The Benefits of Procrastination

Posted on December 28, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Spirituality |

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If you were intrigued by this title, I’ll bet you thought this was going to be a humorous post, right? While I hope it will not be without its elements of whimsy, I’m quite serious about the subject. Just for fun, and anticipating the results, I “googled” the term “Procrastination”. The results, overwhelmingly, also included the word “Overcome”, as in, “How to Overcome Procrastination“, or “Let Go of Guilt, and Overcome Procrastination“, or this: “Perfectionism doesn’t Pay–Let Go of the Procrastination”.

Now, I’m all for letting go of habits which do not serve one, but is Procrastination really a habit, or just an opinion? “Every time you put off something you dislike, you strengthen the habit of not doing; practice avoidance instead of participation.” I’m struck by how the practice is treated as a bad character flaw. Why is it so bad?–Because it “stops” us from accomplishing what we “need” to get done. But, does it?

If we look closer at WHY we procrastinate….. Wait!, I must stop that last sentence before it goes any further. I, in fact, question whether or not we do actually procrastinate. What does the word really mean, after all?

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Procrastination: \proh-cras-tuh-NAY-shuhn\, noun:
1. To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

transitive verb:
1. To postpone or delay needlessly.

Procrastination is from the Latin procrastinatio, formed from the verb procrastinare “to put off for tomorrow,” from pro-, “forward” + crastinus, “of tomorrow,” from cras, “tomorrow.”

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This is the popular definition, of course, but I have some “issues” with it. If I “procrastinate” according to this, I am lazy and/or careless. If this is true, then that’s quite a social stigma, and, naturally, I would not deliberately engage in this behavior. However I do. So what does that say about me? Some articles I read actually see “chronic procrastination” as a serious mental disorder, involving anomalies in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. I would re-define the word as “choosing not to do that which does not seem fun in this moment”. With that definition, procrastination is quite sensible.

You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” β€” Louise L. Hay

Some of you will tell me that there are times we have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to accomplish a higher purpose, but, to be honest, I just don’t believe that. If I procrastinate a lot, I feel it’s time to take a serious look at the activity I’m putting off.

Why don’t I just do it? It doesn’t look, feel, or seem pleasurable.

Why not do it anyway, if it furthers my goals? Because it doesn’t look, feel, or seem pleasurable.

That’s it. Bottom line: It’s not fun. Sometimes we can convince ourselves, or train ourselves, or discipline ourselves to do a series of tasks which, on their own are not fun, but lead to accomplishments. Accomplishments, in many cultures, are often considered the measure of “success” (another term for another post!)

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, [people] are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have β€” for their usefulness.” β€” Thomas Merton

In thinking of all this, I realize I have achieved some accomplishments in my life. I have some pieces of paper or parchment to prove this, along with some trophies and awards. I’m as proud of these as most would be, but it leaves me wondering if it was worth all the times I didn’t procrastinate, but did what I had to in order to gain the achievement. Had I procrastinated more, I might have discovered some things I wanted to do more; that were more fulfilling, and, ultimately contributed in a greater way to my fellow humans.

My favorite quote on the subject is this: “What is the definition of procrastination? It means: I can feel within my energy sensor that this action is not in perfect alignment at this time.” – Abraham

So, maybe it WILL be in perfect alignment tomorrow. Maybe never. This is a reminder to trust my joy-seeking apparatus, which knows what is right if I allow it to.

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9 Responses to “The Benefits of Procrastination”

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lol… At first, I thought you were endeavoring to whoop people into shape with this, lol πŸ˜‰ I definitely need some of that right now, in fact, this was very timely. Hammering at myself this morning, asking myself why I wasn’t accomplishing all that I want to accomplish, spending way too much time on the computer πŸ™‚

I love the Abraham quote and I totally agree, have seen the truth in it. But (I always have those but’s in my comments, don’t I? lol), I was asking myself why I’m not doing the things I feel I need to be doing, and some of them are actually things I find enjoyable πŸ™‚ I think the reason for procrastination is different things, for different people — and even different things in different moments for different people, ya’ know? πŸ˜‰

Sometimes it is a mental thing — that’s the deal for me, I think most of the time. I have this frickin’ ADD and OCD, and unless someone knows what that’s like — compulsion to do things that seems impossible to resist. And you make yourself crazy (er) thinking you will be able to resist THIS TIME, but ya’ just can’t… And such things take/waste so much precious time.

Perfectionism, dislike of making so many decisions, fear of failure, fear… And we often don’t realize we’re feeling this way, we just reach for our “drug” of choice (TV, computer, food, etc) so as to make this uncomfortable (undefined fear) go away.

And perfectionism is crippling, it takes so much time. And many people do nothing because of perfectionism! In their minds (often subconscious), if they can’t do it perfectly (who can?), they can’t get themselves to do it. Often people like this totally don’t seem like perfectionists, because their homes are hideously unkempt…mental disorder. Unlike my mom (that was her home), I’m excessively in the other direction — neat freak : ) But it’s perfectionism in both cases, just expressed in different ways, two extremes.

But procrastination CAN be simply avoiding a task that you don’t enjoy. I mean, is there really ever a point where you’re going to enjoy doing the dishes? lol So at some point, you do have to make yourself do them, when you’d rather be doing something fun : ) Lazy? So what, be lazy sometimes. It’s a matter of degree, a matter of following one’s intuition/joy, knowing that, okay, it’s time to do this.

