Why Procrastination Can Help You

This week on Episode 074 of the podcast, I talk about procrastination: how it presents itself and how you can fight it off when it’s time to act. But, did you know that a little bit of procrastination can sometimes be GOOD for you, too? It’s true!

The positive effects of just a little bit of procrastination during tasks that require immense focus can be explained by what is called the “Zeigarnik effect.” Named after its founder, Russian psychiatrist and psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, the Zeigarnik effect is considered a psychological phenomenon that describes our tendency to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks more easily than tasks that have been completed.

What does this mean in terms of procrastination? In a nutshell, the Zeigarnik effect pushes the tasks that we procrastinate on to the forefront of our mind, allowing our subconscious to continually process them until we are able to return to complete them.

I’m here to talk to you about how applying just a little bit of procrastination can help you in surprising ways that not only lessens any stress you might feel in your day-to-day, but that can also help you to regain focus, improve your happiness and become a bit more productive!

 

First, let’s talk about the two different types of procrastination:

  •      ACTIVE procrastination: Is considered to be a “positive” type of procrastination that is associated with the Zeigarnik effect. When we implement active procrastination, we are likely to take breaks from tasks that require a lot of focus, and to shift our attention to a smaller task in the process.

While we may be putting off that one big task, active procrastination allows us to refocus our energy on smaller to-dos so that we can clear the clutter from our mind.

  •      PASSIVE procrastination: It is what we most often think of when we hear the word “procrastinate.” Under this type of procrastination, we are likely to feel paralyzed by our indecision to act and, as a result, we often fail to meet deadlines or complete any tasks on time.

Now, let’s discuss the ways in which active procrastination can be beneficial when it comes to increasing happiness and productivity!

 

HOW (ACTIVE) PROCRASTINATION CAN HELP YOU:

  1.    Procrastination Helps You Get More Things Done –

It sounds a little strange, right? How can procrastinating on that one thing you are struggling to do possibly help you in the long-run? The answer: Active procrastination!

Through active procrastination, you can refocus your energy on the rest of those smaller tasks that often pile up and cause stress. Sure, you might not be actively working on that one thing that you are procrastinating on… BUT, active procrastination helps to ensure that the rest of those smaller tasks are getting taken care of and out of the way.

Even better, this goes along with what I always say about small wins and building momentum. With the small tasks out of the way, you’ll feel inspired to take on the next project.

 

  1.    Procrastination Helps Unnecessary Tasks Disappear –

This sounds trickier than it is, but research has shown that the time that we spend procrastinating and prioritizing our to-dos can actually help us to drop certain things off of our task list that are not actually necessary when it comes to the bigger picture.

Let’s say you have a task list in front of you. While procrastinating on that one big challenge, you actively move on down your list to smaller tasks until you reach one that you might not even remember putting on your to-do list in the first place!

When this situation arises, our procrastination gives us the opportunity to re-assess our tasks and to cross off those that are no longer relevant to our day (often called ‘space fillers’), or to the bigger project we are procrastinating on.

 

  1.    Procrastination Can Boost Creativity –

I have found this to be true for myself, especially when I have important decisions to make about my podcast or product designs.

When faced with a big task, it’s natural to procrastinate when the task feels challenging! But here is the interesting part… even when we are not actively working on a big project, our minds have a habit of subconsciously collecting ideas and processing them so that we feel more prepared when we finally sit down to focus on the challenge in front of us.

Researchers call this the “shower principle” or the “a-ha moment.” Under this idea, sudden bursts of inspiration are likely to occur when we stop or delay our active creative process for a short amount of time.

What does all of this mean, exactly? When we actually get going on a big task after giving ourselves a short break, we are likely to find that our mind has curated creative ideas on how to approach it… and to help us see it through to completion!

 

  1.    Procrastination Can Lead to Better Decision-Making –

Let’s say you have a decision to make, but you’re not sure how to approach it. Often, our rational mind and our intuition can say opposite things when it comes to our decision-making… and this can lead to all sorts of unsettling feelings.

Here is where applying a little bit of procrastination can help!

Often when I am faced with an important choice to make, I like to actively procrastinate by setting a deadline for my decision so that I am able to consider all of my options before jumping right into something.

To clear the clutter, I suggest giving yourself some time to meditate, go for a walk, take a yoga class, or read a book for pleasure. By allowing yourself the space to mull things over, you are likely to feel less stressed about the decision that you are faced with overall.

For me, once the deadline I have set to make my decision arrives, I feel more confident and ready to make my choice!

 

  1.    Procrastination Helps Reveal What’s Most Important –

A really great question to ask yourself when you’re struggling to get something done is, why am I doing this in the first place?

The truth about procrastination is that… We are less likely to put off things that we love to do or that really matter to us. Sounds easy enough, right?

Sometimes, procrastination can help us realize that what we are struggling to do may not be the best thing for us to focus on in the first place… And that’s okay!

In situations like this, it’s best to allow your purpose and your passion to take over in the driver’s seat and help you to overcome your procrastination hurdles. Not only will you become less stressed, but you will open the door for more happiness to enter into your life… And who doesn’t want that?!

 

  1.    Procrastination Can Lead to Better Apologies –

Procrastination is not always central to checking off those tasks on our to-do list… it can also come into play in our personal lives to help us improve our relationships!

If you find yourself in a situation where you owe someone an apology, it can be incredibly beneficial to allow the person that you’ve wronged–and yourself–a bit of time to cool down.

Procrastination can provide the time that you need to refocus your energy and to reassess your actions. Ultimately, these moments of pause can help you to come up with an apology that feels genuine to the person whose feelings have been hurt.

Not only does a little bit of procrastination help both parties involved with the time they need to cool down, but it also offers you and the person you have apologized to with the opportunity to communicate the situation in a calm, more effective manner, leading to a better mutual understanding of one another and the improvement of your relationship overall… which is always a great thing!

 

Want to dive in a little deeper to the world of passive procrastination, and how our indecisiveness and the inactivity that it leads to can affect us? Check out Episode 074 of Productivity Paradox and let me know how procrastination has affected your life in the comments below!

 

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton