However, there is always the person where it works the opposite way – they slap something together in an hour and get an A+ - why is that? Keep reading to find out.
From childhood on, we learn that whenever we can’t do something we can just blame it on procrastination.
As Adults Procrastination Changes Slightly from Childhood
When we’re adults this changes a bit, but not drastically. We have a deadline, and stress over it, and become terrified (as if it’s something so horrible our lives as we know it will end). But when we were children we weren’t usually motivated by fear, we just didn’t think having a clean room was important.
So our answer as adults is to try to block it out and not think about our task or project, with a promise we’ll get back to it some other time. But the problem is that it never really goes away, it’s an elephant in any room we’re in – although it’s all in our head. This thinking then leads to stress and guilt.
But, believe it or not, there are benefits to procrastination.
Another Take on the Benefits of Procrastination
In an article written by Pamela Wiegartz, Ph.D on the Psychology Today website she puts the benefits of procrastination in this light:
"We typically just think of procrastination as a negative thing. But, while the benefits of procrastination are often hidden, they can sap your motivation to change nonetheless. Some examples of the benefits of procrastination include:
• You get to put off unpleasant tasks in favor of more enjoyable things.
• Problems may end up getting solved without any effort from you.
• You can avoid the possibility of failure-or success.
• You get to avoid the discomfort of doing something you dread.
• You can avoid the anxiety you feel about the task.
• Someone may come to your rescue and do it for you.
• The demands placed on you get lifted because you dragged your feet.
Benefits of Procrastinating
- It frees up time to get other stuff done – the things you enjoy doing that also have to get done. If you had completed what you were procrastinating right away, you wouldn’t have gotten the other important things on your list done.
- You do things you absolutely have to do, so you get some things off your to-do list; and one day, if you let it, the task you’ve been dreading because you haven't started it yet will naturally go to the top of the list.
- While you’re mulling your project over in your head, you’re thoughtfully thinking of ways to get through it, rather than starting it without a solid plan. This system helps you make better decisions because gathering information leads to a successful completion, because we all know that knowledge is power.
- Procrastinating is a stress release for you (in a way) and the second you decide you’ll put it off you get a feeling of freedom because you don’t have to face it at that moment.
- Procrastinating helps you think outside the box, because if you leave it until the last minute, you’ll look for ways to get it done quicker – which also keeps you away from time killers such as Facebook.
- Often at work when you procrastinate it turns out to be a good thing because you know that it’s not that important, so you go with your gut – you don’t get motivated to do it. Eventually something really important comes up and the initial task falls by the wayside.
The 2 Best Benefits of Procrastination
What I believe to be the two best benefits of procrastinating are, the insight you get into what is really important to you; and listening to your gut.
Insight: Sometimes when you procrastinate it’s because deep down you know it’s trivial, and more than likely important to someone else, not you.
Follow Your Gut: Sometimes we just have to follow our gut, because there is a reason why we’re procrastinating. In Marie Forleo’s video (below) she gives a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
Procrastination is a Good Thing - If Your Gut Says so
Two Types of Procrastinators
In an article written by sales leadership expert Lisa Earle Mcloud on the Huffington Post website, she describes the two mindsets as:
Those who thrive under pressure:
“Deadlines ignite energy. And the closer they get, the more energy you have.”
Others who crumble under pressure:
“Some people are methodical by nature. It makes them physically ill to leave things until right before the deadline.”
Putting Tasks Off Helps you Prioritize
Can you Channel Procrastination to Your Advantage?
Not everyone can deal with procrastination by putting it off until the last minute. The mindset of letting it go for a time is powerful and will give you comfort if you let it, and procrastination won’t affect your professional or personal life.
Try to remember times when you have procrastinated, and perhaps hated the feeling when you knew you had to work fast and focus to get it done in time; but you always had confidence that when that time came, you would do what you had to do.
If you can think of a lot of times where this has happened then procrastination isn’t really a problem for you; because you step up every time and it motivates you. But the problem you actually have is dealing with the guilt that comes with procrastinating.
You understand the “real” time it will take you to accomplish a certain task or goal because you’ve mulled it over, and you’re just mentally waiting for that specific time that you will do it.
