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Why and How Procrastination Can Be Good for Your Job

At Hootsuite we live and breathe social, which means that everything is in real time, our workplace is fast-paced, and social trends come and go in hyperspeed. We are not an anomaly when it comes to this environment. The tech scene and larger business world rewards speed. There is a culture of disruption, of being the first to get something done. You are rewarded for writing faster, coding faster, building faster.

Ironically, in a climate that where speed has never been more important, procrastination is still more prevalent than ever. The art of putting things off, procrastination is often seen as the evil twin of productivity. A money sink, a talent drain and overall waste of yours and everyone else’s time. There is no shortage of literature out there on why procrastination is bad for business and why we should eliminate it. The problem, though, is that everyone does it and no one offers a solution for it.

Maybe procrastination isn’t as evil as it’s been made out to be. Maybe we don’t necessarily need to cure or defeat it. Instead, why don’t we harness procrastination and make it work for us? Instead of trying to eliminate procrastination, why don’t we work on procrastinating better?

Here are two reasons why procrastination is good for your job and a few ways to procrastinate better:

2 Reasons Why Procrastination is Good for Your Job

 Image by  Doryfour  under  CC BY-SA 2.0
Image by Doryfour under CC BY-SA 2.0

1. Procrastination leads to creativity and (gasp!) productivity

Historically, procrastination was not always regarded as a negative thing. Rather, to some, like the Greeks and Romans, procrastination was valued. Cultivating wisdom was often seen as an act of sitting around thinking—and taking no actions until the last possible moment.

According to John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, procrastinators are often big thinkers, and putting off work can be an engine of human progress. Perry explains, for example, that when you’re assigned a task that seems too hard to do, procrastinating often leads you to invent a better way.

He further claims that, “If you go back through history of human culture, and take away every invention that was made by someone who was supposed to be doing something else, I’m willing to bet there wouldn’t be a lot left.”

2. Procrastination can help you make better decisions

Some might take this with a grain of salt, but it rings true in many situations: procrastination can often lead to a better outcome.

Frank Partnoy, the author of Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, claims that, when faced with a decision, we should assess how long we have to make it and then wait until the last possible moment to do so. According to Partnoy, this extra time to process is key to making the best decision. He also suggests that the notion of wisdom in our snap decisions is faulted and that true wisdom and judgment come from understanding our limitations when it comes to thinking about the future. That is why it is so important for us to think about the relevant time period of our decisions and then ask what is the maximum amount of time we can take within that period to observe and process information about possible outcomes.

How to procrastinate better

Procrastinate

Be an active and structured procrastinator

Fast Company claims that structured procrastinators get more done, and by putting things off you can actually be more productive—if you do it right. John Perry says that if you have a task that you want to put off, if you are a structured procrastinator, you need to find something else to do in its place.

Let’s say you have to write a long, detailed blog post and you really don’t want to. You could power through, but your work would probably be slow and laborious. Or, you could research another project, send out overdue emails, write a few Tweets or other smaller tasks that seem easier and more appealing. In the end, you’ll get around to writing the blog post you’ve planned, and you’ll have achieved more along the way. Had you just struggled through the post initially, you might have just called it a day and ignored these other tasks.

Give yourself regular breaks during heavy work

How long do you usually procrastinate for? No one complains when you surf the net for ten minutes. The real Issues arise when you work for two hours and procrastinate for two hours.

Part of being a structured procrastinator means being more systematic about when you do it. Work for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break. Similar to how students are often taught to study for 20 min and break for 10, these breaks in focus often can give much needed mental space or clarity. Taking breaks after a short period of focus can be an excellent opportunity to stretch, go for a walk and give your eyes a break from your screen. This will help you avoid the long periods of time-wasting while mentally and physically preparing you for extended work sessions.

Tailor your procrastination tools to your job

For many of us, procrastination often follows a pattern. You visit the same websites or social networks, read the same feeds, check out the same blogs. If you know you’re going to procrastinate in certain ways, do your best to tailor them to your job.

If you frequent reddit, for example, why not try and make reddit more relevant to your work. By subscribing to subreddits which are relevant to your industry or could benefit your career, you transform a main source of your procrastination into a potential asset. The same premise can be applied to the bookmarked websites you frequent on the blogs in your RSS feed. If you’re going to procrastinate on social, why not build a list of industry leaders and journalists and make sure that you’re go-to reading stream within Hootsuite? Not doing work doesn’t have to mean a complete absence of anything work-related.

Instead of stressing out and feeling guilty about procrastinating, use these tips to procrastinate in a way that just might benefit your career.