We all procrastinate. Whether at work or at home, there are times when we put off things for later. For most of us procrastinating has become a bad habit.
But could there be some hidden benefits of procrastination?
As they say, old habits die hard. But what if rather than giving up on this habit, we embrace this habit with a twist. This is where Active Procrastination, rather than Passive Procrastination, comes into the picture.
Rather than thinking of procrastination as something that’s holding you hostage, think of it as a positive habit with which you can achieve more in less time. You can use it as a motivator to get more done with those tasks we put off and move on to those things we love doing.
Even Cavemen Procrastinated
Procrastination has been a key part of human civilization since the beginning of time. In fact, historically procrastination has been something that was embraced and charrished. The Greek and Roman leaders regarded procrastination highly and would basically sit around and not do anything unless they absolutely had to.
Consider some striking historical examples of ‘classic procrastinators’. It took Charles Darwin, one of the brightest minds of the 19th century, 20 years to write and publish his book On the Origin of Species.
Another example of a notorious procrastinator is Leonardo da Vinci, who is often described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a scientist, mathematician, artist, writer, inventor, and engineer. Leonardo shared so many ideas well ahead of his time, and his notebooks were full of inventions, groundbreaking research in human anatomy and beautiful artwork. Yet, most of Leonardo’s ideas and concepts were never delivered or published during his lifetime, including the Mona Lisa.
The idea that procrastination is bad really started in the Puritanical era with Jonathan Edwards’s sermon against procrastination and then the American embrace of “a stitch in time saves nine,” and this sort of work ethic that required immediate and diligent action.
Hidden Benefits of Procrastination
Procrastination always seems to get a bad rap, but here are some of the hidden benefits of procrastinating.
1. Procrastination forces us to be more efficient.
A big problem with human nature is that whenever you know there is ample amount of time left to complete something, you won’t put in your best efforts in the first attempt. This is the reason so much time is wasted in doing things over and over again.
When you are an active procrastinator, you are more efficient and there is no scope left for failure. Why? Because you don’t have the time.
2. It releases adrenaline and boosts our energy.
Researchers Tice and Baumeister, found that procrastination could increase performance because ‘the imminent deadline creates excitement and pressure that elicit peak performance’
Procrastination is using fear as a motivator. As a deadline approaches, we fear the consequences of not getting it done on time. That fear releases adrenaline, a natural energy source and pain killer, and feeling less pain makes doing difficult or less desirable tasks easier. Energy is the strongest benefit of procrastination.
3. Procrastination helps you to make better decisions.
When you avoid making a decision, usually it is because you are not sure which is the right choice. Perhaps your mind and your heart do not agree, so you feel conflicted.
Procrastinating gives you time to think about all the options and avoid jumping into a bad decision. Even subconsciously you weigh the pros and cons so you can make a better decision when the deadline arrives.
4. Procrastinating until the last moment forces us to focus.
Studies have shown that the human brain is more focused on doing things when it has limited amount of time to complete something. That’s the whole concept behind embracing active procrastination. You have to give your brain a minimum amount of time to think of something or finish something and there is no option for failure.
5. “Filler” tasks will disappear with procrastination
After procrastinating on a task, you might look at it and not remember why it’s even on your to-do list. This gives you an opportunity to reevaluate whether it’s still important, unnecessary or no longer relevant to you anymore.
6. Procrastination increases our creativity.
You may not realize it but by procrastinating you are giving your mind more time to subconsciously collect different ideas and process through different scenarios. Once you actually sit down and focus you will have already processed through the different options and will know better how you will complete the task.
7. It helps us ignore the perfectionist in us.
Sometimes people fear failing at a given task so they wait until the last minute to do it and then the quality of the finished product can be blamed on the deadline if it isn’t up to the highest standards. “If I had more time I could have done better, but this is the best I could do given the deadline.”
8. Procrastinating makes things appear easier.
When you procrastinate you see the tasks that you can easily complete compared to the one you are avoiding. Taking out the garbage will seam a lot easier when you compare it to cleaning out the garage.
9. Procrastination points out what is important to us.
We are unlikely to procrastinate on things that we truly love or that we really want to do. Why would we be excited to get something done if its a task we hate doing?
Purpose and passion will help you overcome any procrastination hurdle—or make you realize that you’re procrastinating because you’re working on the wrong thing.
Should we embrace the benefits of procrastination?
If you’re an active procrastinator, like me, embrace it. Embrace it so you can get more things done. Embrace it so you can start listening to what your intuition is trying to tell you. Embrace it so you can start doing the things that matter the most to you.
When does procrastinating turn from good to bad?
Remember, we are talking about becoming an active procrastinator from being a procrastinator. And not the other way around.
Active procrastination means you realize that you are unduly delaying mowing the lawn or cleaning your closet, but you are doing something that is more valuable instead.
Passive procrastination is just sitting around on your sofa not doing anything. That clearly is a problem.
Strategies to take advantage of the benefits of procrastination
So since active procrastination can be used as productivity tool start following these strategies so that you become a more productive procrastinator.
Avoid Negative Self Talk
Guilt is the enemy of active procrastination. Making yourself feel guilty about procrastinating turns the active into passive procrastination.
Negative thoughts like: “Why cant i just focus?” “Why am I always procrastinating?” “What is wrong with me?”, should be avoided. Instead only think about the things that you have accomplished.
Practice procrastinating consistently
Once you have quit making yourself feel guilty about procrastinating you need to start practicing procrastinating consistantly. Now hear me out on this one.
Take small breaks during the day to give yourslef time to procrastinate. Set a timer for 30 minutes and spend that time browsing youtube or social media. Then when the time rings come back to the task that needs to be acomplished. Taking these small breaks will prevent you from going on a binge procrastation for the whole day.
Plan your time carefully
Plan out exactly how much time you need to complete the intended task. If you need to write a 1000 word essay, figure out how long you need to complete that. Or if you need to bake two dozen cupcakes, know how long it takes to bake, cool, and frost them.
When you know exactly how long it will take you to complete a task you can then determine what time you need to start on it.
Always stay flexible
The biggest thing you need to remember is that flexibility is the key to happiness. Being a rigid perfectionist will only get to you to a lot of disappointment. Be flexible and learn to accept things that are not perfect.
Interested in learning more about why we procrastinate and how to beat procrastination for good? Check this out!