Is there anything wrong with that situation?
No! But we judge ourselves and others who put things off and we shouldn’t – because eventually it gets done – but on a different time schedule.
Procrastination Strategy - Thriving Under Pressure
Using procrastination productively is what we’re going to talk about for those of you who thrive under pressure. Not the bad kind of pressure that brings on anxiety, but the exhilarating pressure that makes you race towards success.
Some people use procrastination to give themselves some relaxation time. They’re busy all day with work, family, and fun, so they need some time to just relax.
Those of us who make time for relaxation deal better with procrastination because we get our down time so we have energy to get to the finish line when it’s time to get er done.
Leveraging Procrastination Arouses Creativity
In an article on the Huffington Post website written by Lisa Earle Mcleod a sales leadership expert, she makes some excellent points on how procrastinating heightens creativity.
“T.S. Elliot once said, "Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity." We tend to think that we need to be in a zen state to get creative. Wrong. When you have to get it done RIGHT NOW, you get super creative, super fast. You ignore your inner critic because you don't have the time to listen to her. When anxiety kicks in it blows the doors off your preconceived ideas, which opens the space for creativity to take over.”
Those who don’t take this needed time can’t complete the task at hand because they’re emotionally drained.
So, to harness the power of procrastination, you have to give yourself some TLC time, to just relax and think about all the blessings in your life. So when the time comes, you’ll have the mental and physical energy to focus, then work hard and fast on what you’ve been procrastinating.
“If you know you're not going to do it until the 11th hour, make sure that you keep the 11th hour open. Knowing that you have a time blocked out to get it done tomorrow frees up your mental energy today. Don't delude yourself into thinking you'll do a little bit each day. Start an idea list, jot stuff down when you think about it, and give yourself a big chunk of time right before the thing is due. When the 11th hour arrives, you're amped up and ready to go.”
Leveraging Procrastination Takes Time
Procrastination puts off (delays) the inevitable. You know you have a task to do, but you don’t feel like dealing with it so you do something you want to deal with.
Don’t fight it – wholeheartedly give into that feeling – it will be the motivator you need to get it done at the last minute.
Allowing yourself to procrastinate won’t happen instantly – you have to learn how to let yourself work with procrastination rather than fighting it.
Structured Procrastinator – Active Procrastination
For those of you who like labels for concepts, what I’ve been discussing here is people who are structured procrastinators, who practice active procrastination.
These terms come from two authors, John Perry, a Stanford University professor of philosophy/part-time professor at the University of California, and author of The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing and Frank Partnoy, a leading expert on market regulation and author of Wait, The Art and Science of Delay.
For the Structured Procrastinator
The Highlights of the BookThe Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing
- You work with your personality, so you don’t have to try to change who you are.
- You see how you can channel your unstructured procrastination into a system, hence making it structured. As of right now, it’s just something you do that confuses you. But if you know how to turn it into a somewhat structured system it will make more sense to you.
- Humor is the best medicine? In his book Perry uses humor to see the paradox with the concept of procrastination.
Don’t Get This Book if You're Not a Structured Procrastinator - Use the Mind Map Below
If you aren’t a structured procrastinator, and like to do things methodically, and the thought of putting things off to the last minute makes you physically ill, then this book will not make any sense to you – and may even irritate you.
But, you may find my mind map below very helpful.
Mind map for the Methodical Procrastinator
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If Wait piques your interest, it is available to read online for free (legally). You just have to click the link to get to Amazon, and the customer reviews speak about the online version.
Wait – The Art and Science of Delay is somewhat more technical because it uses science to explain why we should wait to make decisions.
In his book, Partnoy’s theory is that by putting off making decisions, or taking on a position should be left to the last minute because it gives you the benefit of time to mull over the information you have and develop ideas.
For a more detailed book review you can go to the Wall Street Journal review written by Christopher F. Chabris .
Frank Partnoy’s theme in his book Wait - The Art and Science of Delay can be summarized by the quote he refers to:
"The essence of intelligence would seem to be in knowing when to think and act quickly, and knowing when to think and act slowly."— Robert Sternberg
Why do you Dread the Task?
