There is an importance to procrastination. Everyone, hear me: Procrastination can be good for you! You just have to learn to embrace it.
Let me backup. I’m a writer. I’m in grad school for creative writing. My thesis involves me writing a novel. It’s the longest project I’ve ever committed to, and I am terrified I will not be able to finish it. I know when my first full draft is due, so I made myself a schedule. If I write about 1,000 words every day for the next few weeks, I will hit my goal in time with maybe a day extra to spare. Easy, right? Sure, it’s just a thousand words! That’s what I told myself as I stared blankly at my computer screen for three straight days. And then I panicked because I had to write 3,000 words on top of the daily 1,000 to play catch up. What did I do? I watched Netflix and tried to avoid my problem until inspiration struck me.
Here is why procrastination was not working for me in that moment: I was avoiding my problem. I was panicking. I was letting myself get in my way. Guess what happened when I took a deep breath, stopped pressuring myself, and let myself do a few other tasks around the house before I sat back down to write? I knocked out the then 5,000 words I needed to write in a day. I was able to be creative without stalling and felt calmer than I had in days. This happens to me all the time. Why is procrastination helping me if it is the bane of productivity’s existence?
Finally, I did a little searching and found some interesting thoughts on procrastination and why it can be helpful:
Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World and Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, published an article in The New York Times called Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate. He discusses the idea of procrastination as a creativity booster. He writes,
“Our first ideas, after all, are usually our most conventional. My senior thesis in college ended up replicating a bunch of existing ideas instead of introducing new ones. When you procrastinate, you’re more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns.”
I gave that some thought and realized that I experienced more success in my writing after I let ideas “stew” for a bit in the back of my mind while I worked on other things, or even while I watched TV. When I tried to force myself to write with the ideas that I deemed “appropriate” for my novel, I felt stuck because I didn’t like them, I thought they were bland, and I was uninspired. After waiting a few days and letting myself relax, I caught an idea and had to write it down. I sat happily at my desk and chugged away at my laptop and before I knew it I had finished another chapter.
Yes, I know that if I’m trying to be productive that procrastination can sideline me. I’ve tried different ways to stop procrastinating, because we all want to overcome our weaknesses and be our best selves.
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The “One-Minute Rule”
Recently, I learned about the “one-minute rule.” I can’t remember where I heard it, and upon search I found articles about the “one minute rule,” the “two minute rule,” and the “ten minute rule.”
Essentially, all of these minute-rules recommended the same thing: Do the tasks that will take you less than a minute or less than [insert time here] because those are simple enough to clear of your to-do list and help you focus on bigger tasks at hand.
If you use your procrastination powers for good and not evil, great things can come from it. So, the next time you think you might be better off waiting a bit, or you really just want to finish that final season of Netflix, give yourself a break and let your procrastination fuel your success.