Procrastination - Interesting...

I love this article! Via MindBody Green

When Is Procrastination A Good Thing?
By Linden Schaffer

I’ve always been a "doer." Give me a task list a mile long, and with laser focus I’ll try to complete it before lunch. But give me a short list with a few to-dos and they just sit there. When I was in a corporate setting and had bosses to answer to, I’d overcome this procrastination by taking a walk around the block, filing old papers or cleaning my office. With a renewed sense of vigor an hour or so later, I’d jump back into my chair and complete my list before I left for the day. When I launched my own business a few years ago and procrastination started rearing its ugly head, there was no one but myself to answer to. I started to wonder, is procrastination ever a good thing?

There are gobs of articles out there that talk about why procrastination is bad and can lead to anxiety and stress, or that dole out tips on how to overcome it. Yet I never felt bad about my procrastination since I always knew I’d get the tasks done by deadline, self-imposed or not. So why should I feel the need to "cure" it?

It wasn’t until I stumbled across the concept of active procrastination, developed by A.H.C Chu and J.N. Choi, that I began to embrace my behavior. A study, done by the Department of Organizational Psychology at Columbia University, presented findings which showed that active procrastinators are not paralyzed by indecision, nor do they fail to complete tasks on time. Instead, they prefer to work under pressure and tend to have a higher self-efficacy than their passive counterparts.

It turns out that my higher-value procrastination — doing something of positive value — doesn’t mean I’m wasting my time, but instead I'm lighting my internal fire. University of San Diego professor, Frank Partnoy, a self-described procrastinator, claims that people are more successful and happier when they manage delay. According to Mr. Partnoy, better decisions are made if you can give yourself time to get your head around what you need to do. If you’re not backed up against an immediate deadline, he suggests taking time to ruminate. Relax your brain and let the ideas flow. Create a mental framework, some kind of outline for what’s to come.

Now that I am completely in control of my schedule, I accomplish my more menial tasks first. Social media posts, my wellness vacation proposals, and anything else that involves more of a checklist approach feel almost easy and systematic to complete. For my larger to-dos, especially those that involve blogging, I allow myself time to come up with an article idea and step away. When doing so, I find myself more focused and creative when I return to the task — especially when up against a deadline. Turns out that my procrastination (or managed delay, as I now call it) wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe that means I'll finally write that book that I've been thinking about one day.

Rethinking procrastination: positive effects of "active" procrastination behavior on attitudes and performance.


Department of Organizational Psychology, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.
Researchers and practitioners have long regarded procrastination as a self-handicapping and dysfunctional behavior. In the present study, the authors proposed that not all procrastination behaviors either are harmful or lead to negative consequences. Specifically, the authors differentiated two types of procrastinators: passive procrastinators versus active procrastinators. Passive procrastinators are procrastinators in the traditional sense. They are paralyzed by their indecision to act and fail to complete tasks on time. In contrast, active procrastinators are a "positive" type of procrastinator. They prefer to work under pressure, and they make deliberate decisions to procrastinate. The present results showed that although active procrastinators procrastinate to the same degree as passive procrastinators, they are more similar to nonprocrastinators than to passive procrastinators in terms of purposive use of time, control of time, self-efficacy belief, coping styles, and outcomes including academic performance. The present findings offer a more sophisticated understanding of procrastination behavior and indicate a need to reevaluate its implications for outcomes of individuals.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

In a new book, University of San Diego professor Frank Partnoy argues that the key to success is waiting for the last possible moment to make a decision

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Interesting excerpts from the above article....

But if you look at recent studies, managing delay is an important tool for human beings. People are more successful and happier when they manage delay. Procrastination is just a universal state of being for humans. We will always have more things to do than we can possibly do, so we will always be imposing some sort of unwarranted delay on some tasks. The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well.

When does it cross from good to bad?

Some scientists have argued that there are two kinds of procrastination: active procrastination and passive procrastination. Active procrastination means you realize that you are unduly delaying mowing the lawn or cleaning your closet, but you are doing something that is more valuable instead. Passive procrastination is just sitting around on your sofa not doing anything. That clearly is a problem.

Question one is: what is the longest amount of time I can take before doing this? What time world am I living in? Step two is, delay the response or the decision until the very last possible moment. If it is a year, wait 364 days. If it’s an hour, wait 59 minutes.

For example, a professional tennis player has about 500 milliseconds to return a serve. A tennis court is 78 feet baseline-to-baseline, and professional tennis serves come in at well over 100 miles per hour. Most of us would say that a professional tennis player is better than an amateur because they are so fast. But, in fact, what I found and what the studies of superfast athletes show is that they are better because they are slow. They are able to perfect their stroke and response to free up as much time as possible between the actual service of the ball and the last possible millisecond when they have to return it.

What else surprised you?

Most people are taught that you should apologize right away. But I was surprised to find that, in most cases, delayed apologies are more effective. If you’ve wronged a spouse or partner or colleague in some substantive, intentional way, they will want time to process information about what you’ve done. If you acknowledge what you did, and delay the apology, then the wronged party has a chance to tell you how they feel in response, and your apology is much more meaningful.

Do you have any practical advice for how people can learn to better manage delay?

Just take a breath. Take more pauses. Stare off into the distance. Ask yourself the first question of this two-step process: What is the maximum amount of time I have available to respond? When I get emails now, instead of responding right away, I ask myself this. It might seem rude, and it did feel rude at first. But the reality is if you respond to every email instantaneously you are going to make your life much more difficult. If the email really doesn’t have to be responded to for a week, I simply cut the information out of the email and paste it into my calendar for one week from today. I free up time today that I can spend on something else, and I’ll be unconsciously working on the question asked in the email for a week.

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