While you're putting the task or project off to mull it over, think about why you dread the task in the first place.
What specifically is causing you to dread completing the task? If it’s giving a presentation at work, perhaps you’re afraid of not getting the respect you deserve.
Whatever you’re dreading let yourself understand the reasons you’re mind wants to avoid it – the worst case scenario. After you figure out what scares or bothers you, you can develop a plan to get through the task without having to actually face that fear – in the real world - because it's probably just in you head.
Find out below if it's really something you have to fear.
3 Step Solution to Catastrophic Thinking
In an article on the Psychology Today website written by Dr. Ron Breazeale, he calls dreading the worst-case scenario Catastrophic Thinking – Catastrophic Thinking is Ruminating About Irrational Worst-case Outcomes.
In his article he talks about critical situations such as when you can’t reach your spouse so you start thinking of the worst possible situation. However, his tips to deal with these situations can be used to face your worst-case scenario outcome that is causing you to procrastinate.
- Identify it for what it is – an irrational worst-case scenario
- Identify best case scenarios
- Look at these best-case possibilities and identify whether or not they are most likely outcomes.
To accomplish number 3 you have to bridle your fear so you can think rationally. After you weigh the evidence and facts, you can see the situation clearly for what what it really is.
Worst-Case Scenerio vs. Best
The worst can happen, BUT so can the BEST outcome.
The Process: Completing Your Procrastination List
Once you know the origin of your fear, see if there is anything in the task that you have no problem doing. For example, let's say you have a writing project to do. Your dilemma is that you love doing the research, but have no idea what you're going to include.
Rather than not doing anything, you can start your research, and put the topic ideas and article presentation task on your procrastination (to do later) list.
Initial Brainstorming and Mental Relief
While you’re doing your research, dig down on what you’re dreading about the topics and formatting.
What is it that’s confusing you about what you’re going to write about? Is it for you, or for a client? Do they want you to write about something you don’t have any interest in? Are you too passionate about the topic, and you’re worried it won’t flow together?
Start writing an outline while you’re doing your research. Then when you’re done, allow yourself to procrastinate on the actual writing portion of the project.
It's break time, so go do something that relaxes you, between doing the task you love and the task you’re dreading...Big sigh of relief!
While you’re taking this break from your task you’re actually recharging your mental energy. So when you go back to it you'll focus and get it done as quickly as possible- when you decide it’s time - probably at the last minute.
Is Your Project Delayable?
I believe that you can’t put off everything to the last minute; particularly when it comes to your health. If you have chest pains you should seek medical attention – health is never something you should procrastinate – even if you don’t like going to the doctor.
I learned this the hard way when I had gallbladder attacks. I kept putting it off thinking it was just a stomach ache and it would go away, rather than going to the doctor because I hate the wait time at the doctors office.
Another time it isn’t worth it to procrastinate is when you don’t get pleasure from the delay. If you aren’t going to take the time to enjoy doing something that relaxes you, you may as well get the task off your list so you can relax when you’re finished.
Of course, this could be a sign that you're not a structured procrastinator.
Other times you'll find that it will only take minutes to complete a task after you analyze the situation, so you don't really benefit from delaying the task.
Dealing With Judgment
You still have to deal with the guilt trip from society that says there’s something wrong with people who procrastinate; because this plays a big role in why a lot of people are miserable.
Because of peer pressure, the stress and worry about delaying tasks takes over the emotional benefits of postponing them. Which causes structured procrastinators to fight their inner voice telling them they're most successful when they wait until the last minute.
Isn’t allowing yourself the chance to enjoy life a good thing?
Procrastination can be a Powerful Force
Welcome the idea that you can use procrastination as a driving force to get stuff done that others can’t. But be prepared for judgment when you choose this route.
Perhaps you got in trouble for procrastinating when you were growing up. The flip side is that now that you’re an adult, the only thing you have to answer to is your conscience.
So do what works for you, and accept that some people won’t understand how you work through projects – all that really matters is that you accomplish your goals and projects on time.
