By DeVry University
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s completing a project, writing a paper or having a tough conversation, putting something off until the last possible moment is often the more enticing option when it comes to tackling a task. Procrastination─ and procrastinators ─often get a bad rap, but are there any benefits of procrastination?
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. When we do this, it’s often to try and bring momentary relief by putting off an unpleasant task. But for many people, the feelings of relief may turn into elevated levels of stress as the deadline draws closer.
Many people think that procrastination comes from laziness, poor time management or from a lack of willpower, but those in the psychology field would disagree.
Why do we procrastinate?
According to Dr. Tim Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University, “procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.” False, deeply rooted beliefs about our abilities and our own insecurities can get in the way of our productivity and make us want to procrastinate, as can perfectionism, fear of failure, anxiety, low self-esteem or fear of criticism.
Delaying a task that you don’t want to do might give you relief in the moment, but once the deadline arrives you’re likely to experience feelings of self-blame, shame and anxiety, compounding the negative feelings you already had around the task.
What are the benefits of procrastination?
While it may seem surprising, there can actually be several benefits of procrastination. There is a difference between chronic procrastination, which according to DePaul psychology professor Joseph Ferrari affects 20% of adults, and what organizational psychologist Adam Grant calls a “sweet spot” of moderate procrastination. According to Grant, moderate procrastination can help give your brain time to mull over a task or problem, and create space for greater creativity and innovative ideas. This, he believes, is the primary work zone of innovators and original thinkers.
Whether or not you procrastinate may also be due to what kind of person you are, as well as what motivates you. In her book “What Motivates Getting Things Done,” psychologist Mary Lamia talks about two groups of people: task-driven and deadline-driven. From her perspective, neither approach is bad. While task-driven individuals would rather use their time to accomplish their goals in small bites, deadline-driven people prefer to channel their stress to work under pressure, helping them focus and complete their goals in a shorter timeframe.
How to overcome procrastination?
Beating yourself up over procrastination only makes it harder to kick the habit. In fact, one study showed that self-forgiveness can help stop you from becoming stuck in a shame loop by helping you learn to handle negative emotions and ultimately reduce procrastination.
Instead, consider these steps to learn how to overcome procrastination:
- Finding the root of your anxiety around the task
- Addressing your limiting self-beliefs
- Reframing the project as something that is beneficial rather than something that measures your worth
- Extending kindness and compassion to yourself
Make Your Future a Priority
Don’t let procrastination get in the way of your goals. If you’re thinking about continuing your education, brushing up on your skills or going back to school, we can help. At DeVry, we offer degree and certificate programs from associate to master’s level in a variety of fields including technology, business and healthcare. Our classes can be completed 100% online and start every 8 weeks.