For many of us, procrastination is a way of life. Why do something right away if there is time to do it in full later, right? You may be glad to hear that procrastination is genuinely beneficial in many situations.
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Procrastination Leads to Creativity
Most people think that procrastinating is a curse, but it is actually a very much needed process for everyone. Did you know that if used correctly, procrastination can make you more creative?
Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School, was one of the founding fathers of this idea.
He studied the correlation between performance and procrastination habits, and a citing experiment was conducted by one of his former students, Jinhe Shin. Shin asked the participants of this experiment to generate new business ideas. Some of the participants were randomly assigned to start immediately, while others were given five minutes to play games. Everyone submitted their ideas, and a group of independent evaluators rated how original the ideas were.
The result showed that the procrastinators’ ideas were 28% more creative, while still just as viable!
Procrastination Improves Memory
In 1927, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people have a better memory for incomplete tasks than complete ones. Zeigarnik proved that leaving a task unfinished for a period of time increases your ability to retain and recall information, which is also known as “the Zeigarnik Effect.”
When a task is started but left incomplete, the task stays in the back of your mind. This allows your mind to subconsciously work on the task, even while you are not thinking about it. When you return to the task, you’ll likely have some new thoughts on it that you did not have before.
1963, British psychologist John Baddeley developed the Working Memory Model with Graham Hitch. In one of the experiments, participants were given a time limit and were asked to solve a set of anagrams. Participants who couldn’t solve the anagrams in time were given the solution.
After collecting data from the participants, John Baddeley found out that those who could not complete the anagrams in time were more likely to remember the solutions than those who completed on time, which shows that uncompleted tasks are indeed easier to remember.
It should be noted that, in order for this to work, you have to internalize the task when you receive it. So be careful to pay close attention to instructions and make a mental note that the job needs to be done by a specific deadline. Just hold off on actually doing it.
Procrastination Uncovers Unique Ideas
When you finally do get around to working, it can actually make the work better if you’re constrained by time.
Working at a leisurely pace is best for some people, as not all of us deal with stress well. But those who are comfortable working against a clock will find it gives them less pause to write whatever they want to.
This “stream of consciousness” type of work can produce some truly original content that would not come to pass if you were to take your time and “play by the rules.”
For Those Who Don’t Procrastinate
Maybe you don’t procrastinate at all. Perhaps you get to work immediately after the task is assigned and finish it right away or ahead of schedule. If that sounds like you, you might consider procrastinating a bit more. Consider taking some time off. Try forcing yourself to wait for a little.
Procrastination gives you time to consider the task at hand. Even if you are not working on the given task actively, your brain is working on it.
Procrastination allows you to come up with divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, and to make unexpected leaps.
Figure out ways to prevent yourself from completing the task before you’ve had time to think about it in depth.
If you are writing, you can just jot down some keywords, ideas, and sentences, but leave them unfinished while you go grab lunch or a cup of coffee. Or you can write a draft first to get the ideas out but hold off the follow-through until next week.
Resist the temptation to finish it right away, instead giving yourself some more time to think!
The next time you’re procrastinating and feel guilty about it, remember that the right kind of procrastination can work to your benefit. Responsible procrastination might sound like an oxymoron, but be assured it is not. It just takes a little forethought.
Of course, procrastination has its downsides, too. Watch this video to learn a bit more about the pros and cons of procrastination
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