You are currently viewing Procrastination Isn’t All That Bad!

Procrastination Isn’t All That Bad!

I know what you must be thinking. Procrastination is a bad habit that should be avoided at all costs. Perhaps you struggle with it yourself, putting off activities or chores that need to get done, and finally doing them at the last minute. If so, you’re in good company, because I am also a genuine procrastinator. But I’m here to tell you this: procrastination isn’t all that bad! No, in fact, many creative types find that being under pressure to get something accomplished is just what they need to produce their best work. Waiting until the eleventh hour to get that job done may be exactly what drives some to a level of intensity leading to innovative excellence.

Truth be told, I’ve procrastinated over getting this article written. It’s due tomorrow, and now — at nearly 10 p.m. — I’m sitting down at my computer to begin. But don’t get me wrong — I don’t regret having procrastinated thus far. You see, I’ve thought about what I’ve wanted to say for weeks, and now I can settle down and begin writing the article itself, confident that I’ll meet my deadline with satisfying results.

The Case of the Perfect Paper

To illustrate my point, an experience from my college days comes to mind. Being a literature major, I was naturally expected to produce many papers. During my senior year, I took a class from a professor who very famously gave low marks to his students and was extremely difficult to please. One day, he assigned a paper that would comprise half of our grade for the course. Naturally, every student in class planned, researched, wrote, rewrote, and stewed endlessly over the project. Everyone except yours truly. Oh sure, I did a little research and put together five or six notecards, but that was about it.

Procrastination Sets In

The night before the paper was due, I watched television all evening. My roommate (a fellow classmate) looked at me as if I were from another planet, exclaiming “I can’t believe you haven’t written your paper yet, much less even started it!” I muttered something about having everything under control, and yes, I’d turn the paper in on time. And then back to my television program. Before I finally went to bed, I set the coffee pot on the stove, put a fresh piece of paper in my old electric typewriter, placed my sparse set of notecards next to it, and switched off the lights.

And Then Everything Changes

The next morning, I awoke at 4 a.m. and headed for the kitchen. I lit the stove and started the percolator. After pouring myself a cup of fresh coffee, I sat down at the table, glanced at my notecards, and began to type. I typed away for a few hours, stopping only to sip coffee and take a look at my notes. I enjoyed the quiet of the morning. My fingers felt alive. Adrenaline rushed through my body, and I intuitively felt the creative juices flowing with each keystroke. By 8 a.m., my work was complete. I had written the entire paper from start to finish — with no revisions.

The class met at 10 a.m., so I had plenty of time to get there. My roommate was just getting up when I exited the kitchen. “Would you like to hear what I wrote?” I asked. And then I read my paper. Silence at first, followed by a heavy sigh. How could my procrastination have led to anything so seemingly worthwhile? And the morning it was due! After all, most of my classmates had probably spent weeks compiling notes, agonizing over structure and composition, and writing and rewriting their own papers. Apparently, it wasn’t fair that I had skipped all that. I detected a hint of jealousy along with general disapproval regarding my procrastination. Nevertheless, I gathered my typed sheets of paper and cheerfully headed out the door for class.

And the Final Results?

What happened next was something I won’t easily forget. The professor returned my paper, and I saw that in his neat hand he had written “A+! Excellent work.” Of course, he didn’t know that I’d completed the paper only hours before it was due. That experience taught me a profound lesson about my tendency toward procrastination. I already knew that I produced my best work under pressure. But I also discovered that for me at least, the creative process would always begin internally and take time to develop into tangible results. This insight has remained with me all my life.

Procrastination Isn't All That Bad!

Procrastination Can Lead to Greater Creativity

According to an article in the BBC Creativity Collective entitled “Why Procrastination Can Help Fuel Creativity”, this experience is quite normal for many people. Writers, musicians, and philosophers alike say that the creative process can’t be rushed or forced. Ideas must make their way to the surface, much like the fresh coffee generated in that old percolator during my college days. This takes time, and what looks to some like nothing is being accomplished may be quite deceptive on the surface. All the while, during the most mundane of activities, one’s brain may in fact be formulating the next great artistic endeavor. For example, Agatha Christie revealed that ideas for her crime stories often came when she was taking a bath. “I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention,” she wrote in her autobiography. “Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness.”

Ideas Need Time to Incubate

As the BBC article states, strong evidence from psychologists indicates that ‘creative insights are much more likely to occur after a period of “incubation” — in which you focus on something different from the job at hand, while your brain works away behind the scenes. This could include taking a walk, doing household chores, or having a shower. Even our procrastination at work — such as watching funny YouTube videos — may be helpful for our problem solving, provided it is done in moderation.’

Procrastination Isn't All That Bad!

Give Yourself Permission to Procrastinate

As you can see, procrastination in writing that college paper yielded far better results than what I could’ve accomplished had I put my nose to the grindstone early on and just cranked it out. These days, I shamelessly embrace my habit of procrastination, knowing that it’s usually necessary for producing my most inventive work. Of course, I don’t recommend that anyone procrastinate to the point of never accomplishing anything concrete. But it’s important to allow an adequate amount of time for visualizing and organizing a project in our own minds before completing it. So don’t beat yourself up or let others scold you about this. In fact, give yourself permission to procrastinate, to arrive at your creative best, and to allow the magic of finding adventure as you sort things out in your mind and innovative thoughts emerge. Procrastination isn’t all that bad. In fact, it might bring downright good results. In any case, you don’t have to make any decisions about this today. You can always put it off by taking any action until tomorrow!

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates.

Maggie Daniel

Those closest to Maggie Daniel know her as an eternal optimist. Not that life has been easy by any means, but she tries to look at the bright side of things, and always considers what can be learned from each challenging experience. A resident of Fort Collins for nearly 30 years, Maggie is an avid music lover, photographer, and writer. She enjoys volunteering in the community whether it be emceeing at music festivals or working at the local library bookstore. In her past life, she studied literature at Southern Illinois University, where she also taught creative writing as a graduate student. After college, Maggie went to work as a technical writer for AT&T and then later for Apollo Computer. She is now retired, but she remains active and ready for adventure. She is married with two grown children – and hoping to be a grandmother someday. As a contributing writer to The We Blog Spot, Maggie is excited to share her thoughts on mindful living, wellness, and connecting with others in a meaningful way.

Leave a Reply