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Procrastinate Like a Pro: How Putting Off Tasks Can Yield Positive Results




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We have all experienced it.


Every one of us has tasted the conflicting flavors of procrastination, wrestling with finding a balance between evading the pressure of a given task and shouldering the duty of accomplishing it.


When faced with a deadline, getting ready for a negotiation, scheduling a medical appointment, or simply taking care of household chores, procrastination often appears more enticing and comfortable than taking immediate action.



Let's be honest from the start: procrastination is a negative habit that can hinder personal growth and success!


As a life coach, I have had the opportunity to work closely with clients who seek to overcome the detrimental habit of procrastination. I have had clients who were frustrated with their inability to act, plagued by self-doubt, and overwhelmed by the mounting tasks they had postponed. So, I have seen firsthand how procrastination can hold individuals back from reaching their full potential and achieving their goals.



Why Do We Procrastinate and How Do We Fight It?



Many people mistakenly believe that procrastination results just from a lack of willpower, or laziness, but psychologists would disagree. Based on insights from Professor Tim Pychyl, procrastination is primarily related to emotional regulation rather than time management. Fatigue, inaccurate and deeply ingrained beliefs about our abilities, personal fears, perfectionism, fear of failure, anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and apprehension of criticism, along with conditions such as depression and ADHD, can hinder our productivity and diminish our motivation.


Many individuals try to conquer procrastination by employing strategies such as cultivating self-compassion, identifying the root cause of anxiety associated with a task, or developing a concrete plan. They often turn to an empowerment coach for support to practice effective strategies for self-awareness, and time management, and build a much-needed commitment to changing habits and mindset.




woman relaxing



Others, however, despite understanding the negative impact of putting off tasks, find themselves caught in a vicious cycle, as the guilt and anxiety associated with their procrastination further hinder their ability to seek support. This is the case of “habitual” or “chronic” procrastinators.


Chronic procrastinators habitually delay or postpone tasks and responsibilities, often to the point of experiencing negative consequences in their personal and professional lives, such as academic problems, financial problems, poor mental and physical health, etc. Based on findings from studies conducted by psychology professor Joseph Ferrari, approximately 20% of adults and 50% of college students can be classified as habitual procrastinators.




But is there a way for procrastinators to turn a bad habit into a positive one? When nothing else works for them, can they use procrastination to their advantage?


In other words, can putting off a task ever lead to positive outcomes?



Positive Procrastination


It seems that “positive procrastination” does exist, defined as purposefully deferring tasks in a way that leads to positive outcomes or, at the very least, outcomes that surpass those associated with negative procrastination.


Two types of procrastination are commonly seen as positive:



Active Procrastination


Active Procrastination is the act of intentionally delaying decisions or actions to utilize the pressure of impending deadlines as motivation to accomplish tasks.


Even if they are not actively engaged in working on a task, active procrastinators keep it in the back of their minds, allowing their thoughts to percolate until they return to it. Additionally, chronic procrastinators may find value in incorporating creative exercises that can help overcome the creative process's paralysis. Such techniques can alleviate pressure and stimulate innovative thinking.



Productive Procrastination


Productive Procrastination is the practice of engaging in productive tasks while intentionally delaying more pressing responsibilities.



Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment. ⎯ Robert Benchley


This can help individuals to prioritize activities procrastinators might typically avoid. Essentially, those who tend to procrastinate on tasks they find uninteresting or unappealing can use this strategy to incentivize themselves to complete those tasks. By scheduling a less desirable activity and then procrastinating on the more unpleasant work by engaging in the relatively more enjoyable task, they create a sense of balance and can ultimately accomplish their overall responsibilities.




Clock and desk with lamp and plant onwhite pot.



The Benefits of Positive Procrastination



While it may seem counterintuitive, there are a few potential benefits associated with procrastination.


Before exploring these benefits, it is crucial to emphasize the need for caution and careful consideration before embracing them. It is important to acknowledge the inherent limitations and potential drawbacks associated with adopting it as a habit, and essential to note that positive procrastination should never be preferred or encouraged as a substitute for timely task completion.



1. Enhanced Creativity

Some individuals find that delaying a task allows their minds to wander and generate creative ideas. This can lead to unique perspectives and innovative solutions when they finally engage with the task.


