Could Procrastination Actually Be Good For You?

Is leaving everything to the last minute actually beneficial to us?

It’s Sunday afternoon. You're looking at your computer, trying to make up your mind. You have a couple of unfinished work assignments (those you swore you'd get done by Friday) that have to be ready by Monday morning. You know that if you don’t get that done right now, you’ll start doing something else and tasks will remain undone. Suddenly, you remember that you were missing the last two episodes from the second season of Stranger Things. Decisions, decisions, decisions. What to do? Watch the two remaining chapters, or leave them on standby until the work duties are done? Well, it’s just two more before the ending, it’s not that much. Maybe it will help you relax and concentrate more afterwards. Sure, why not? Responsibilities can wait a little longer.

After reading this, you may be feeling one of two things: frustration because of the laziness of whoever wrote this (I’m sorry), or you can feel strongly related. If by any chance you belong to the second group, I know you probably felt somehow ashamed too. Don’t be so hard on yourself. My superpower is to deliver amazing last minute essays, and I can live with it. This is the picture when it comes to decision making: procrastinators vs. the world. And even though we have been misjudged for so long, science has arrived to make us feel a little better about ourselves.

In order to understand how to be successful with our responsibility-snooze button, we must first comprehend what has been stated about this and how to apply the new information in our daily life. To do so, let’s divide procrastinators into active and passive ones. The first type leaves tasks for another time because they're completing other chores that seem to be more important at the moment. The second group is the one that goes straight to bed and stares at the ceiling for hours without achieving anything. Yes, these are the kind of postponers that ruin the reputation of those who really work hard not to delay important assignments.

Okay, now the facts. Jihae Shin, professor at the Wisconsin School of Business, has developed interesting research around what motivates people at their workplace and what doesn’t. She analyzed how often the employees procrastinated assignments and afterwards asked their bosses to rate how creative or innovative the results were. Professor Shin found that the employees who procrastinated often where the most creative, as compared to those who started their tasks right away. So, delaying duties can make us more creative. Score!

Adam Grant, American author and psychology professor at the Wharton Business School, came to realize how relevant procrastination was when his students told him they actually felt more creative after postponing homeworks. After doing some exhaustive research on this matter, he found out that some of the most important moments in History were due to procrastination. From Martin Luther King’s famous speech to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This is the where you should stop feeling bad about procrastination. Even the greatest minds did it at some point in their lives! During an interview with BBC Radio 4, professor Grant explained:

“The greatest speeches in history were re-written at the last minute so that you had a lot of flexibility to improvise while you’re still on stage, as opposed to getting the script set in stone months in advance. (...) Remember that the right kind of procrastination might make you more creative.”

And last but not least, Frank Partnoy, professor of Law and Finance at the University of San Diego, suggests that waiting for the last possible moment to make up your mind can be the best thing to do. In his new book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, Partnoy explains that when you have to make a decision about something, we should think how much time we have to make it, and wait until the last minute moment to do so. So procrastination has turned out to be cooler than we thought. It helps during the decision making process, to bring out our most original side, to clarify our priorities, and to come up with the best ideas and refinements on our creative process.

Now you know, this won't be your worst enemy forever. We can leave responsibilities to the last minute, and still manage to get them done, even with better results. We can even get more creative, and decide important matters more peacefully. So it’s time to embrace your inner procrastinator and accept the fact that this is not as fatal as we have been taught. If we operate better this way, why should we put so much pressure on ourselves to work differently? Let’s postpone duties, not happiness.


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Photo Credits:

Anthony Tran

Kinga Cichewicz