#36) Putting the Pro in Procrastination

Everyone knows what the worst thing about procrastination is*, but could it be that this time-honored tradition actually has its benefits?  Lately I’ve been finding that it just might.

“Being busy is a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” –Tim Ferriss

When I first heard this idea, I wasn’t ready for it.  But looking back on that time of my life I now see I was keeping busy with small details that really didn’t matter, while missing the big picture.   I was focusing on procedures, not results; not unlike the characters of the film “Office Space.”  Procrastination can actually be a way of helping oneself distinguish between what’s really important and what just feels important.  It’s not that one should try to avoid activities that seem like chores; it’s that realizing that you see something as a chore is a signal to take a closer look at just how important it is.  Busy and productive aren’t always the same.

“If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”  –Attributed to Michael Taylor

Former baseball player Dick Allen once said that he liked to swing wildly at the first two pitches, just to see what he could do with one strike.  Some people are at their best when their backs are to the wall.  When people are asked what they would do if they only had one day left to live, they never say that they would spend it at the office dealing with paper work.  Procrastination might put you in a tight spot – but at the same time, it could bring out the best in you.  Urgency is tough to manufacture or force: are you really going to tell me that you have the same level of intensity and focus on the first day of the semester as you do during finals week?  Or that a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs has the same competitive drive as a team about to play the seventh game of the World Series?

“We plan ahead, that way we don’t do anything right now.”  –Val (Kevin Bacon), “Tremors”

Some people live by the rule, “never put off until tomorrow what can be done today”, but you could just as easily say, never force yourself to do today what can be done tomorrow.   Sometimes it’s better to wait; just ask those who practice the Tantra.  I remember forcing myself not to read too much of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk In The Woods” at a time because I wanted to enjoy it.  I used to have a rule that I could never listen to the same song more than twice in a day so I wouldn’t burn out on it.  People eating their food too quickly and not enjoying it has been cited as one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic.

So there you have it: procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Sure, there are times when it’s best to avoid it, but everything has two sides, and paradoxically, there are times when procrastination can actually make you more productive.

*I’ll tell you tomorrow.

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