Procrastinating can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue when it comes to creativity. ⎯ Adam Grant

Although there's no denying that procrastination hampers productivity, Adam Grant, an expert in organizational psychology, argues that procrastination can stimulate the mind to contemplate a task or issue, fostering heightened creativity and innovative ideas.


More specifically, in an experiment, conducted by Professor Jihae Shin, participants were tasked with generating novel business ideas. Certain individuals were instructed to begin immediately, while others were given a five-minute period to play Solitaire or Minesweeper beforehand. The result? The ideas put forth by the individuals who procrastinated were deemed to be 28% more innovative.




 


WATCH: The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers | Adam Grant



 


2. Pressure-Driven Motivation

For certain individuals, the impending deadline and pressure that comes with procrastination can spur a heightened sense of motivation. This sense of urgency can help them focus and work efficiently to complete the task.


3. Improved Decision-Making

Procrastination can provide individuals with more time for reflection and analysis, allowing them to make more informed decisions. By delaying a decision, they may gather additional information or gain new insights that contribute to better choices.


4. Prioritisation of Important Tasks

Procrastination can inadvertently lead individuals to prioritise their tasks. By delaying less critical or time-consuming activities, they can allocate more time and attention to the most important and urgent tasks at hand.




checklist



The Negative Consequences of Positive Procrastination



It is, however, crucial to approach these potential benefits with caution, as the negative consequences of positive procrastination can outweigh any advantages.


Let’s examine some of them!


Positive Procrastination can:

  • exacerbate or intensify difficulties commonly associated with procrastination, such as heightened stress levels.

  • lead individuals to postpone their most critical responsibilities for an extended period.

  • diminish individuals' willingness to actively address and overcome their procrastination tendencies, perpetuating a cycle of further procrastination.


So, one should not automatically assume that positive procrastination will always be beneficial, since there are several limitations to consider, especially when compared to non-procrastination.




Strategic Behaviours for Positive Outcomes



If you still believe that delaying tasks can be beneficial, it is crucial to accurately assess your situation by considering how it affects you:


  1. What specific advantages does procrastination offer you?

  2. How does procrastination negatively impact you?


Then, employ procrastination in a manner that maximises its benefits while minimising its drawbacks.


Here are some approaches you can adopt to engage in positive procrastination:


  • To make big projects more manageable, try setting smaller deadlines along the way. This way, you can experience the pressure of approaching deadlines multiple times, which can help you stay focused and motivated to complete the project on time.

  • When you have free time or find yourself procrastinating, be mindful of choosing worthwhile projects. Differentiate between tasks that are completely pointless and those that have genuine value. Focus on engaging in tasks that are meaningful and contribute to your goals, rather than wasting time on tasks that have no purpose or benefit.

  • Allow yourself to take a break from time to time. Rather than trying to be productive when you are unlikely to succeed, consider resting or sleeping if your procrastination stems from exhaustion.

  • To reduce the negative effects of procrastination, you can take steps to address the issue. For example, if you notice that your productive procrastination is causing stress because of concerns about the main task you're postponing, you can try anti-procrastination strategies like practicing mindfulness (breathing exercises, yoga, etc) and journaling. This can help you manage your stress and focus on the task at hand.




Woman looking outside the widow holding a coffee cup.



Thanks for reading! ❤︎




DISCLAIMER

The content of this webpage is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Expert on Your Life, LLC. is not affiliated, associated, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the references and information cited on this webpage. Read our full Disclaimer here.




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What’s your story?

How much of a procrastinator are you?

What strategies do you use to yield positive outcomes when you tend to procrastinate?


You can always sign up at expertonyourlife.com to receive our newsletter and to have access to our PowerKit for more actionable ideas and resources.


 

Find professional support and guidance on your journey to building psychological strength by joining one of the Empowerment Spaces below. These single one-on-one coaching sessions have been especially designed to help you develop and boost your mental toughness.


Contact me for more information. I'd love to hear your story!




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3 תגובות


Francesca Vitali
Francesca Vitali
26 בנוב׳ 2023

This definitely resonates with me. Thanks for sharing!

לייק

Christina Moore
Christina Moore
23 באוג׳ 2023

Thank you, this was very informative! I didn't even realise we could use procrastination to our advantage.

לייק
Betty Chatzipli
Betty Chatzipli
25 באוג׳ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

Thank you so much for dropping a comment!

לייק
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