Procrastination is often considered a shoddy and tardy habit that, one is advised to lose immediately. We are constantly told that procrastination doesn’t make life easy for us and it just increases our stress levels. Generally, I would grudgingly agree because yes, it does make sense. Except, you see, I am a procrastinator and I feel sometimes I work splendidly because of that.
You may say I am defending my habit of procrastination but I would like to show you that I might be right. Being a psychologist and content developer, I know all about the theories proving procrastination doesn’t help anyone. It is a waste of time and money. However, it’s a fact that not everyone has the same attention span. For example, my attention span is lesser than most people. So when I am assigned a task, I start working diligently but say 30 – 45 minutes into it, I need to stop or divert my attention from the fear of being saturated with the topic and not be able to give my best. With my attention diverted, I will invariably wander to the “treacherous and dangerous depths” of internet distraction or a good novel. One link always leads to another and at least 10 - 15 minutes are wasted.
But, here is the thing, no information can be good or bad, it’s what you do with it gives it power. You never know what information your brain retains. Unconsciously or through subliminal perception, our brain takes in information and creates new pathways of divergent thinking. It questions the stupid and random. Sometimes the questions in itself are stupid but you still get answers.
Now you are wondering, how is any of this relevant? So after 20 minutes of procrastination, when you go back to work, you have a fresh outlook to what needs to be done. As Bluma Zeigarnik (a Russian psychologist) found, that we tend to remember unfinished work better than completed tasks. We tend to work more efficiently when we leave a task midway and get back to it. Moreover, your jaunt into procrastination, refreshes your mind and sometimes gives you a fresh perspective.
I see how my present argument makes procrastination as the ‘hero’ to my success but like most concepts not all forms of procrastination are healthy. Like almost everything these days, there are degrees to procrastination. You could be any of the following:
Passive procrastinator: A person who puts off the tasks and doesn’t do anything in the interim. Ex: Important article to write but chooses to laze in bed. (Unhealthy)
Chronic procrastinator: An individual who procrastinates in all walks of life. It could be at home, work, school, booking tickets for vacations, movies, music concert. (Severely Unhealthy)
Active procrastinator: Someone, pushes a task because, s/he needs to prioritize other work. You may have to push a said task because other stuff is more important. (Healthy)
What I am stressing on is active procrastination. The right kind of procrastination actually results in:
While rummaging through the internet/ music and any other distractions, youcome across a varied mass of information. This creates divergent thinking pathways in the brain. To be more clichéd, it assists “out of the box” thinking. Often, I have come up with activities for training sessions because of my habit to procrastinate. An idea once popped up because I was watching, the “Friends” episode, where the girls lose their apartment to the boys over a quiz.
Generally, if you evaluate and observe the tasks that usually one procrastinates, you will find a pattern. There will be set of tasks that you always procrastinate. This will help you identify where your passion doesn’t lie. Sometimes, it can assist you in recognizing tasks that you feel least confident about which then can lead to you creating an action plan on how to boost your confidence.
Sometimes, we tend to push a task to later as something is more important urgent. It might just happen that the task isn’t as important urgent as it would have been a couple of hours.
While I don’t deny that, procrastination doesn’t always help. But, like everything, we can monitor procrastination. Recently, I read an article, “Why I taught myself to procrastinate?” in the Sunday review of the New York Times written by a journalist who claims to be a pre-crastinator. The journalist had an excellent way of creating threats for you as a tool of monitoring procrastination. He suggested, as a form of control, try telling yourself if you procrastinate a task beyond a pre-decided point then your action will promote something you hate. For instance, you abhor the idea of fur coats, then you can say if I don’t do this by 5:00pm then my account would have automatically bought a fur coat as form of punishment. The guilt of going against what you strongly believe in, can make you do wondrous things.
So like Calvin, you could accept the way you work and become an active one. Stop feeling guilty and embrace it. You could try making it your super power and wield it to create something beautiful and diverse.