Does procrastination lead to better outcomes?

Procrastination is damaging
Procrastination leads to better outcomes
March 24, 2021
Christy Balatsiou

This article is a product of procrastination. 


It was written after a blissful period of avoiding the task until panic mode struck when the deadline got too close.  


How ironic... but relatable. Who hasn’t procrastinated in their lifetime?  


‘But what if I’m just lazy?’ you keep thinking...

No, you’re not lazy, you’re just avoiding negative emotions.


Essentially, procrastination is avoiding a certain task that stirs negative emotions in you – such as resentment, self-doubt, boredom – by doing any other task that seems fascinating at the time, rather than that one. 


Procrastination is about regulating emotions, not time.


So, is procrastination fruitful, or simply poor self-control? 

1. You are more creative after procrastinating

A study by Jihae Shin, has shown that procrastination can encourage more creative thinking.  


In the study, participants were asked to come up with a new business idea; some of the participants were asked to start right away while the rest had to play video games for five minutes before developing their ideas.  


The results showed that procrastinators’ ideas were 28% more creative and original.


There was no increase in creativity when participants played video games without knowing about the task. It was only when they knew what was being asked and they deliberately put it off, that encouraged divergent thinking. 


In other words, 

When you let your mind wander and have a think, that’s when you get creative and come up with original ideas, like writers!


Writers and authors are known to be the worst procrastinators. For instance, Margaret Atwood is a chronic procrastinator, has procrastinated in completing many of her novels – but never missed a deadline – and yet she is a successful author of notable books such as The Handmaid’s Tale. 


2. Procrastination can be an effective decision-making method 

Silvia Christmann explains that procrastination is essential to learn how to manage time effectively in a short period and how to work well under pressure. 


Learning how to regulate negative emotions and how to manage time while procrastinating often results in less mistakes. That is because, apart from putting aside ‘the dread of doing it’, more thoughtfulness goes into the process, and observation. 


There is neither guilt nor rush when managing time effectively while procrastinating. This approach leads to more effective decision-making and less irrational mistakes.  


Using this mindful approach, you also learn to work well under pressure. Practising a calm and calculated approach while delaying and postponing a task, can assist in managing stress and pressure effectively.  


See it this way…

Procrastination can be a very smart approach to productivity and creativity if used effectively. 


Regulating your emotions while procrastinating leads to effective and valuable decisions. As a result, this process creates positive emotions of achievement and accomplishment.

But of course, before deciding to get on with the task, negative emotions prevail drawing you to procrastination; that’s why you forget about the positivity that comes in the end.

1. It is bad for your health

Mental and physical.  

Delaying the task and procrastinating instead, is a strain on mental health. Procrastination creates stress on the individual, anxiety and panic. Individuals tend to stress because of the urgency to finish this task, yet they choose to avoid it. Subsequently, the negative emotions hit them resulting in a vicious cycle.


This can also create constant negative feelings. When there is no self-compassion, the individual feels guilt, dread and demotivated when procrastinating. 


What are the physical repercussions?

On the body, the consequences of procrastination are also apparent. Organisational psychologist Adam Grant explains that chronic procrastinators’ quality of sleep is poor, they might not exercise as much due to lack of general motivation, emotional eating due to stress being more prominent, and generally a difficulty in regulating one’s self.  


What else? 

A study on 746 individuals showed that chronic procrastination may also lead to heart problems and hypertension as the stress has a negative psychophysiological impact on the body. It could also be due to the stress weakening the immune system and causing insomnia, headaches and digestive problems. 


2. Procrastination can lead to poor performance, poor product and missed opportunities

A.K.A. zero growth. 


How so? 

It is easy to perform poorly in our professional and personal lives when procrastination is involved. By continuously putting off a task and the negative emotions it stirs, the task is left till the last minute. Many people do not work well under pressure which essentially hinders their performance.


Effort and thinking into the task are also minimal as it has been completed in a state of panic and anxiety which, in turn, also inhibits performance.  

Additionally, procrastination hinders productivity, motivation to work and to chase opportunities. When chronic procrastination starts affecting someone’s life negatively, they miss the opportunity that is right there – they put off personal growth, not the task at hand.


Did you know... 

There are two kinds of procrastination: 

one with a deadline coming up, in which the panic suddenly awakens and forces the procrastinator to complete the task in a hurry, as Tim Urban explains it.


The second one being procrastination with no deadline, in which case there is no panic mode to awaken the procrastinator to take action. Examples include pursuing a new career or getting out of a relationship, tasks which are often delayed indefinitely.


By catastrophising before even giving it a go and not trying because you’re too late or it’s too hard, you end up missing exceptional opportunities and potential for growth.  


Procrastinators can achieve their dreams, but it is a case of not even starting them.

So, does procrastination lead to better outcomes? It depends on how you manage procrastination! 


Procrastination can be very effective when it comes to creative thinking and original ideas, as you give yourself time to think instead of rushing to complete the task. Procrastination can also be great for your decision-making and for your effectiveness under pressure.  


However, it’s more common to feel guilt and stress when procrastinating. It’s because it feels like self-sabotage, poor self-control and laziness. The stress caused by procrastination can also have a negative impact on our health.  


There is this clever saying ‘everyone procrastinates but not everyone is a procrastinator’. Procrastination can happen even to the most productive people. 


What are you really procrastinating on? Are you procrastinating wisely?

Disclaimer: We are by no means supporting one side of the argument over the other. We collate different views and expand on them to give you a better understanding of the motivation behind these views.
Photo credit: Brett Jordan (Unsplash)
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