By definition, I’m a procrastinator. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Yet, I consider myself a successful person, personally and professionally. Every article I’ve ever read, every class I’ve ever taken, and every mentor I’ve ever listened to, will tell you that procrastination is a negative trait. To the vast majority out there, procrastination is a problem to be solved, a trait to be fixed, or a flaw to be stopped. A procrastinator is described as “someone who unnecessarily delays decisions or actions.” Research points to the negative outcomes of procrastination: undue stress, lower productivity, worse overall performance, and low self-esteem, amongst others.
This is going to be controversial, but here goes…
I certainly don’t recommend procrastinating to everyone, especially if it’s leading you to experience the negative results described above. A lot of really smart academics and psychologists have beautifully explained why it’s not the best course of action for the majority of people. I spent years feeling deeply flawed as an admitted procrastinator; countless time reading self-help books, devouring articles, and listening to thought leaders, on why I needed to change this ‘bad’ habit. I’ve tried it all: charting interim steps, having shorter term deadlines, scheduling tasks, accountability partners, etc. When I do these things, I feel like I’m in some forced labor or false reality. It feels like I’m not being me. And all of it (I mean all of it), adds to my stress, leads to less innovative work, and results in lower performance.
Here is my truth: I’m 47 years old and I’ve learned that procrastinating (as defined by the literature) results in higher performance, job satisfaction, and mental health for me. No, it doesn’t work for most people and I certainly am not recommending it. But, I do recommend self-awareness. So, I did some research to better understand what draws some people towards procrastination. I found one explanation that resonated with me: “Procrastinators tend to have brain structures that make them less future-oriented, which means they are more focused on the present than on the future compared to non-procrastinators” (solvingprocrastination.com/procrastinator/)
I’m no scientist or academic, but I think by being present, I’m actually subconsciously still processing the ‘to-do’ list and creating solutions. So, when the time comes to execute, I’m fully present in the task at hand and I produce consistent positive results every time. Being present is my super-power. If it’s working…you do you.