“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin
“There’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s a repair job to be done around the house.” – Joe Ryan
Everyone procrastinates. Some, in fact, are proficient at it. While I used to count myself in that category, I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways in recent years and I must say I’ve been quite successful in the endeavor. Still, the urge to put off what must be done occasionally plagues me. So, I found the research on what’s good and what’s bad about procrastination so fascinating I just had to share it. Here, then, are 10 good and 10 bad points to ponder about procrastination.
10 Good Things about Procrastination
While much of the literature about procrastination — and public consensus — is that the habit is bad, there are some studies and research pointing out the opposite.
1. Procrastination helps you learn to manage delay.
The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about living the good life. In fact, Greek philosophers highly valued procrastination, as much as stating that it is good to learn to manage delay. Of course, there’s a significant difference between active and passive procrastination, where the former can be considered good and the latter — just sitting around doing nothing, for example — is decidedly in the category of bad. Knowing when to act, even though that may mean delaying action, is good advice.
2. Procrastination provides time to reflect on what’s most important.
You need time to think about what matters most in life. Not in the sense that you’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues, simply what’s most important to you. By taking your time to think through some things – or think of nothing at all so that your mind can clear, you’ll discover the kernels of importance that reside in your mind and heart. Then, you can act accordingly.
3. Much better decisions may result from procrastination.
Rushing in to deal with this or that task, project or item on your list of things to do doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be done well or provide any meaningful satisfaction for their completion. You might also find yourself accepting projects and tasks that aren’t right for you, that you’re ill-equipped to handle, shouldn’t do because they’re someone else’s responsibility, or it’s simply not the right time to get started on them. Just because something is on a list is not always a green light to work on them. By procrastinating, your decision may be better informed as a result.
4. Prioritization may be the offshoot of procrastination.
If you’re putting off things, procrastination could help you jumpstart prioritizing. This is helpful to get rid of unnecessary tasks, things you might have begun that weren’t worth your time, at least now.
5. Cooler heads prevail when you procrastinate saying you’re sorry.
While you might feel pressure to apologize when you’ve wronged another and anxious to get it over with, if you push yourself to do it immediately, who knows what might come out of your mouth? This is a case where allowing yourself time to think carefully about what and how (and perhaps where and when) you’ll issue the apology will result in a better, sincerer apology. Even if it’s taking an hour or so and breathing in and out deeply, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind and your tone of voice and body language will be more relaxed.
6. You can get other things done on your to-do list when you engage in active procrastination.
Sure, there might be some doozies on your to-do list, tasks or projects that are complex, complicated, time-consuming or just difficult, onerous and not something you want to dive into. You know you’ll have to deal with them eventually but tending to the half dozen or so small items on your list allows you to get a lot done, be more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment. This might be all you need to then tackle that big one you’ve been putting off.
7. Procrastination allows your mind to process.
Even when you’re not consciously thinking about what’s on your do-to list, your subconscious is. This may lead to an innovative or creative solution to the issue, task, project, errand or chore you’ve put off doing.
8. Active procrastination offers health benefits.
Research by Chu and Choi in 2005 found that active procrastinators were not paralyzed by worry. They also had lower stress levels, exhibited less avoidant tendencies, and had healthier self-efficacy.
9. Your most creative ideas may come through procrastination.
There is a school of thought that the first ideas or solutions to problems aren’t the best ones. Those are often the result of deliberating for a time to sort through different options and arrive at the most appropriate. Call this dwell time or mind-wandering or an example of the creative process. If it works, use it – sparingly. Some things can’t wait while you procrastinate.
10. Procrastination is normal.
Instead of agonizing that you’re guilty of a bad habit by your procrastination, embrace the realization that procrastination is normal. If it doesn’t get out of hand or become chronic, you shouldn’t have a problem.
10 Bad Things about Procrastination
The list of what’s not so good about procrastination includes some well-known (and likely quite familiar) observations that each have some measure of truth.
1. Procrastination can lead to poor academic performance.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, a study by Case Western Reserve University determined that college students who procrastinated experienced higher levels of stress, increased episodes of illness, and poorer grades by semester’s end.
2. Higher levels of stress associated with procrastination may be linked to poor self-compassion.
Research by Sirois published in Self & Identity suggested that lower levels of self-compassion could explain some stress levels procrastinators experienced and observed that targeted interventions to promote self-compassion could be beneficial for those individuals.
3. Procrastination promotes negative feelings.
A study by Pychyl et al. reported in Personality & Individual Differences examined the phenomenon of negative feelings arising from procrastination by students. Negative affect resulted from the first instance of procrastination before an exam, yet self-forgiveness tended to reduce procrastination and negative effect on a subsequent exam.
4. Procrastination may have a genetic component.
Are you destined to be a procrastinator because of your genetic makeup? Several studies debate this origin of procrastination, or at least whether genetics is causative. A study by Gustavson et al. published in the journal from the Association for Psychological Science found confirmation for their postulation that procrastination is a by-product of impulsivity. Not only is procrastination heritable, both share a great deal of genetic variation, and an important aspect of this shared variability is goal- management. Even though you may be predisposed to procrastinate, however, doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.
5. Procrastination is self-defeating behavior.
While the debate goes on over the good versus bad points about procrastination, some scientists say that procrastinating conflates positive behaviors such as pondering and prioritizing. Furthermore, procrastination for any number of seemingly good reasons leads to the self-defeating habit of genuine procrastination, which is the absence of making progress.
6. Putting off what needs to be done likely results in a poor product.
Some say that procrastinating helps motivate them to do their best work under pressure. While that may be true for some small number of people, it isn’t the general outcome. Crashing to accomplish that oh-so-important project or school paper or business presentation at the last minute will probably not be your best work. Self-talk to the contrary is just an excuse.
7. With procrastination, you get things done, but they’re the wrong things.
Shoving the important task to the bottom of the list and focusing on several easy and quick-to-do ones you could do any time gives you the false reassurance that you’re accomplishing a lot. Granted, this example of procrastination allows you to get things done, yet they’re the wrong things – or are out of priority.
8. You add to the workload of others when you procrastinate.
No one likes having work dumped on them that another employee fails to do. That creates resentment, adds to the dumped-on employees’ workload and sets the stage for feelings of anxiety and piled-on resentment.
9. Procrastinators may be paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, a loss of self-worth.
People aren’t inherently lazy when they engage in procrastination. Just ask them. They’ll come up with a dozen distinct reasons for their delay to act. At the heart of the problem of procrastination, at least for some individuals, may be a paralyzing fear of making a mistake and thus suffering a loss of self-worth.
10. The end-product of chronic procrastination may be mental health issues.
A longitudinal study of the costs and benefits of procrastination, performance and stress found that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior pattern characterized by short-term benefits and long-term costs, including an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.