Procrastination â€” a word that almost instantly evokes negative connotations. It reminds one of those who aren’t able to manage their time or priorities and is often associated with laziness and idleness.
I disagree. Those who know me were probably expecting that; even the title of this piece probably hasn’t come across as a shock to you. However, this isn’t just me justifying my biases. I completely arm to announce that there is indeed an upside to procrastination.
Personally, I’ve always had a slightly laid-back approach to deadlines. Whenever anything was assigned in college or tasks set at work, I was never the one to immediately jump on them. I still am that way. I’ve always maintained that I work well under pressure and that some of my best work has been produced that way.
Even with the pieces I have to write for GT, I take my sweet time (I certainly did with this one). Initially, I had a completely different topic lined up and did my research on it as well. However, I found out that it was recently covered in another publication, which meant I was back to square one.
So, I did what any decent millennial would do, I procrastinated. In a classic “me” move, I began to clean. I went through drawers upon drawers of stuff that I hoarded over the years, organised folders, threw out old receipts, shredded unnecessary documents, arranged my books and prepared a big bag to recycle. All of this was done in true millennial fashion â€” listening to a carefully curated playlist on Spotify, while simultaneously FaceTimeing a friend from college. This entire exercise ultimately gave me the idea for this piece. Sure, my to-do list was still pending, but, while I diverted attention from it towards decluttering my belongings, I ended up decluttering my mind as well.
I went through every scrap paper I came across and reminisced about the memory associated with it. Photographs from college, postcards in both recordings and even my old transcript, planted a smile on my face. I do believe that thorough spring cleaning has a therapeutic effect, but that is a topic for another day.
Observing how productive my procrastination was, I immediately turned to my best friend, Google. Turns out it wasn’t just wishful thinking. I came across a fascinating article in the New York Times by Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, titled, ‘Why I taught myself to procrastinate.’
Grant argues that although procrastination might lower your productivity in the short run, it can serve as a catalyst for creativity. It turns out that when you put off an assigned task and instead choose to clean your room,Â indulge in binge watching Netflix or simply listen to music, you ultimately become more creative. Allegedly, it’s because your mind has had a chance to ruminate and you go beyond the conventional ideas that come to you immediately after hearing of the task.
However, this certainly doesn’t mean one should begin a task too late. A rush job is equally as bad as one executed as soon as soon as it’s been assigned. What’s required is a bit of discipline. Let your mind wander, use the time to complete other tasks, but know when to return to your top priority.
This leads me to my second point â€” productive procrastination. If you have to divert attention, focus on other things you’ve been putting off for a while. These could include things such as cleaning out your closet or sending out emails. The instant gratification from achieving those minor tasks will elate you and you can return to your original task feeling excited. Moreover, you might just learn something new through productive procrastination. For example, if you end up reading articles online, going through a book or watching a riveting documentary as part of your procrastination, you end up intellectually stimulating yourself and exploring new concepts. Whenever I choose this mode of procrastination, I always go through the numerous articles that I’ve bookmarked; I’ve decided I’ll be tweeting a summary of all that I’ve learnt whenever I do this (follow me on Twitter @hassantl to read for yourself).
Now, some of you might not subscribe to the ideas detailed here. Perhaps, for you the sin of laziness is unforgivable and this sounds like millennial mumbo-jumbo, a mere justification for our quirky ways of working. However, like anything in life, it’s your approach to it that defines its value. Of course, I’m no saint â€” I also waste time on social media and Netflix. But forcing myself to be productive while procrastinating has a charm of its own. You learn new things and just get a lot of boxes checked off the to-do list. Whenever I get back to the task at hand, my mind is decluttered enough to take on the challenge.
In conclusion, what I’ve learnt today, through my procrastination, is that it’s okay to not rush into your task list. Sometimes, it’s okay to take a step back and divert your attention to other matters to clear your head. However, all things are good in moderation. One must know when to go back to work. I implore all of you to try to procrastinate a little before completing your next tasks and see the difference that makes. Happy procrastinating!