How can procrastination be good?

It is my belief as an experienced time-waster that there is a lot to be gained from doing nothing.

We all try to put things off sometimes. You know the feeling: it’s the dread of staring at a blank sheet of paper, the irritation of your cursor flashing passive-aggressively at the top of an empty Microsoft Word document. The guilt of an unedited mess of clips, a half-drawn character in Photoshop, an unfinished spreadsheet. Whatever it is, you started it an hour ago and it still isn’t done. It’s due tomorrow, you know that, but you just aren’t motivated to get it finished.

And that’s fine. Everybody procrastinates, in some way or another, because the definition of ‘procrastination’ is really very broad. Most people agree that stopping an essay halfway through to play World of Warcraft for four hours (“It’s good for my creativity!”) qualifies as procrastination, while others extend the use of the word to cover less blatant wastes of time. Pausing your art project to grab a coffee? Sure, you could always use the caffeine, but do you ever find yourself hanging around by the kettle for a little longer than you really need? Getting a snack while you’re down there, even though you’re not really hungry? Depending on your work ethic, spending a few extra minutes in the toilet can be seen as procrastinating: after all, we can loosely describe it as stopping and thinking, “Well, I want to get this done, but at the same time, I don’t really feel like it.

According to Psychology Today, 20 percent of people are ‘chronic procrastinators’.

Don’t be mislead by the title of this post: procrastination isn’t something to be encouraged, because it can be pretty destructive if left unchecked. After all, we can’t keep pushing our work away forever. However, it’s also something which a lot of people have learnt to manage, especially those who are confident with time management. Right now, sitting at my desk and writing this post, I know I should be writing an essay for college. It will take at least an hour, and it’s due tomorrow. Technically, I’m procrastinating on my essay, because I’m making use of my time to do something which I enjoy instead of something which I don’t enjoy, but which I have to do. Maybe you’re procrastinating on something while you’re reading this.

So procrastination is completely normal. According to Psychology Today, 20 percent of people are ‘chronic procrastinators’: for a lot of other people, it’s just a day-to-day inconvenience. There are already a myriad of websites and articles and self-help books about preventing procrastination, so instead, let’s talk about how we can be making our time-wasting into productive time-wasting.

Often, when we procrastinate, we choose to set aside work in favour of pursuing something which we enjoy. Gaming, watching movies, reading mediocre blog articles; whatever takes your fancy, whatever you like to do, is probably the focus of your reading. What matters is that it’s probably linked to your hobbies and interests somehow. If you really do put aside your essay to play World of Warcraft, gaming is most likely one of your focal interests.

So, if you’re procrastinating by doing something you enjoy instead of something you are obligated to do, you’re probably developing one of your key skills. Long-time knitting hobbyist? If you push aside some boring work in favour of knitting a scarf, you’re taking the time to evolve and develop your skill in knitting. Ultimately, you’ve improved at your own, unique thing.

In any case, the experience you’ve gained when you could have been working will stay with you. It will evolve and develop through your career, even if your hobby and your job have little in common.

An article from Business Insider claims that 87 percent of Americans have ‘no passion’ for their jobs. Source

One thing that’s really important is maintaining a balance between our work – school work, professional work, anything we do because we have to – and our passions, hobbies, and interests. However, with the average person spending a third of their life at work, and spending another third asleep, the work-life balance of the modern age is hardly accommodating for people who want to grow skilled in things they actually enjoy and have a passion for. After all, very few of us really love our work: according to statistics sourced by Business Insider, 87 percent of Americans have no passion for their jobs.

Even if you don’t want to escalate your professional-tier knitting ability into a full-time career (though you really should consider it), it’s worth investing time towards that extra something that you really enjoy. Nobody wants to be working forever, and everybody wants to have fun; the key is to achieve a balance between these two things and, seeing as our working lives are draining so much of our free time, it’s only fair if we put off a little work every now and again to spend a few hours doing what we want to do.

So don’t feel bad next time you want to procrastinate. Not all procrastination is pointless, so long as you spend it doing something you enjoy. If we don’t take time for leisure, it ultimately hurts our well-being. Keep an eye on the time, balance your work with your pleasures, and don’t let a looming deadline destroy your week. What you’ve got to do is equally as important as what you want to do, and a little procrastination can be a healthy space to write your novel, colour your masterpiece, or finally publish your first blog post.

I’m off to write that essay now.

Published by Lewis Hyden

Writer, poet, and inquisitive journalist.

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