It’s interesting that even when I’m in my OCD/ADD modes and doing something obsessively, something that doesn’t seem like the “right thing” to be doing in that moment, I’ve found so many times, that (even in what felt like and probably was “craziness”), it turned out to be the “right thing.”

So I agree, I think ultimately the most important thing is to follow the joy. But at the same time, monitor any excesses and the outcomes of the procrastination. And whether or not, our degree or type of “procrastination” brings to us happiness and that which we truly desire.

Mega-ulimately πŸ˜‰ let us not judge ourselves. Le us be gentle, kind, patient, understanding and loving toward ourselves, just as we’d want others to be toward us … and trust ourselves in every moment. We’ll get it “right,” if we do that : )

Peace,
Dove

dove, You make some really good points here. I’m reminded of a post I read yesterday at Beyond the Blog: http://beyondtheblog.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/obsessive-post/ You may enjoy that one too. I concur that, once we start actually “doing” something, we may find we actually like it after all. If it’s something I think I “should” be doing, I’ll often make the “10 minute deal” with myself–you know, do it for 10 minutes, and if it’s not fun by then, I can stop. For now.
LOL BTW – I actually like washing dishes. I sing while I wash. But, your point is well taken πŸ˜‰ One might ask “What do I want MORE–to have clean dishes or to not wash them?” These kinds of bargains sometimes work.
Thanks for your thoughts! All good wishes.

Somehow I knew you were going to say you liked to wash dishes, LOL… πŸ˜‰

i’m in two minds about procrastination. i do it a lot, which means i like to procrastinate, and i don’t think myself too harshly for it, because it’s natural to put off what you don’t want to do.

on the other hand, procrastination sometimes hinders me from moving forward, and sometimes it has consequences. while i like to think that i’m most inspired when i do last-minute work for my assignments, sometimes i think i could’ve done better if i had more time which i denied myself through procrastination.

and then there are things which i really should have procrastinated but didn’t. like choosing to pick a fight at the most inopportune moments. now that would be things we should procrastinate, since after thinking it over you often come to a more rational conclusion and approach than when you were feeling hot-headed. πŸ˜‰

That’s a fresh take, sulz, on things you “should have” procrastinated about! πŸ™‚ During the last few years I’ve made it a policy not to make quick decisions. I’m the kind of person that benefits from rumination. And I agree that while I sometimes work best under pressure, I don’t usually enjoy the process. Again, if that happens a lot, I might want to re-examine my goals 8)

Ah, that putting-off-til-the-last-minute thing reminds me of another reason I put things off — adrenaline! It’s only been recent that I’ve realized that I must be addicted to it, because I soooo often put things off til the last minute and THEN go into high gear. Suddenly I can make the decisions, cut the corners in a good way, and invariably get it all done in time, on fire, full throttle, a “star” in those last crucial moments πŸ˜‰ And as I feel my prize of accomplishment, still panting, it pisses me off royally, lol Seriously, I “get ‘er done” as they say here in the South, but for some reason it takes a racing mind and heart to do it. Not healthy. And I hope to find the cure — it does seem to be an addiction to adrenaline.

But another thought… On the subject of regrets, I don’t usually : ) Because I’ve seen too many times that even when I think I may have done the wrong thing, it all turns out “right.” Like supposed “mistakes” you make in a relationship that spurs the break-up, but then you see the guy a few months later on the 6 o’clock news, lol πŸ˜‰

I’ve learned there really is no worthy set of rules to go by, the best thing we can do, it would seem, is to trust our own heart in each moment.

Hmmm, Dove, the adrenaline connection is one I haven’t considered. There is much in what you say. I depleted my natural supply of adrenaline years ago, due to life circumstances, and was prescribed supplements which made a huge difference.
Regarding regrets (I’ve had a few…) I do agree. If I want to, I can look back and wish I did certain things differently, but I like what you say about being led on the correct path even when it sometimes doesn’t look that way! Cheers & Love

I usually meet procrastination in the form of having trouble of getting started, even if it’s something I’ll really enjoy once I get going.

If I hadn’t overcome procrastination, I wouldn’t have been nearly as good a musician as I am today. (I would have practised less – there is often a barrier to picking up the instrument, but once I stand there there’s no problem to spend an hour or more with it, because it is fun.)

If I hadn’t overcome procrastination, I wouldn’t have released Frasse – a computer game that was fun to make and that others have enjoyed playing.

…

I’m not dismissing your points, but there’s something to be said for self-discipline, too. I suppose it’s like with most things: You have to find the right balance.

Well I, for one, am certainly glad you didn’t procrastinate enough to not finish Frasse, Rikard! His little icon self is on my desktop, and I smile when I see him. I haven’t heard MUCH of your music 😦 but what I have heard is soulful and beautiful. πŸ™‚ You bring up some excellent points. What is that mental mechanism that makes us reluctant to get started? I mentioned in a previous comment that the “10 minute” rule often works for me. 10 minutes is long enough for me to find out if I’m enjoying something or not. As with you, when I start working on music, I almost always want to go on. You’ve given me much to ponder. Thank you.


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