Procrastination is bad, right?
…or is it actually good? Try thinking of procrastination as practicing the art of managing delay.
It gets a bad rep. I think people mistake procrastination for self-sabotage—taking actions that intentionally hinder our progress—when procrastination is simply inaction.
In fact, putting off decisions or actions in your daily life can produce positive results, if you use it as a tool to manage delay and make better choices as a result. Procrastinating can actually reduce your stress and lead to better time management.
We often mistakenly think that every problem requires immediate action and problem solving, but at times, taking a more mindful approach to the situation—sitting, observing, and only taking action if absolutely necessary—is more valuable.
Studies have shown that we have significantly lower error rates in the decision-making process if we learn how to hold off without anxiety, observe a situation, and make slower decisions. Rushing through your to-do list may lead to more mistakes.
Procrastination can give us clarity on our priorities and values, allowing a situation to resolve on its own. Unnecessary tasks tend to fall away when we learn how to manage delay.
Procrastination to stay in the flow means delaying the task until we have the right time and energy, while spending time on things we find more valuable. When we master this art, we know how to dive into tasks and challenges wholeheartedly and fully present, which significantly reduces turnaround time and increases our sense of joy.
Some people perform better under pressure. They employ the art of procrastination to artificially create pressure for themselves and produce better results.
I find that people who struggle with stress often launch into immediate action, resulting in a lot of unnecessary work and more mistakes. Taking your time to evaluate a situation from a distance can reveal how tasks may have become obsolete and problems may have resolved themselves, thus reducing stress significantly.
I’ve also noticed in my procrastination that I am usually not really invested in the task in the first place, and subsequently choose to spend my time, money, and energy elsewhere.
Procrastination taught me to avoid reacting to a false sense of obligation—“acting busy” stopped being cute a long time ago. Taking thoughtful actions that are authentic to our nature and goals is more beneficial to all of us.
Make Procrastination Work for You
I love procrastination, and I’ve found a way to make it work for me. I increased my productivity and my overall happiness by honoring my flow states, and by delaying tasks until the time is right and I have properly set the stage for them.
For example, it often takes me a while to get in the right state of mind to sit and write. I frequently ride my bike and explore my environment until inspiration hits me.
I also change my work environment frequently. Over the course of the day, I work from the desk, the couch, a hammock, or the garden, then back to the couch, etc. I consistently look for locations that feel authentic to my current state of mind and energy level.
Some people might see this constant movement as procrastination.
I think of it as setting the mood for the process of tackling tasks.
I had to learn how to understand my peak productivity hours—and they are not between 9am-5pm.
I’m the most productive between 10am-2pm, and then again from 5-10pm. Allowing yourself to work during your peak times may look like procrastination to others, but may produce really beneficial results for you.
Recognize the Difference Between Active and Passive Procrastination
Active procrastination is the state of being present and aware of the problem or task at hand, but not seeing an instantaneous need to act on it. Immediate action is not always warranted and can be a waste of time.
Active procrastination is spending your time on activities that are more valuable to you, like spending time with your loved ones instead of doing your laundry.
Passive procrastination is chronically avoiding responsibility. When you sit around doing nothing at all, letting life pass you by without engaging, your lack of action becomes a problem and you need to make changes. You might actually be depressed.
For example, delaying an apology is actually a quite beneficial form of active procrastination. Taking an extra 24 hours to give a situation space will often be received well, because the apology will come across as more sincere than an immediate response.
However, when someone delays a response by three days, a week, or longer, they have crossed the line from intentionally managing delay to avoiding the issue altogether—passive procrastination.
Identify Negative Procrastination
If you are the person on the team that chronically misses deadlines, puts unnecessary pressure on your team members, and makes everyone around you annoyed and anxious: it might be time to reevaluate your priorities.
If you wake up, day after day, feeling disengaged and letting important matters slide without taking any action, then it’s time to snap out of the passive procrastination.
If there are consistently negative consequences to your missing deadlines and delaying life, then it’s time to act.
If you find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis, unable to make a decision because you are overthinking the process, then it’s time to stop procrastinating and start taking action.
Here are three things that will launch you back into action.
Take the first step, before you are even ready.
Sometimes any action is the right action, because it sets the process in motion. Progress comes from action, not analysis. When we are stuck, we might just need to take the first step to get ourselves unstuck.
Create artificial deadlines.
Some people perform better under pressure. Set deadlines for yourself that make you jump into action. Then, schedule them on your calendar and reward yourself when you complete them.
- Decide, “I will do X today for 20 minutes“.
- Schedule the deadline in your calendar.
- Allow yourself to do something fun immediately after finishing. (Rewarding yourself is always a great idea! Life should be fun anyway, and rewards are a great way to make mundane tasks into enjoyable challenges.)
Reignite your motivation
Mix up your schedule with activities that jump-start your drive and elevate your spirit. You may want to go for a run, put on one of your favorite playlists to boost your energy, or listen to something that inspires and motivates you.
At the end of the day, remember this: active procrastination is supposed to be fun, uplifting, and elevating.
You probably subconsciously procrastinate a lot already, and maybe you even guilt trip yourself for it, so why not embrace it and make it your own? Truth is, if done well, procrastination will reduce your error rate, eliminate unnecessary work, increase your productivity, and uplift your spirit.
Why NOT do it, then?
Feel free to reach out and tell me about your favorite ways to procrastinate.
Hope this serves you,