Most dictionaries define procrastination as “To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.” No one wants to be thought of as a careless or lazy person, especially in the office. Perhaps this is one of the reasons there are hundreds of self-help books, blogs and articles that offer to help you cure, defeat, and eliminate this terrible habit.
Procrastination sometimes fills us with anxiety and shame ’ we curse ourselves for our laziness and inability to focus on the task at hand, we feel stressed working under tight deadlines, or we hand in sub-par work simply because we have run out of time.
But does procrastination really deserve its bad rap?
Today’s business climate rewards speed. We strive to be the first, the quickest, and the one who gets the most done. It’s logical to assume that procrastination impedes productivity. However, according to Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, procrastination is a form of prioritization and a tool for time management. Because we can’t do every single task the minute it pops up, we have to defer less important tasks to make room for the ones that take priority.
Some procrastinators actually delay tasks deliberately because they like to work under pressure or feel challenged by approaching deadlines. These active procrastinators feel in control of their time and use it purposefully. They are less avoidant and have lower stress levels than passive procrastinators. While they may put things off, active procrastinators are not paralyzed by worry and indecision and they are able to get things done. Active procrastinators also experience the following benefits:
- Better decisions. Procrastinators may put off making decisions until the last minute, but researchers have found that what they’re doing during that time is gathering and processing information, and weighing possible outcomes of their choice.
- Increased levels of creativity. Procrastinators tend to be big thinkers. Putting off a task you dread may lead to the invention of a better way to accomplish something.
- Fewer unnecessary tasks. An employee who procrastinates often has to let busy work fall to the wayside when something important arises.
- Increased insight. Procrastination can shed light on the task an individual does and does not find important.
Passive procrastination is the kind we’re most familiar with, and this is when you put something off but don’t replace it with a useful task. Passive procrastinators tend to have greater levels of stress, depression, and extrinsic motivation, along with lower life satisfaction.
Procrastination is really the art of managing delay, and it can lead to greater success and happiness. Procrastination becomes a problem, however, when it’s not being used productively or when it becomes a mindless form of escape. Recognizing why we procrastinate can make the difference between having it happen occasionally or letting it take over our lives.
If you’re deferring projects because other items rightfully should come first (i.e. active procrastination), procrastinate on!
If you’re hiding from what needs to get done because the task feels overwhelming or you don’t know where to start, this is the problematic form of procrastination that can negatively impact your career. Check out this video featuring Ashton business instructor Charles Qabazard for some tips on reducing procrastination and increasing productivity. Charles is a corporate trainer, executive coach and mediator, as well as a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming and a Diagnostic Thought Field Therapist.