I am a procrastinator. Is it really that bad?

I am a high-functioning procrastinator – yes, that is a thing! That means that as the deadline comes closer and the pressure builds up, I can focus more and die down the noise around me. Sometimes, I think that is my superpower.

In the past few weeks, I haven’t had any scheduled posts before Friday, so I know it’s just a matter of time before I miss a post and end my two-year writing streak. 

Note: I published at least one post for 110 straight weeks (on-going).

While walking home earlier, thinking about what I should write about for tomorrow, I suddenly thought about procrastination. Though I have already written about that topic before, I will not discuss how to overcome it. Instead, I will try to rationalize it. So, I challenged myself.

The challenge: Write at least a 600-word ready-to-publish article within 3 hours.

I started writing today at 8:40 PM for my weekly blog post scheduled every 9:00 AM. I also have a basketball game at 8:30 AM, so I need to sleep before 12MN.

That means I have more or less 3 hours to write, research, edit, and edit some more, create a WordPress banner in Canva, fix the post formatting, and schedule.

Though I have some posts closer to completion, I decided to write about my experience as a procrastinator and try to release the hidden power that it can give.

As I mentioned before, my writing process starts with writing the main points and then filling it up with many words to create the rough first draft. I like to compare my approach to pottery, where you need to put in the clay and slowly mold it until it reaches the desired appearance.

Update 1: After an hour (9:40), I have already written 300+ words.

Update 2: After another hour (10:40), I’ve written 500+ words and spent precious minutes scrolling through Facebook and YouTube.

Update 3: After three hours (11:40), I’ve written ~900 words ready for publish.

Challenge Completed.

Why do we procrastinate?

I don’t think anyone consciously wants to start working on their projects or studying for their exams at the last minute, but it still happens most of the time.

Psychologists Timothy Pychyl and Fuschia Sirois discovered that procrastination isn’t entirely about avoiding work but avoiding negative emotions like anxiety or boredom. This means that procrastination is not simply about time management. Instead, it is about emotional management.

This type of procrastination can also be referred to as negative procrastination.

Parkinson’s Law and why we love delaying our work.

Besides the negative emotions incorporated in procrastination, there is also Parkinson’s Law. It says that the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

For example, I need to post a weekly blog post on Rat Race Running every Saturday at 9 AM. Though I can start writing as early as Saturday, I often find myself waiting until Wednesday or even Thursday before I start or finalize my post for the week. So if I want to write at least two posts per week, I must be mindful of setting a due day every three days.

Parkinson’s Law can also explain why we often ignore the 5-month deadlines and start working only days before the due date as a student or even until now. 

Is procrastination really that bad?

The short answer is no, but there are situations where it should not be tolerated. As I said earlier, professional procrastinators can function better when going against time.

There are also many well-known procrastinators who made significant contributions in their fields while taking their time.

Think about the famous procrastinators like Leonardo Da Vinci, who spent 16 years painting the Mona Lisa, or Douglas Adams, the writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Like these people, procrastinating sometimes gives the clarity, motivation, or vision needed by delaying the action. That is what we call positive procrastination.

When is procrastination dangerous?

Though I am writing about procrastination and how I can focus closer to the deadline during the day, it should not be a badge of honor.

Procrastination can be dangerous if you work on a job or project that needs immediate attention. Think about a doctor. Do you want him procrastinating when treating his patients? Of course not. That is the purpose of triaging and emergency care.

Similarly, our jobs may require very time-specific deliverables. Comparable to what psychologists discovered, procrastination happens when we want to avoid the negative emotions relating to an activity.

Final Thought

There are two general types of procrastination — positive and negative.

If procrastination is used correctly, it can most likely benefit (positive) the individual. If not, it can be detrimental (negative).

Remember that time is limited, and we can only do so much. We need to make sure that we are doing other productive things even if we’re delaying some activities.

Have a productive day!

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