Procrastination is an awful habit, and it’s a topic I feel very experienced with, if that wasn’t already obvious from the long spans of time between the last few Class Rocks blog posts. Waiting until the night before or even a few minutes before a deadline to complete a task is something I think everyone is guilty of at least once. Sometimes, we have too many more urgent matters to attend to; other times, it may just be laziness, underestimation of the task, or a lack of motivation.
To be abundantly clear, procrastination is certainly not a good thing overall. But here comes a perspective on the matter we may be unwilling to accept as possible. Procrastination can be a good thing!
Not for every person, and certainly not for every situation. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to procrastinate on critically important tasks, especially when others are counting on you. And in many cases, procrastination can cause unwanted stress and poor work output. But might it be possible that procrastination is good in some ways?
Two types of procrastination?
Dr. Anna Abramowski of the British Psychological Society has written quite a bit on the matter. Her work is often cited for this same topic. In her writing, she claims that there are two flavors of procrastination: passive and active. Passive procrastination is the type of procrastination teachers, parents, and bosses fear. We feel unsure, uncertain, unmotivated, or maybe the task just slipped our mind, until BAM! That’s due tomorrow? This type of procrastination is usually not intentional and this is the type which is most harmful. But sometimes, we intentionally, or actively, put something off. This could be to gather our thoughts about the matter or to complete more demanding tasks first.
While passive procrastinators tend to be lazy, unmotivated, uncertain, or inattentive, active procrastinators are the opposite. They are often confident in their own abilities and have great time management skills. Active procrastination – actively putting off tasks until you can better focus on them – takes a lot of skill!
Procrastination exerts constructive pressure, which boosts performance
How fast can you run on a normal day? How fast can you run while you’re running from a crazy person with a knife? The added stress and pressure puts you into fight or flight mode, and the resulting boost of adrenaline can be a great work motivator. Active procrastinators are less easily distracted while rushing to meet an important deadline. A person running just for exercise might stop and check their phone, wave at a friend, or admire a singing bird in a tree. But little can distract a person running for their life. In this way, active procrastinators are sure to wholly devote a slot of time, however small, to concentrated effort.
Procrastinators work faster than others while under a time limit
Some people break under too much pressure. But active procrastinators thrive against a ticking clock. This ties in to the previous point in that the added pressure not only prevents distraction, but the urgency of the matter makes us work more quickly. Picture someone cooking for their family at home versus a chef cooking at dinner rush in a fancy restaurant. At home, it may take one or two hours to finish making a meal, whereas professional chefs have to produce dozens of perfected dishes every hour. Not everyone can manage this type of procrastination, but those that do actually display some very important qualities: time management and a fast, high-powered work ethic.
Procrastinating makes easy tasks seem easier
When procrastinating on an important project, everything else on your to-do list seems like a walk in the park. Active procrastinators tend to finish all the other tasks first, prioritizing the easiest ones first. An active procrastinator needs to have a good sense to estimate how much time and effort each task will take. They tend to stray away from perfection and ideals in favor of practicality and efficiency. These are great qualities in workers of many fields. In this way, a good procrastinator may excel beyond non-procrastinators in many aspects.
Procrastinators are not perfectionists
While putting your best effort is always important, perfectionism isn’t always a good thing. Why? Because nothing is ever perfect! Perfectionists have a really hard time putting a finished task away and moving on to the next thing. Sometimes it can be such a debilitating trait that work never even gets started. The thought of doing a perfect job leaves the person overwhelmed and feeling incapable. Perfectionism can lead to high stress and can even affect a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health.
Passive procrastinators are sometimes perfectionists, and a fear of failure can sometimes prevent them from getting a head start. On the other hand, active procrastinators are on a very realistic clock. Their expectations are lowered to a more reachable level. Although they might not always do their best, they strive to finish at an acceptable level with the given constraints. This type of procrastination makes for the kind of person who you can depend on to get the job done and move on to the next one.
Maybe I’ll finish this post later…
We’ve given procrastination a bad rap over the years, but as we have discussed, it’s not all bad. Active procrastination is actually nothing to be ashamed of, and it often leads to some of the best quality work in your life. I can’t tell you all the times where waiting for the last minute lead to some of my proudest accomplishments. So, go on and procrastinate over some of those things you just have to do in order to avoid consequences. (Don’t procrastinate on your chores!). But when they important projects come around, don’t let passive procrastination get the better of you. Give these duties the attention they demand by planning ahead and producing something you can be really proud of.