The Upside of Procrastination
Why you’re not the worst if you do this.
First of all, I think it’s important for me to admit that I’m most definitely procrastinating from writing a psychotherapy paper right now.
Instead I’m here, doing what I enjoy, and letting my creative juices play in this glorious open source writing space that is Medium.
Let’s get this out of the way:
I understand that Procrastination can be stressful.
Especially when we know better.
Picture this, there’s a paper due at midnight, and time slipped away from you once again. Suddenly you find yourself spending an all-nighter racing against the rapidly approaching deadline, typing away in a mad fury, while cursing yourself under your breath.
I can’t say we’ve all been there, but I most definitely have on too many occasions to count.
Whether it’s school assignments, a work deadline or household chores, procrastination is definitely a deeply entrenched habit of mine, and I’m tired of feeling bad about it. My thoughts on procrastination have drastically shifted along the years in the following ways.
What if procrastinators were actually incredibly gifted, but also so commonly misunderstood by the dominating societal culture that they shamed themselves into hiding?
What if procrastinating was a bio hack that only some of us were truly capable of?
Procrastination as a Focus Enhancer
I’m convinced me and squirrels have similar brains, based on my ability to focus on absolutely nothing and everything at once. When the deadline is over 4-weeks away, I begin to read research and let myself go down all of the research rabbit holes.
I’ve learned something important about myself along the years, my student squirrel brain changes, matures, and evolves as the deadline approaches.
The pressure of a close deadline helps me reach a level of meta-focus that I have yet to reach when the deadline is further away.
Curious right? This strange phenomena isn’t a fluke though. Some of us have simply mastered the art of staying focused under-pressure. It’s not an easy thing to do, however if mastered, staying focused under pressure will serve greatly in the fast-paced world that we live in.
Procrastination as a Thinking Biohack
When you understand how your brain works, you can use it to your advantage. One thing that the movie Inception got right was this:
There is such thing as passive thinking.
Our thoughts aren’t just “random” occurrences as many people seem to believe. Every thought that an individual experiences has been sort of “implanted” into their brain in some way, shape or form by external stimuli. These stimuli could be something as simple as a mother commenting about a certain bias she has in front of her child (a certain prejudice or misconception about something) or it could be as complex as watching an educational video on YouTube and finding the information is interesting, but not taking any notes beyond the mental ones.
The thoughts we have as a result of those are what would be classified as “passive thoughts”. It is essentially: living in the moment and fully experiencing a certain stimuli without gripping the thought psychologically. Only intentionality turns passive thoughts into an active thoughts, which encourages critical thinking.
We are constantly receiving information from external stimuli. Passive thinking is constantly happening. Until we actually analyze a thought influenced by an external stimulus, it is left in our subconscious. Conversely, when an event arises, which forces that thought from our subconscious to our conscious minds, it helps transform them into something greater that we simply can’t ignore or help but develop: a critical thought.
Procrastination doesn’t have to be a terrible thing.
It could be a way to measure our interest-levels, and readiness to dive into our research to reveal the ideas that we’ve been slowly, but surely, brewing in our minds for weeks, an essential step before actually writing the paper.
Procrastination as a Life-Maximizer
Life doesn’t pause just because we suddenly have deadlines. Depending on who we are, the distraction of FOMO (fear of missing out) may not be conducive to an adequate work-session nonetheless.
What if the pain of missing out consumes so much mental real estate, that it’s a waste of time for us to try to work under those circumstances?
Staying home and forcing out a paper, while being frankly ridden with thoughts about the other exciting things that we may be missing out on, could be less productive than going to the event based on your personality type.
Depending on your personality type, this can be a real issue according to MBTI-type indicators founded on Jungian personality theory. Those with a prevalence of extraversion for example receive energy from interacting with others.
Many Extroverts feel drained by solitude.
On the other hand however, for introverts the opposite is true. Engaging with others could be a form of energizing inspiration for an extrovert. They could maximize this by finding the nerve to bring up the questions of their assignments in informal/social settings to maximize the potential of their interactions as it relates to those pesky lurking deadlines that they almost stayed home for.
In conclusion, the most important part is this:
Perhaps the the biggest issue with procrastination doesn’t lie in the act itself, but in the added stress we cause ourselves by shaming ourselves for procrastinating.
There’s nothing we cannot do without focus.
Shifting our perspectives could transform the way that we approach our work.
Finding a way to procrastinate in a way that’s grounded is the key here. It doesn’t have to be stressful, stress is unnecessarily self-imposed and not conducive to clarity and focus.
Maybe those with procrastinating tendencies should ease up on themselves and seriously consider the following perspective shift:
Perhaps we’re not procrastinators per se, we may very well be time-maximizing extroverts that are focus-optimizing superheroes that unlike others, don’t have to choose between enjoying life and making deadlines, we can do both.
Don’t shame yourself during procrastination, try owning your power instead. Believe in your own amazingness, even if it happens to be born in the face of a deadline.
Your power is real, believe in it. My highest-graded papers were written just hours before the deadline. It’s not a coincidence.
Speaking of papers, I should really get back to mine now.
Thanks for reading.