Bloganuary: “What are the pros and cons of procrastination?”

It seems appropriate to post at the 11th hour of Bloganuary on this question.

Everyone derides procrastination, yet everyone does it. Yesterday, I put off writing this very post, because I was a little too weary after an afternoon spent at the immigration office, and I just hadn’t yet been able to spin out a solid enough argument in favor of procrastination (I live comfortably with irony).

The cons of putting things off are well known. There are some tasks for which procrastination can have serious consequences, such as blowing off the IRS, not paying the electric bill, neglecting to take out the garbage, fill the gas tank, or buy food. These examples, however prosaic, usually end up at the top of a to-do list.

There are slightly less pressing tasks that have some wiggle room, though, but at a cost. Delaying one’s work before a deadline can result in missed sleep, heightened anxiety, feelings of shame, and shoddy results. Students the world over deal with this phenomenon when they put off working on a class assignment. I know, because I was a student, and I am now a teacher.

If you aren’t a teacher, you might imagine that we educators are a breed apart, and don’t involve ourselves in anything as fool-headed as playing chicken with a deadline. Don’t believe any of it – teachers are masters of the delay, and most are pretty adept at rationalizing it.

Which gets me to the upside of procrastination, one that I had never properly unpacked until now: specifically, employing delayed action as strategic time management. If this sounds like a load of self-serving doublespeak, please hear me out.

First, a busy person who is skilled at time management can use procrastination to prioritize tasks. One has to know what tasks are safe to put off, and for how long, so as to devote energy to the more urgent ones. For instance, I’m the type of person who does best when laser-focused on one thing at a time, especially when it’s academic. I need hours to get into a zone to produce curriculum material. When I was a grad student, I hovered for eternity over my papers.

Despite being a woman, I’m lousy at multi-tasking, and even have some doubts that it’s really possible. Mundane household chores, including cooking, dusting, and laundry, might have to take a back seat until I meet an important deadline. The privilege to put off may be unique to my situation, too, as I don’t have other people who depend on my domestic support. Dust bunnies can play until I’m in the clear.

A second advantage of procrastination is that it can buy time to mull something over, or get more information, before committing to an opinion or a choice. I’ll admit this tactic is a bit risky, depending on what’s at issue. As my mother has said, opportunities are like sunrises; if you wait too long, you miss them. But I think a little procrastination – tricking the brain into thinking it has all the time – can encourage mental stillness, allowing sound decision-making and creativity to unfurl.

Lastly, procrastination is a safety valve, a dose of self-care, in a busy world where people play a multitude of roles. After all, we are human beings, not robots. Sometimes, something somewhere has to give. That’s when it’s fine to allow oneself a little grace, and defer some of those New Year’s resolutions or items on the honey-do list, in favor of a Netflix binge or a nap.

2 thoughts on “Bloganuary: “What are the pros and cons of procrastination?”

  1. So many insightful notes here. I have read a couple of times how people who procrastinate with intention can use this to their advantage for the reasons you stated. Perhaps that is what I do and not even realize it. HAHA. I am not sure that my self-doubt would allow me to think that way. You are right, true focus can only be given to one thing at a time. I saw once that there is not such thing as “multi-tasking” it is really doing multiple things “half-ass”. Certainly there are things that we can do at the same time but true focus requires just that. Really nice read. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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