Procrastination is the art or putting off or delaying important actions to a later time. This is a close relation to, and often at odds with, the emotional need to have something useful to do and be engaged in life.
Can procrastination be a good thing?
I have an important project I am trying to get under way (more on this another time) and every time I sit down to action my to-do list I find something else to do, which seems important, and gets in the way. I called up my business coach and we had a heated debate on procrastination.
He pointed me to a great article by Erin Falconer, editor of Pick the Brain. According to this article procrastination comes in two categories – structured and unstructured – and there are beneficial aspects to each. This is what Dr Piers Steel of Psychology Today calls ‘Beneficial Procrastination’. Here is my take on the items in this list.
Getting organised – avoiding tasks by using the excuse your workplace needs to be better organised. You feel good as your workplace is neat and tidy
Networking – you have a list of contacts you really should touch base with but don’t have the time. Procrastination is an opportunity to stay in touch. Of course you feel good as there will be a long term dividend.
Planing ahead – The only thing better than actually doing something is thinking or talking about doing it. Take time to identify, record, and schedule all your tasks. Leave the best and most important for last so you can savour the victory.
Errands – How about that dentist appointment? Or car service? These important tasks become appealing to the best of procrastinators. Of course your car and health will be much better by doing these today.
Get up to date – go back to all those emails with red flags and read the reports and memos you should have read. They are definitely a lot more interesting today and you will be ready for questions at the office party
Assist others – If you are not going to do your own work, you can at least deliver on the help you promised your colleague last week.
Structured procrastination is a great way to keep busy, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it. When you’d rather not do anything work related, unstructured procrastination is the way to go. It might seem like laziness, but what’s wrong with that? Unstructured procrastination is essential for recharging creative energy and allowing the unconscious mind to work on difficult problems. These are 6 productive ways to avoid work completely.
Go to Lunch – You need to eat, might as well do it now so you can’t use it as an excuse later.
Exercise – Same as lunch, with the added benefit of increased alertness.
Take a Walk – A casual walk is a great way to unburden your mind and allow great ideas to come to you.
Relax – If you feel a strong desire to procrastinate, there’s probably a reason behind it. Relaxation is important for a healthy productive lifestyle, why not do it now when you can’t get anything else done?
Come Up With a Great Idea – This one can’t exactly be completed on demand, but studies have shown that entrepreneurs and other creative people tend to get their best ideas during down time.
Read a Good Book – If you’d rather not think for yourself, you might as well absorb the great ideas someone else took the trouble to record.
Is Procrastination a good thing?
If you put off something on purpose because you think it’s a good idea to delay, you’re not procrastinating. You’re scheduling or prioritising, sometimes just to feel the motivational thrill of doing it all at the last moment. Procrastination is when you planned or felt that you should have done the thing earlier, and then delayed anyway. In short, it is putting off despite expecting to be worse off.
Sometimes we are lucky and the task we have been putting off doesn’t need to get done after all – a truly happy moment, like when a project gets cancelled and it turns out the boss doesn’t need that report you never got around to writing in the first place.
So the answer is, yes, procrastination can make life a whole lot more interesting, more rewarding and can save you from being unproductive. Just make sure you seloect the right things to procrastinate on.
This weeks Question and Actions
Procrastination can sometimes be a good thing, however, at key times of the business year, like major holidays, putting off tasks to the New Year or until you get back to work can have devastations consequences for a business. Here are some actions to help keep you focused;
- Every day write down your ‘six pack’ (things to do list). This is your list of the top six items which you must do today
- Write down how you will reward yourself once you complete each task and all the tasks
- Turn off your email, Facebook, Twitter and Cell phone until you have completed and rewarded yourself for completing the first three tasks
- At the end of the day make your new list for the next day.
There is no reason you can’t do other tasks as long as your have the vital things covered. Life is not one big ‘to do’ list, it is about enjoying life and allowing beneficial procrastination refresh and revitalise your life.