Should we feel bad about procrastination?
I have been putting writing this article off for quite some time. I really wanted to do it. But somehow there were different things that came out always more interesting or more important.
Do you know that feeling? Have you ever worried that procrastination is slowing you down or felt anyhow differently bad about it?
Reading, hearing about the importance of planning to push things forward but also implementing that in my life I have always felt a bit worried or stressed about putting certain things off.
I can admit I have a problem with how to embrace procrastination.
Should I have guilty conscience, which I do most of the time? Should I give myself excuses to feel better? Or is it just natural state of things for all of us and thus should be accepted?
In order not to base purely on my gut feeling I made a little study to find out what psychologists and specialists in the field think of it.
Is it really bad or is it actually good?
Is it something that holds you back from achieving your goals, doing your tasks. Or is it something that helps you prioritize, think things through and finally better manage your time.
I guess the best answer to that is – it depends.
It is good if kept under control…
It helps getting a different perspective. We mostly work, work, work and rush through the days. Procrastination can be very beneficial. To stop, clear mind and enjoy the moment.
From conclusion that procrastination is easy some of us can actually argue it is challenging to stop and simply not “chase the rabbit”. Some, on the contrary, tend to procrastinate relaxation.
Procrastination can albeit be also destructive, in particular when it becomes a habit.
As it is said, you cannot experience a fulfillment in your life, sitting on a sofa and doing nothing all the time. Unless this is your ultimate goal which I doubt. Even the Law of Attraction needs action for things to go the desired way. Nothing will happen by itself.
As with anything in life, it seems that finding the right balance is important.
Since you are reading this, you are probably an ambitious person worried a bit about your occasional laziness, looking around for acknowledgment this is a natural human thing.
You are also looking for ways to improve, at least slightly, in that area. Sometimes pure awareness of the reality helps us sort out problems.
First of all it turns out procrastination can help us be more productive if managed. Frank Partnoy interviewed a number of senior executives that resulted in interesting findings he describes in a book “Wait – the art and science of delay” .
Top decision makers manage delay, meaning they do not take the decision until the very last moment, they do not answer emails up until it is ultimately necessary, they do not react spontaneously.
Same patterns were found among most successful professional athletes or in military. That saves time for things that need action. It also helps finding the best solution, idea or strategy.
Following that path, we can make a thesis that managed procrastination should be the core base of action.
But what if above awareness still does not help and the whole delay management ideology slips through your fingers anyway?
Following tricks can help.
Joy and reward impact – as we tend to put off things that we don’t like, it would help to have some inbuilt self-reward system. For example, if I iron all the washed shirts I will have more time in the morning. This one is tricky. I should not say – if I iron all the shirts, I will relax and have a glass of wine. Why? Because I may conclude, I can just easily relax without having anything ironed.
That leads us to the value of things we do.
Value – as analyzed, procrastinating of given tasks happens because of consciously or subconsciously putting value to what we have to do. If we value one thing more over another, the one with bigger value to us wins. If the value is too small, perhaps the thing is not important at all. Yet, it is important to be really mindful of what is on the other side of weight. Perhaps it is bottom line happiness of our spouse, safety of our job or good health
Anxiety and how to deal with that – Anxiety refers not only to fear that we will fail but also to nervousness due to doing something for the first time thus lacking experience. We end up advancing that inconvenient situation to our future selves.
How to overcome that fear? Cut task in pieces, get help, and make the first step.
Cutting bigger task into smaller activities and having the step-by-step approach is actually key to me when playing around more time or task challenging to dos.
Even with this article. I first drafted the idea, then built a skeleton and sequence and only then started to add some meat to it.
It is good to have that confirmation that procrastination can also be a benefit. It saves time for really important things. Some, which we put aside, may in the end lose the relevance.
On the other side, the line between active procrastination and passive is fine. We should watch out not to go on the “dark side of power” ending miserable failing on every desire or plan we have.