There’s no doubt in my mind that procrastination is a serious problem for people everywhere. It’s easier now more than ever to procrastinate. Instead of doing the task at hand you somehow end up on a YouTube spiral watching hours of Game Of Thrones fan theories only to find yourself watching “10 things the WWE wants you to forget about The Rock“; the Internet is a weird and wonderful place. (This line was inspired by the 30 minutes I spent not writing this article.)
But after recently reading why NY Times writer Adam Grant who is a devoted ‘pre-crastinator’ (yes, it’s a thing) was teaching himself to procrastinate, it begged the question, what are some good ways to procrastinate? In Adam Grant’s article, he explains how one of his former most creative students, Jihae Shin who is now a professor at the University of Wisconsin designed and experiment that would illustrate the powers of procrastination.
“She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters rated how original they were. The procrastinators’ ideas were 28 percent more creative.”
It’s clear in this instance that procrastination was a positive outcome. Yay! But why? Well, a small amount of procrastination that won’t impede the overall outcome of the task are good. It gives a buffer between learning about the topic and accomplishing it. You might experience something to give you a new idea to assist your task. Like encountering a more creative outcome of finishing this article. That would be nice.
Small Increments of Procrastination
As mentioned above, taking some time to procrastinate and consider the task at hand can be a useful tool in divergent thinking. This would help to explore many possible solutions for the task at hand. It can give you time to reconsider earlier work and why it no longer makes sense. As long as it can be done in small increments to ensure the completion of the task and not a last minute binge, it’s a way procrastinating can be used to your advantage.
Active vs. Passive
It is widely considered that there are two forms of procrastination one being Active and the other Passive. Pretty simply active procrastination is actively putting aside the task at hand to complete other tasks that you have deemed more important. Say instead of getting your University assignment done or studying you decide to clean the house, go shopping, pay bills, do the washing, or a number of other menial tasks we usually put off, isn’t that kind of being productive?
Obviously, you are not immediately completing the most important task at hand, but you did just do a few tasks that you wouldn’t have done by being passive ie. sitting on the couch covered in Dorito crumbs and despair. You just procrastinated the shit out of procrastinating. You’d also no longer feel like the world around you was an insurmountable task to be completed, and might appear to others as someone who has their life together, even if it’s the furthest from the truth.
‘Sleep On It’
There’s a good reason why this is a common piece of advice when we have difficult questions that require some serious critical thinking. People need time to mull complex ideas or thoughts over before making a rash judgment or decision. Most of the time our first idea of how to deal with a situation won’t be the best one, so taking some time to help try and think about a topic can be beneficial.
Is it still procrastination if you are going out and actively educating yourself on the topic or problem you are trying to complete? Where is the line drawn? I feel if you are say watching a YouTube video that gives you another perspective or more to think about in the task at hand, it’s kind of like the best form of procrastination possible in that you don’t have to do much, but it’s still kind of working. Maybe it even is working on research and development. One more way to feel less guilty.
I really do believe that in many cases, procrastination isn’t all that bad. It ultimately comes down to whether it is affecting the final outcome of the product and if it isn’t of the highest quality it should be. Maybe this is all wishful thinking, or maybe I just wrote this whole article because I didn’t want to finish my uni assignment.
If you’d like to find out more why you’re the reason you always leave everything to the last minute, listen to this TED talk by Tim Urban where he goes ‘Inside The Mind Of A Procrastinator’. Cover image by YAO XIAO.