Is procrastination something to be avoided or even "cured"?
Nowadays, everyone expects everything to be right away - or better - last week. We juggle endless to-do lists, meetings, commitments, e-mails, and nurturing our social media klout. We just don’t have time to come down with a bout of procrastination.
So, for all of you who occasionally suffer from this problem, here are a few points to consider in your ongoing fight against procrastination:
Putting off an unimportant task isn't necessarily procrastination: it may just be good prioritization!
The more important issue is what and how are you putting off:
- Important tasks or unimportant tasks
- For a day or repeatedly for several days
- Occasionally or habitually
Although procrastination has long been considered to be a self-handicapping and dysfunctional behaviour, a recent study has suggested "that not all procrastination behaviours either are harmful or lead to negative consequences" (Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of "Active" Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance). The authors suggest that active procrastinators (passive procrastinators come in the typical form we all know and love) are closer to non-procrastinators in their efficiency and performance, only they put things off a little.
Research has also shown that procrastination is not dependent on low self-esteem, low energy, or not being a high-achiever as may have been thought in the past - procrastinators can have confidence and high self-esteem, be energetic, and even over-achievers. (At Last, My Research Article on Procrastination)
The Power of Procrastinating: You're an admitted pro-crastinator and you do not see it as problematic
Forget the bad press. Procrastination does not have to be seen as a negative trait. Things aren't always so black and white; sometimes you need to look at the positive attributes of procrastination:
Procrastination is derived from the Latin procrastinatus.
pro - forward + crastinus - tomorrow
Society's perception of procrastination may be negative, but it is not negative by definition; it is simply doing something a day later. Perhaps people would see it a more positive light if it were spelled pro-crastination.
- It allows you an escape from the pressures of your day.
- It gives your brain a break - and can foster greater levels of concentration, creativity, innovation and productivity when you do get to it.
- Procrastinating gives you more time to think. During this time, your subconscious can analyze the alternatives and lead you to a clearer solution.
- When you take your time, you are less prone to making mistakes.
- Waiting until things settle means you don't have to do things twice when situations change. Procrastinators can be on top of the latest events and updates.
- A little bit of procrastination instills a sense of urgency, and the pressure can drive you to keep your mind more focused on getting the job done.
- Despite claims, you just can’t be 100% efficient all of the time - it’s not human or normal!
- It is good for your work-life balance. Don't keep up with the hectic pace of modern life 24/7 - slow down, take a deep breath, avoid burn out.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. ~Mark Twain
Procrastination is more complex than just time management. However, there are some things you can do to help you minimize the negative consequences of your procrastinatory behaviour:
Define your goals clearly
- What is your final objective?
- What are the major steps required to reach it? (high level checklist)
- How long will each step take?
- What have you already done and what do you still have to do?
- What is your motivation?
- Do not underestimate the difficulty of tasks
- Do not underestimate the time required to complete tasks
- Clearly define outcome standards and expectations (quality)
- Identify outside resources required
- Schedule blocks of time to get the work done
Set deadlines for yourself and create that sense of urgency!
- Ariely and Wertenbroch showed that setting your own deadlines does improve task performance. Unfortunately, people are usually better at adhering to other people's deadlines then at setting their own.
- Own tasks - do not feel like they were imposed on you
- Delegate what you can to those who can do it as well as or better than you.
I would highly recommend reading Stephen R. Covey's classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to anyone looking to improve their efficiency.
Do you have any coping mechanisms you can recommend for avoiding procrastination?