Procrastination Is Not Evil — Here’s Why
Do you feel like procrastinating has been a detriment to your productivity and progress? It might surprise you to know that it can actually have the exact opposite effect.
So many articles and self-help gurus condemn the practice of procrastination. The premise always seems to be that you waste time doing things that aren't relevant to the task at hand. And eliminating this from your life is the first step towards success.
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that we should focus on removing this from our lives. It’s an inevitable behaviour that we’ll all experience at some point or another. Don’t judge yourself if you do. If you were completely free of this behaviour, well you’d be a robot.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
There’s no exact reasoning for why we like to put off doing things. But I’ve surmised four common reasons:
- We aren’t confident in our abilities
- The thing we’re putting off has low value to us
- We’re easily distracted
- We have a lot of time to complete the task
Now I’m not saying we should be lazy bums and shirk our responsibilities and commitments.
I’m merely introducing a perspective on the subject that gets us to rethink the way we view procrastination. That it’s not a good or bad thing, but something that naturally happens. Perhaps even as a by-product of the expectations we set for ourselves.
On the procrastinator scale, I’d say that I’m at an intermediate to advanced level. Some days I’m really on top of my tasks and my goals. Other days, I’m leaving things down to the wire.
I used to get really down on myself when I had to rush to get something done, whether it be a school assignment or some work task. I would just feel bad that I squandered so much time. If I just spent more time upfront I could have prevented so much stress for myself.
But then I started to ask myself these questions:
Are you getting things done when you said you were going to get them done?
And is it done to the ability and quality that you expected (or more)?
My answer would always be yes. Whether I finished something early or at the last minute, the quality of my work was pretty much the same.
Matter of fact, some of my best work has come from times of procrastination.
Two reasons why I believe procrastination has led to some of my success:
Pressure Fuels Progress
There’s nothing like the pressure of a looming deadline that gives your motivation a swift kick in the butt. Getting to work is not quite the same when we know we have a lot of time to get it done.
This is especially true when you’re trying to do something that you have no experience or knowledge in. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in a short period of time. Especially if what’s at stake is important to you, like your job, a client deal, a sponsorship, or rent.
Creativity Strikes During Times of Non-Intention
None of my ideas (not good ones anyway) come when I’m thinking about ideas. They come when I’m as far removed from the task as possible.
They come in the shower.
They come when I’m scrolling through Twitter.
They come when I’m washing dishes.
I’ve said this many times but I’ll say it again. Procrastination is not bad for you. If you want to have success, embrace those moments when you’re removed from your work.
When we work we’re often so focused on the task at hand that we close ourselves off to perspectives influenced by our surroundings. So if you’re looking to improve and push the boundaries of your abilities, take time to step back, at least for a little while.
Where to Start?
There’s a concept called Parkinson’s Law. It states that work tends to fill the time you assign to it.
Here’s how I interpret it. If you have a long time to complete a task, you’re going to figure out a way to use up the time. And it may not all be spent working. Likewise, if you have a task with a short timeframe to complete, you’re going to figure out a way to get it done in that time.
Set Reasonable Timelines for Yourself
Every task you take on should have a deadline.
Doesn’t matter if it’s for something at home, school or work.
Doesn’t matter who sets it either. Can be you, your partner, your boss. Whoever.
The time in between is irrelevant. Bonus if you fill the time with other activities that are meaningful to you and provide value.
But if your output is not up to the expected quality, then you got a problem.
Remember, you can procrastinate, delay, put things off as much as you want. But only if you get your work done at the agreed time and at the expected level of quality.
I’m a huge believer in the sink or swim mentality. Giving yourself too much time disincentivizes efficiency. Conversely, tight timelines encourage it. Plus you’ll discover tenacity and moxie in yourself that you otherwise would not have uncovered.
Procrastination is not an evil to be exorcised from our lives. Embrace it as a natural occurrence, bred from deadlines we set for our tasks and our goals.
The next time you have a task, ask yourself this.
When is the latest I can start working on it to still get it done on time and on quality? Spend any extra time however you like, especially if it’s on something you genuinely enjoy.
Are you a regular procrastinator? Can you think of any times where you’ve ended up better off by putting things off for a while?