Most of us have a to-do list to check through at the beginning of our work day. However, most mornings when you get to work, you start off by checking emails, then decide that a quick peep into your Facebook profile wouldn’t hurt, find an interesting video posted by your friend, comment on it, join a discussion about it only to find that there are some interesting forwards waiting for you on WhatsApp in your phone, you go through them… and before you know it, it’s time for lunch. You promise yourself that you would start working after lunch. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle that is most commonly referred to as procrastination. Putting work off by indulging in seemingly unnecessary things is what procrastination is usually defined as. By the end of the day, you end up feeling guilty for having wasted your time as procrastination is always seen as a negative thing to do.
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However, a few people are out to change this now. They are of the opinion that procrastination is actually not all that bad. Some have even gone to the extent of saying that if you do it positively, procrastination can ultimately help you get more work done. Frank Partnoy, author of the book Wait, asks us to embrace procrastination and calls it the art of managing delay. On similar lines is the thought put forward by Stanford professor John Perry in his book The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, which he came up with on a tangential thought break he took when he was supposed to be grading papers. According to Perry, unstructured or passive procrastination is where the problem lies. That is plain laziness. If you are a “structured” or “positive” procrastinator, who does other important things while procrastinating, then you are, in effect, getting more things done.
So here is how positive or structured procrastination will help you:
Humourist Robert Benchley once wrote, “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” If they have a task at hand and want to put it off, positive procrastinators always find an alternative task to fill in this space. They will seldom be unoccupied. For instance, you might research something else, pay bills, shop online – all of which you would have had to set aside other time from your schedule to complete. You will ultimately come back to your work too, but if you were to only do that assigned task for the whole day, you may not have achieved the whole other spectrum of smaller tasks that you managed to complete by procrastinating.
At the heart of the concept of procrastination lies the urge to delay doing things or making decisions till the point you really have to act. So procrastinating before making a decision always gives you the much required time to come up with a justified solution. You avoid jumping into conclusions or making hasty choices. Procrastination is then buying you more time to weigh the pros and cons of the decision you make. By the time the deadline is here, you would have thought the situation out thoroughly and will come up with a well-rounded decision.
According to Psychology Today, it is natural to procrastinate if you have a big and daunting task ahead of you. When you procrastinate, unconsciously, the article says, your mind is working on ways to get the task done. It is subconsciously collecting more ideas and creating different combinations of the existing ideas to come up with an easier way to manage the task at hand. So by procrastinating, you have time to collect ideas and get creative with them.
When the deadline nears, you start tackling the task at hand like there’s no tomorrow. You will then be fully aware of the time limitation and be incredibly focussed. Your brain works at its full capacity, using the ideas you have gathered in this time and helping you come out with a good result. Perry says that all throughout history, all big thinkers have been procrastinators. “If you go back through history of human culture, and take away every invention that was made by someone who was supposed to be doing something else, I’m willing to bet there wouldn’t be a lot left,” writes Perry.
So you really do not have to feel guilty if you find yourself procrastinating as it all depends on how you use this habit positively. Here’s how you can make sure you get the most out of this habit of yours:
Are you a positive procrastinator or just lazy? How do you turn your procrastination in your favour? Let us know in the comments section below.