The Powers of Procrastination

Sorry, no photo currently available due to procrastination
I’ll find a photo later…

Procrastination gets a lot of bad press. It’s generally seen as a negative trait, as we’re constantly told not to procrastinate and made to feel guilty if we do. However, as with most things in life, things aren’t always that black and white. Perhaps there are positives to procrastination.

Should we really listen to those bearded intellectual psychologist types; the sort who constantly try to make us feel guilty about procrastination? We all procrastinate, so being made to feel bad about it isn’t going to help matters.

Why don’t we try to see the positive side to procrastination instead? After all, the glass is half full isn’t it, not half empty?

By Definition…

According to the English Dictionary, procrastination is defined as:

The act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off to a future time; delay.

The word procrastination is actually derived from the Latin procrastinatus, from pro meaning “forward” and crastinus meaning “of tomorrow”.

The word pro is normally considered as a positive; if you’re pro something, then you’re for that something as opposed to against it.

So, pro-crastination surely means that we’re for crastination as opposed to against it. As crastination is derived from the Latin meaning tomorrow, doesn’t it therefore follow that procrastinators are looking forward to the future!

One of the greatest labour saving inventions of today is tomorrow – Vincent T. Foss

By pedantic definition then, procrastination isn’t negative at all, it’s society’s perception of procrastination that’s negative. Procrastination is merely doing something tomorrow instead of today.

Hyper Efficiency isn’t Normal

In the media we’re constantly being sold the idea of how to improve our efficiency and not procrastinate. There are books, courses, blogs, you name it, the list seems never ending. But do we really need them?

You can’t be 100% efficient all the time; it’s not normal (unless perhaps you’re German or an MBA Havard type uber nerd).

Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday – Author Unknown

Real people like you and me (the ones with lives) hate those super-efficient types, they make us look pathetic and ineffectual. Remember the school swat, Billy No-mates? We don’t want to turn out like that, we need to have balance in our lives (with friends) and procrastination is a perfect way to achieve that balance.

Procrastination helps to prevent burn out, it’s nature’s way of getting us to slow down and take a breath. Procrastinators get the job done eventually, but they also manage to beat their high score on Quake in the process and have a few beers with their friends.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Positive Procrastination

Procrastination has lots of positives, you just need to know where to look.

By procrastinating you give yourself much more time to think.  During this time your subconscious will be processing possible alternatives, leading to a much more considered and well thought out solution to your problem. Rushing leads to mistakes!

By procrastinating you give time for the dynamics of a situation to change or settle down, allowing you to take the new dynamics into account when you get around to doing your job, or maybe it would even save you the hassle of having to do the job anyway.

The two rules of procrastination:  1) Do it today.  2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow – Author Unknown

Projects always run a bit better if there’s a little bit of pressure; a sense of urgency. Getting the job done straight away can’t help this, but with a little bit of procrastination, a sense of urgency can be generated and your mind will be much more focused on the task in hand.

My Name is Richard and I’m a Procrastinator

Just because you’re a procrastinator doesn’t mean you can’t achieve things and have a successful life. I’m a procrastinator and proud of it and have no immediate plans to change, yet I feel I’ve achieved quite a lot and hopefully will continue to do so, just not today…

Efficiency can be your Enemy

Sometimes though I do have the occasional bout of super efficiency, which in one instance landed me in a spot of bother. I had a boss (German as it happens) that liked to have everything planned and organised to the ‘N’ th degree (as they do), he also frequently liked to change his mind.

On this particular occasion my project went perfectly according to plan, like a well oiled machine. I had 100 newly designed digital radio cards sitting on the shelf, tested and ready to ship. Only my boss had changed his mind in the interim period and had failed to communicate his change in direction with me.

The result was I got in hot water for having 100 cards sitting on a shelf that were now surplus to requirements. Clearly I couldn’t win, I thought my boss would have been impressed with my German like efficiency, maybe even promotion? Obviously I was deluded. Procrastination would have prevented this whole fiasco.

Procrastinate and Feel Good About it

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow – Mark Twain

And is if you’re not convinced already, just remember:

  • Procrastinators take advantage of the latest events
  • Procrastinators have more time to think about solutions
  • Procrastinators don’t suffer from burn out
  • Procrastinators get high scores in Quake/Doom… (insert computer game of choice)

So next time you feel yourself procrastinating, don’t feel guilty about it, that’s counter productive. Embrace it! Look at all the positives and spare a thought for all those lonely efficient types working their backsides off.

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  1. JOHN commented

    I agree in principle BUT!!! the wise man assesses the current situation first – is it a now or never situation?, ie your pants are on fire, the dive bombers are coming in or the bank is about to foreclose – then act now – even if it’s “do anything even if it’s wrong (or not optimum)”. Otherwise – my belief is don’t do anything that can be postponed until later – that way many. many unnecessary, ill thought out etc etc things are avoided, effort and money and time ARE saved and we are more relaxed and happier.

    Just my thoughts!

  2. Rebecca commented

    I can tell you one instance when procrastinating pays off for me – Holiday shopping. Believe me, you can get some awesome deals on Dec 24.

    Procrastinating is a habit of mine that I am trying to change. If it is a serious matter than I make sure not to procrastinate. However, not so serious subjects can get done at the last minute, as long as they get done!

  3. commented

    First off – love the lack of photo. Clever.

    Living on deadlines means dealing with all flavors of procrastination. In fact, I likely could be classes a black belt in procrastination. I approach it somewhat differently tho. When I find myself procrastinating against a pending deadline, I reframe my reluctance to get to work as a creative process I need to go through and then just give myself permission for a certain period of time – usually measured in minutes. It’s nearly always a win-win. I’m more productive when I actually do get back on task and I usually end up with some pretty creative ideas for the next thing I’ll procrastinate on!

    Thanks for a great post.

    Romance writer, Loring Parks, at Juicy Like An Apple

    A ProBlogger entry

  4. Ian commented

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can get someone else to do today. Can’t remember who said that… I might try and find out tomorrow if I can’t think of someone to ask today.

  5. Hermie commented

    Interesting take on procrastination. While I agree that it can have some benefits such as having more time to think about solutions or not suffering from burnout I don’t think that is usually the case for most chronic procrastinators. Unfortunately, spending time thinking about something doesn’t get it done and the stress associated with having to accomplish something important at the last minute is sometimes far worse than working on it over an extended period of time. Procrastination can sometimes be good depending on the situation, everything in moderation.


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    […] you don’t actually want to be doing. People often say shifting your focus like this is just procrastinating and avoiding the real work you need to do, but if it gives you the momentum you need to face these […]

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