Answer me this: When should you procrastinate?

Most of us may say “Never!”. Procrastination does tend to get a bad rap. It is known as the productivity killer. We look for ways to sidestep it, we try and beat it – mostly to no avail. Here are 3 reasons why procrastination works for many of us, and why maybe you should give it a try. I will also share with you a couple of reasons when not to procrastinate!

Firstly, Procrastination makes other tasks seem easier. My car wouldn’t get cleaned, my cupboards wouldn’t get organized, my dishes wouldn’t get washed for days – if it weren’t for? You guessed it: Procrastination. Delaying your most important tasks leaves you open for completing many of your smaller tasks. It also gives you good work-life balance by opening you up to more enjoyable activities.

That leads me to the second reason why you should consider procrastinating. It gives you an energy boost. Low energy levels tend to lead to procrastination naturally. But what happens if you don’t even start the task or project until you can taste the deadline? You get an adrenalin rush of note. This provides the energy needed to efficiently complete your work in hyper focus mode.

The pressure from the deadline also allows you to lower your expectations of yourself. This is helpful if you are hampered by perfectionism or fear of failure. I find myself thinking: “I only started the project a day before it was due, so of course I wouldn’t expect my best work from myself.” This gets me of the hook with my own inner perfectionist. Often.

Third, and perhaps the most intriguing of the reasons why you should procrastinate, is that it encourages divergent, original thinking and creativity.

This does however require that you initially review the project brief in detail. Then, even if you are not actively working on the project, it is in the back of your mind where the gears keep turning until it is time to produce.

Besides eliminating unnecessary work if the brief happens to change during the time of your delay, this stretch of time also allows for incubation of ideas, ultimately improving the final product.

Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the great procrastinators, spending 15 years toiling away before finally discovering the new painting techniques needed to refine his masterpiece: the Mona Lisa.

In his acclaimed TED Talk “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers”, American psychologist and author Adam Grant states that what really separates original thinkers is habits. One of those habits is procrastination. I will link you to the TED Talk for the other habits.

So, when should you not procrastinate?
Firstly, in an article by speaker and author Steve McClatchy on fastcompany.com, he advises that procrastination does not work if the quality of the end result is of utmost importance. He notes that pressure and quality have an inverse relationship. The higher the pressure, the lower the quality. This is why sports team captains often call a time-out right before the opposing team takes a penalty shot – to put that player under greater pressure. So, give that higher priority task the attention and time it deserves, in order to increase the quality of your output.

Secondly, keep in mind that one of the causes of Procrastination is decision fatigue. You tend to a million-and-one little things first thing in the morning, feeling super-productive, but then when the time comes to complete your more important tasks, you have lost energy doing the smaller ones. Try to prioritise spending your best energy on the important stuff when it matters!

This evening I gave you 3 reasons why you should procrastinate.

  1. It makes other tasks seem easier.
  2. It can give you an energy boost.
  3. Procrastination is a virtue when it comes to original thinking and creativity.

I also shared with you 2 reasons when it would not be the best idea to procrastinate –

  1. That is when the quality of the end result matters
  2. When you have large, important tasks to complete, where decision fatigue could backfire on you.

So why not slow down, delay a little, get creative!? Trust that under the right circumstances, you can manage to use the virtue of procrastination to your benefit. Procrastination: Virtue and vice!

I would like to leave you with a quote by Adam Grant from the TED Talk mentioned earlier:


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