Procrastination: Best Friend and Worst Enemy

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a little while now, but I keep putting it off. All joking aside, it is interesting how our society’s relationship with procrastination has evolved over the years. Given the breakneck pace of how quickly we expect things to get done, we also have forged a habit of playing too many Internet games when we should really be working.

Absolutely, procrastination can be one of the worst things for your levels of efficiency and effectiveness. If you can wrap your head around a task and get down to it, you might be able to complete it in a couple of hours. However, if you choose to distract yourself several times over the course of the day, that same task could end up taking eight hours or more. All you’re doing is passing the buck back to yourself.

It largely boils down to a matter of motivation. There’s a reason why you choose to peruse Facebook and browse YouTube rather than focus on the task at hand. As the de-motivation poster above describes, those provide instant gratification whereas the “hard work” might not pay off for a while.

Some time back, I came across another de-motivation poster featuring the guy from the movie Office Space. The caption read, “It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I don’t care.” Think about that for a moment. If the task really is something you love to do and you’re passionate about it, you probably want to do it. However, if you approach a task with much dread, you’re much more likely to avoid it. That’s the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy; it’s almost like you have to convince yourself that work is fun and it’s something you want to do.

So, how can procrastination be your best friend at the same time? I’d argue there are two parts to this. For creative tasks and problem-solving, I find it can sometimes be best to approach the project obliquely. That is to say that the best ideas come when you’re not directly thinking about the subject. Just make sure that you have a notepad (or something similar) close at hand when those brilliant ideas come flooding into your brain.

Second, procrastination may be one of the keys to avoiding burnout. It can be far too easy to dive into a job and burn yourself out by working too hard. It’s possible and it’s common. You have to convince yourself to take the necessary breaks and, to some, this may be perceived as procrastination. To others, it’s viewed as the time needed to “recharge the batteries,” so to speak.

Perhaps the old adage still holds some weight: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do t… hey look, a new Top Gear episode is available.