We live in world that moves at warped speed, and stress is becoming a bigger and bigger problem because of it. There should never be a situation where getting things done at your own pace becomes an evil – but unfortunately it does.
Leverage procrastination so that it propels you to your destination. It doesn’t have to be a mountain in your way to stop you from reaching your goals.
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How Likely are you to Quit Trying to Overcome Procrastination and set up a System and Use Procrastination to Just Not do it Until You're Ready?See results without voting
A Roller Coaster Ride
If you practice active procrastination you enjoy the feeling of pressure as you work through a task – it spurs you into action when you're ready to take it. This way of thinking is similar to how people think about roller coaster rides.
Some people don’t understand why others get enjoyment from the terror of going up and down at high speeds, while others laugh and totally enjoy the gut wrenching twists.
“Don't let the anal planners of the world make you feel like a sloth. If you have a busy, engaging life, you're always going to be doing a lot of last-minute juggling and rearranging. Instead of beating yourself up about procrastination, think of it as continual re-prioritizing. Bottom line: If you're getting the important things done, your system is working.”— Lisa Earle Mcloud
Procrastination Recap for Those who Thrive Under Pressure
Procrastination exists and everyone does it - some more than others. But it's a non issue if you thrive under pressure. . In fact, procrastinating helps you do the best job you can, in the shortest time possible. Let's take another look at the benefits of procrastinating:
- It frees up your time to do stuff you enjoy
- You allow yourself to do the things you enjoy
- While you're putting off your project you still mull it over in your head and devise plans and ideas.
- You get a stress release because you choose to put it off, but you know it will get done.
- When you go to do the task you will find the quickest way to do it, because you left it until the last minute.
- You plan ahead so you manage your time so you can complete it at the last minute
- You give yourself time to think about why you don't want to deal with the task
- You learn to recognize when your gut is telling you it's not important
- You get insight into what you really think is important
- Problems get solved without any effort from you
- You can avoid anxiety about the task
- Someone may end up doing it for you
Procrastination is Good Thing - Quit Trying to Overcome It
The issue is that in society, procrastination and procrastinating are about as popular as cigarette smoking. It's looked down upon and considered a plague.
The goal is to get the task, or project done - If gets done on time, it doesn't matter when and how you did it.
In the infographic titled 17 Lazy Procrastination Statistics the one that caught my eye was
"In studies conducted by Ferrari and Tice, where men and women perform an identical task twice. And results found that participants procrastinated for 60% of the time."
It doesn't say they didn't get it done - they procrastinated - so what?
Stop Trying to Overcome Procrastination
Instead of trying to overcome procrastination, work on overcoming people's judgment that procrastinating is bad.
An Expert Structured Procrastinator
The most organized and productive person I ever worked with was a lawyer named Jill. She always had her work done on time, her inbox was almost always empty, and she was always ready and willing to take on more work- she was a new lawyer in a very busy law firm.
Yet, I rarely saw her sitting at her desk working.
Now I realize she was a professional structured procrastinator. She was always calm and extremely easy going.
Jill was very sociable at work, and in her private life. She liked to do things she enjoyed as often as she could do them. She would be the first person to tell you that she didn't like to work, although she loved her career choice.
She had a method to her madness and it was simply having a system. She embraced her procrastinating qualities then channeled them to be successful.and productive.
She would get a project, but instead of getting to work on it right away she would think about it for a few days. She would tie in tasks for the project (research, phone calls, information gathering) with her other menial tasks like returning phone calls and going through her mail - answering what she needed to.
As she exercised, visited with friends, traveled to and from work and visited with friend she would mull the project over and think of the quickest and best way to get it done.
By the time she went to do it, she had it all planned out in her head - what she would do herself, and what she would delegate. She had what she would need organized (by only spending a few minutes a day on it),
When she took action, she was focused, had a solid plan and wrapped it up in a few hours.
Will You Practice Active Procrastination?
If you're someone who thrives under pressure, and procrastinates until the last minute, do you have a procrastination system in place? Are you going to start working in one?
What's your thoughts on societies negative undertone to procrastination, and do you let it stress you out?
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