To all procrastinators out there..

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Procrastination. A ubiquitous term permeated our everyday lives so deeply that each of us can relate to a habit of putting off things until the last moment. Interestingly enough, that long before people became obsessed with efficiency and productivity ancient Egyptians had two different verbs for denoting procrastination: one for laziness; the other for waiting for the right time. Almost poetic, isn’t it?

Well, it could be. If people weren’t prone to think of it as the root of all-evil. Not that it is completely untrue; but Adam Grant (2016) in his book titled “Originals” debunks the common assumption and assures that even though procrastination can be “a vice for productivity” it can serve as “a resource for creativity” (p. 95).

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As it turns out, there are three types of people in this world. First, are pre-crastinators, the ones who rush in and cannot live without finishing everything in advance. Then, there are chronic yet moderate or “strategic” procrastinators. Ideally, this is the type you would want to be. And, as you may have already guessed the third ones just wait til the very last moment and miss the benefits of procrastination that it has to offer if it’s done right.

Speaking of which, procrastination makes you more creative and leaves room for improvisation and spontaneity (Grant, 2016). To prove the theory, Grant, who finished his thesis four months [FOUR MONTHS] before the deadline and is a vivid example of pre-crastinator, with his procrastinator student have run a series of surveys and experiments.

So, what they did is they accessed several companies and conducted a survey among employees about their procrastination experiences. After, the employers were asked to rate their employees’ level of creativity. Surprisingly, procrastinators got higher scores. However, they did not stop there and designed an experiment where people were asked to generate business ideas. They had two control groups: the first group had to start immediately; second were given 5 minutes to play a computer game, i.e. to procrastinate. Again, the ideas of procrastinators were rated 28 % more original and creative.

The key point here is that people were more creative only if they knew about the task before they started to procrastinate. Thus, it is only when we start thinking about the problem and then procrastinate on its solution we open the door for the diversity of ideas. Because even if we are not directly involved in doing the task, it is still active somewhere in the “palaces of our mind”. So, when we actually start working on the problem our subconscious allows us to think in creative and non-linear ways.

Moreover, it “keeps us open to improvisation” (p. 100). Usually, we tend to plan our steps and try to stick to it, otherwise why plan in the first place, right? Studies of numerous successful executives have shown that the habit of procrastination made them more strategically flexible. Of course, as a great procrastinator you still need to plan, at least make a plan for your procrastination and “test and refine different possibilities” as they cross your mind (p.102). And do not wait until the last night before the X day. Just don’t.

If you’re not convinced and feel like it got out of control, check these guides on how to deal with procrastination and how to avoid our common frenemy. It won’t hurt for sure. However, if you think that you’ve already lost the battle don’t stress out either. Instead, learn how to make it work for your benefit. In other words, learn how to procrastinate wisely.

And don’t forget to remember “they call it procrastination, we call it thinking” (Sorkin, 2002).

References:

Grant, A. (2016). Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World. New York: Viking

Couric, K. (2002, May, 22). Interview with Aaron Sorkin. Retrieved from http://www.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=2090

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10 thoughts on “To all procrastinators out there..

  1. Well, firstly I like your topic as it is so close to me))) Secondly, I am glad that you also found out that procrastinators have better achievment results. I thought about this from time to time and was upset that I am lazy one, however now I know that I just open my mind for creative ideas and it takes time! Additionally, I think that when our brain is under the preassure of time it generates super successful decisions. Moreover, lots of sucsessful people say that the first idea that came to your mind is correct as it comes from inner world. But it is the another question to discuss…

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    1. This sounds like a cool excuse for procrastination. The reason why I try not to leave work till the last moment, albeit unsuccessfully at times, is that it gives the sense of security. You never know what might happen several hours before the work should be fulfilled. Your always reliable device, for example, can get damaged or, in worse, you may not physically do the task. Putting the accomplishment at peril, even for the sake of creativity, is kinda extreme.

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      1. Dear, @aigulazhigaliyeva! Thank you for your interest and reasonable comment! Could not agree more on a “coolness” of this excuse. However, this post is about procrastinating strategically and moderately, to give your mind an opportunity to wander and consider a variety of ideas, and not waiting until the last night before the X day.
        I also agree that unexpected things might happen and ruin the implementation of one’s plans, but I guess this all comes with the experience. And hopefully, I’m on my way 🙂

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    2. Thank you very much for taking your time to read my blog post, @assema001!
      Yes, it actually opens a door for creativity even if there is still some time to implement it in real life. Quite often, procrastinators get stuck with the process of creating and wait until the very last moment. This just leads to more pressure and anxiety and we cannot even speak about creativity or insights. Thus, I would definitely recommend procrastinating moderately. However, I would disagree with the point about the first idea that comes to our mind is always correct. Usually, when we stick to that first impulse we close the door for other no less brilliant ideas that may have a chance to be more original or appropriate. So, rushing in as fast as possible does have some drawbacks as well. Again, thank you for your interest!

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  2. Dear Dana, your post relates so much to me and, as Aigul says, it is such a perfect excuse. I completely agree that the more time I spend thinking about an assignment, the more I am satisfied with the outcome. Yet, I see lots of negative consequences of the procrastination habit in my own experience. Like, deadlines seem to be the only real motivators I have. No deadline, no productivity. I might have loads of questions about an assignment and may never make an appointment with the instructor unless I get completely stuck. I might know that consulting with the librarian would enable me to identify the best sources for my literature review and still will make no attempts to do so. Moreover, I get no benefit from procrastinating something that does not involve much of pre-thinking (doing class readings, preparing for a vocab quiz, etc.). I also think that the tendency to procrastinate for everything can also hinder a group work process. If the procrastinator is the leader of the group or is responsible for the initial stage in the project, this might lead to more stress for the rest of the group members.

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  3. Superb post, Dana. (5/5) Your originality and confidence jump off the page in the first paragraph, and the post is a pleasure to read.

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    1. Dana, you might be surprised but I learned baking pizza, meatloaf and cooking pilaf during my procrastination in my bachelor studies last year just a couple of months before thesis defense. And many of my spectacular drawings and portraits are generally the products of my procrastination. So I can say that my procrastination is almost always makes me more busy and passionate about doing something not related to the deadline. Even today I wrote three blogs at once instead of writing them gradually as it was supposed to. However! I finished them three days before the deadline! This is my little progress towards being so called pre-crastinator!

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      1. Dear, @khakimkenzhetayev! Thank you very much for your interest in my blog! The point you raise is about productive procrastination, which is a whole different concept and it is amazing how the levels, ways and reasons of procrastination vary from person to person. It is interesting how one finds joy (baking pizza and cooking pilaf), and the other just stress and anxiety. That sounds like an idea for a project or a paper, right? Thanks again.

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  4. Indeed, this a great topic to study! Unfortunately, we are restricted to focous our theses out of the frame of multilingualism and education. In addition to my previous comment, I would like to learn using this feeling that appears during procrastination before deadline to use it for self development. When I procrastinate, things usually boring to me become an object of investigation and experiment. You know, I can compare this feeling to my curiosity when I was a kid. At that time I felt this sort of sparkling interest in everything without any deadlines ahead. So what kills this in us?! Any suggestions, @danasan13?

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