Since one of my goals in life is to help people bust through procrastination, you might be surprised at what I’m about to tell you. It’s this: Under the right circumstances, procrastination can actually improve your productivity.
The key part of that statement is “under the right circumstances.” We’re not talking about putting aside that big project because you don’t feel like doing it or don’t care about your deadline. It’s about managing your delays in ways that ultimately help you not only get things done, but get the right things done. You see, I often hear from my clients that they are “procrastinating” when what they are doing is “delaying” something. Sometimes delaying a task is the BEST way to manage your time.
A Good Kind Of Procrastination
This “good” procrastination—what I call “delaying”—is often called Structured or Active Procrastination, and here are three reasons why this type of stalling can be helpful in the long run.
An article on the business site FastCompany.com cites Frank Partnoy, author of Wait, who says that delay is the time in which procrastinators gather information about their task, “which is a recipe for success.” Partnoy goes on to say that taking time to process information (delaying getting started or structured procrastination) can lead to more accurate decisions.
Also quoted on FastCompany.com is John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, who says, “Procrastinators are often big thinkers, and putting off work can be an engine of human progress. When you’re assigned a task that seems too hard to do, procrastinating often leads you to invent a better way.”
In an Inc.com article, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explains that creativity requires incubation, which is also known as “percolation.” I find that my clients often label this phase as procrastination when it really has a helpful and productive function. During percolation, you might find that you want to stop consciously thinking about the problem you want to solve. “Research shows that letting your mind wander in this way leads to greater creativity,” says Kaufman. So, the next time you pick up the jigsaw puzzle or take your dog for a walk when you think you should be working on an important project, ask yourself, “Is this procrastination or percolation?”
Perry believes that delaying a task is often your subconscious trying to get your attention. “If you’re a productive person, the desire to procrastinate on a task can mean that the task isn’t important or valuable to you,” he says. “Pay attention to that and ask yourself if you should be doing it at all.” My clients often find that they procrastinate on things that they find are not meaningful to them. Once they identify what those things are, I ask them if they really need to do the task at all. Sometimes they find that they really can ditch it. If they can’t ditch it, I encourage them to find ways to delegate or automate those activities that are not meaningful and important to them.
Taking the time to prioritize your next steps can sometimes feel like procrastination. In reality, it’s a delay in jumping into action and is NOT procrastination. It is effective management of your time and can help ensure you’re working on the really critical tasks.
No More Feeling Bad
Procrastination can make us feel everything from inept and unorganized to lazy and guilty, because our society values action and success. This new take on procrastination can help us toss those feelings in the trash.
Procrastination is not a moral failure and procrastinating does not make us bad people. I invite you to start asking yourself if you are “procrastinating” or “delaying on purpose” and to give yourself a pat on the back when your delaying increases your productivity.
“Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves,” says LifeHack.com, “[so] it’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.”
The Importance Of Managing Time
Learning to overcome procrastination and use delaying to our best advantage is really about learning to manage time more effectively.
My True Focus Quiz can help you discover and assess the challenges and frustrations that keep you from managing your time successfully. Take the quiz and I’ll help you figure out the next best move you can take to manage your time and your tasks in a way that works for you, so you can increase your productivity, and get more of the stuff that really matters to you done! Take the Quiz