5 Ways Procrastinating Is Actually Good For You

by Pamela J. Hobart

These days, it seems like everyone's obsessed with techniques and life hacks to beat procrastination. But hold your horses, because there are several ways procrastination is good for you — no, seriously. When you find yourself speeding through a project, there's gotta be a reason (and a drawback) to that. And when you find yourself hemming and hawing and frittering your time away rather than doing the things you need (or even want) to do, that means something too, and you should take notice!

Of course, if you're constantly missing deadlines and it's causing problems in your professional or personal life, do what you can to tackle procrastination head-on. It's totally a real problem, and many people suffer from it. But it may also be well worth taking a step back to evaluate your productivity habits more generally. Time management is a complicated, moving target of a task, requiring ongoing assessment and hard-won skill.

Only the most skilled of time managers can break through the soundbite tips and tricks for enhanced productivity to see the bigger picture. Depending on what you're trying to get out of your time, maybe a little more procrastination — incorporated carefully — is what you need after all.

1. Procrastination boosts creativity

Plenty of people kid themselves about being able to do their best work very close to a deadline. On the other hand, racing through your work just to get it done isn't great either — you might fail to give yourself enough time, space, and opportunity to let your ideas marinate. To a certain extent, then, procrastination boosts creativity. Just don't delay finishing your stuff for so long that you overshoot "creative," and end up never finishing anything.

2. "Structured procrastination" can help you to get more done

The core idea behind "structured procrastination" is that just because you're procrastinating on one thing doesn't mean you can't be getting other things done. It's OK to put off a paper that's not due for two weeks, if you use that thought to light a fire under yourself so you clean your room, organize your finances, and bathe your dog in the meantime.

3. Procrastinating the right way can help your mood

An interesting new aspect of procrastination research suggests that, instead of being perfectionists, many procrastinators are actually engaging in a strategy to improve their moods. The procrastination activity (social media usage, game playing, sleeping) does really provide a short-term mood boost, but sometimes at a steep long-term cost. If you find yourself procrastinating for this reason, then realize that your mood may need an adjustment before you can do your best work. But choose a procrastination activity with a better happiness payoff, like working out or making time for a friend or cooking a healthy meal, instead of an empty time-filling activity.

4. It's fun to procrastinate

Like many things in life, a moderate amount of procrastination can be perfectly healthy. No one achieves 100 percent "productivity," and why would you really want to? Sometimes when you choose to do something fun instead of doing something dutiful, you achieve another value, of living in the moment. With time, experience, and willpower, we can get better at determining when the in-the-moment thing is worthwhile, and when we should stick to our guns.

5. Procrastination reveals priorities

If you very consistently procrastinate on doing something in particular, despite significant and sustained efforts to stop, the harsh truth is that it's probably just not that important to you. If this thing is, say, doing your taxes, you'll still need to get it together. But if it's something optional (like writing, yoga, taking an art class, or traveling somewhere), then maybe it's time to release that goal altogether. Without it hanging over your head, you'll feel freer to find and pursue what's really important to you.

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