Procrastination has been my long-term companion, and I’ve got to tell you, it isn’t all bad. Procrastination is voluntarily putting off an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment.
Procrastination is typically perceived to be a bad thing, so I will start there. Research indicates that procrastination generally leads to lower-quality work performance reduced feelings of well-being. As a group, students who procrastinate get lower grades. Procrastinators put off a lot of unpleasant tasks, for example, getting medical treatments and diagnostic tests.
Here are 5 reason for procrastination, according to Psychology Today.
- absence of structure
- unpleasant, boring tasks
- timing: when present activities are rewarding and longer-term outcomes are in the future
- lack of confidence about one’s ability to do the task
- anxiety: postponing getting started because of fear of failure
My personal favorite isn’t on this list: the ego-defensive function of feeling better about oneself. This related to #5 above. Whatever the outcome, the procrastinator can always say to him/her self, “Not bad for the amount of time I spent on it. Of course, I could do better.”
Exceptionally bright, capable people are highly rewarded for procrastination. Examples include students who get A’s without studying. Teachers who get good reviews when they lecture spontaneously. Etc.
According to Stephanie Vozza, procrastination has gotten a bad rap. She listed 6 reasons why procrastination can lead to greater success and happiness.
- Structured procrastinators get more done. While putting off one thing, they do something else.
- Procrastinators make better decisions. I’m doubtful about this one, but if while delaying making a decision a person is gathering relevant information, it could be.
- Procrastination leads to creativity. When a task seems too hard to do, you might invent a better way.
- Unnecessary tasks disappear when you procrastinate.
- Procrastination leads to better apologies.
- Procrastination reveals what you find important.
BOTTOM LINE: Like so much in life, there’s both an upside and a downside to procrastination.