Work & Career
9 Hidden Benefits of Procrastination
If you’re a fellow procrastinator, don’t beat yourself up too hard. While procrastination tends to get a pretty bad rep, there are scientific arguments for why it can be a beneficial approach.
It makes you more creative
Are you in dire need of creative inspiration? There’s nothing like a ticking time bomb of a deadline to trigger it. Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School, wrote in the New York Times about a mini-experiment conducted by one of his former students. Participants were asked to generate new business ideas; some were assigned to start right away, while others were given five minutes to play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Their ideas were then rated for originality. Surprisingly, the procrastinators’ ideas were rated 28 percent more creative. “When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity,” Grant said. “It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.” Did you know boredom can also spark creativity?
Your stress levels are lower
If you assumed that procrastination is stressful, think again. In a study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, it was discovered that compared with non-procrastinators, procrastinators experienced less stress and have better physical health when the deadlines were far off. It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it; through the art of procrastination, you’re also stalling any anxiety or stress and limiting it to the least amount of time possible.
You have great time management skills
OK, not on a long-term basis. But on a short-term scale, giving yourself the minimum amount of time to get something finished makes you work faster—so if stretching out that one assignment over an entire week would have taken ten hours, doing it in one night could make it a five-hour job. Because you have less time available, the brain learns to make the most out of a short period of time, and you’ve given yourselves more time for other things. (Who cares if that time was spent binging on Black Mirror?) The takeaway? If you’re the type of person who is more productive under the pressure of the ticking clock, embrace it.
It provides an energy boost
Think of procrastination like your personal trainer, that little voice in the background looming over your head and urging you to work harder. You may hate it at the time, but after all is said and done, mostly everyone can admit it was worth it. Procrastination produces fear of missing a deadline, and in turn, this fear sparks temporary anxiety. According to Scientific American, “Under acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for sustained, vigorous action. The adrenal gland dumps cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Blood pressure surges and the heart races, delivering oxygen and energy to the muscles. It’s the biological equivalent of opening the throttle of an engine.”
You won’t second guess yourself
Because you’ll have less time when you get around to doing whatever it is you need to do, you won’t have time to question yourself or your work, and you might be more self-assured in what you’re submitting. By procrastinating, you’re far less likely to waste precious time worrying and the fear of missing a pending deadline will let you do everything exactly as needed,
It makes everything else seem easier
Chances are that if you’re procrastinating on something, it’s because you really don’t want to do it. When you procrastinate, you get to put off these unpleasant tasks in favor of more enjoyable things, even if that means doing your laundry or some other household chore. You’ll check off the smaller things on your to-do list much more willingly (since you’d much rather be doing that than what you’re avoiding). Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how to shut down stress pronto.
It makes you hyper-focus on the task at hand
Working on a bajillion things at once can easily cause your mind to wander to different places. Procrastination, on the other hand, forces you to only focus on a singular task when it’s (finally) time to buckle down and get to it. And multi-tasking has already been debunked as a strategy for efficiency. A recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms that those who rated themselves as chronic multitaskers made more mistakes, could remember fewer items, and took longer to complete a task.
You’re working, even when you don’t think you are
While you’re procrastinating, you don’t completely delete the task from your head; your mind is still aware that it has to be done eventually. Chances are you’re brainstorming ways to complete it, even as you go about your other work. In Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination, author Frank Partnoy argues that procrastination gives your ideas time to soak in, allowing you to approach the assignment after your subconscious has already chewed it over. Ultimately, this step could be the equation for success.
The task might disappear or change by the time you work on it
Let’s be completely honest here. Sometimes, you shed hours of blood, sweat, and tears into something only to realize that the instructions have changed or that the work is “no longer needed.” Yep, this would mean that all those nights of hard work were for naught. The truth is that if you’re jumping on every task the second it’s assigned, this is bound to happen. Procrastination eliminates the risk of change from the equation, since any alteration to the assignment will probably already have been made. If you think about it that way, procrastination could even save you more time (and unnecessary effort) than working ahead. Find out the nine tricks every procrastinator needs to be more productive.