Procrastinating is unavoidable. It’ll show up in any area of life if you aren’t looking out for it. Procrastination takes many forms, whether it be delaying working on an assignment, missing a day you said you’d exercise on, or to avoid doing something which you fear. While it is mostly seen in a bad light, it isn’t all that bad.

One thing to understand is that procrastination is a means of getting things done. It’s a strategy to get work done within a time frame, just do it before it is needed to be done. If you think that an assignment will take about four hours and you have two weeks to do it in, you’re going to do more enjoyable tasks until the deadline gets near. It’s summed up by ‘Parkinson’s law’, which states: ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion.’ Of course, procrastinating can be detrimental if you don’t give yourself enough time to complete the task.

There’s also procrastination where there isn’t a deadline, just an ideal timeframe in which something should be done. This could be exercise, organising a meetup with friends, or writing a blog article. In this case, procrastination doesn’t help get things done, and you may never catch back up on whatever tasks you’ve missed.

A strategy for attacking these kinds of procrastination is setting specific times in which you’re going to complete a task. Today, I’ve planned to write a blog article between 10am and 12pm; do a past paper for revision between 1pm and 4pm; then exercise until dinner time. Setting a specific time block to do a task makes it so that you know when to start on a task, and when to finish it. This has then benefit of getting started and also of finishing it quickly. I’ve only got 50 more minutes to write this article, proofread it, and then publish it, so my level of focus is quite high.

If you run over your time limit and haven’t finished it, but it is a necessary task, give yourself a break and then plan another block of time to finish it off. Writing down your time blocks as a plan on paper will make the plan more concrete, and you’ll be less likely to adjust your plan so you can do something distracting. I’ve noticed that whenever I plan my day in my head, or I write down what I need to do without planning the times, then the day never goes as well as when I sit down and write out a plan.

Busy or not busy?

There is an obvious form of procrastination, where you’re watching TV, playing a game, or browsing social media. This is where you’re procrastinating while you’re not being busy. You can also procrastinate by replying to your emails or completing admin tasks, where you’re busy but not getting the important stuff done. This sort of ‘busy procrastination’ is harder to notice as a problem, but it’s still detrimental to your productivity.

For tackling ‘busy procrastination’, I’d recommend Tracking Your Time to see where your time is going, and then put the menial tasks you notice you’re regularly doing in a dedicated time block, and make it as small as you can. One example of this is to set aside 15 minutes maximum for email and other organisation/admin tasks each morning.

Benefits of procrastination

Somewhat surprisingly, procrastination can have many benefits.

It gives time for other things to show up.
If you’ve got an essay due and you rush to complete it quickly, it’s possible you could receive an email a few days later giving you some clarification on what to write, and provides some extra materials. If you’ve done it too quickly, you’ll have missed the extra information and materials, so you may produce a piece of work that isn’t as good as it could be, or you may have spent unnecessary extra time on it. The email could even cause you to redo the essay, a huge time drain.

It allows you to reflect on whether it’s a good use of time.
If you rush to complete something, you may end up deciding that what you’ve done won’t help you in the way you thought it would. If you had procrastinated a bit, you might have picked up on that before you started work on it.

It can make it clear where you want to direct your energy.
If you’re spending your time doing something, it’s clear that it’s valuable to you, else you wouldn’t be doing it. Watching how you procrastinate can be a means of self-exploration, seeing what things you procrastinate with can give you insights that you may have missed about yourself. If you procrastinate exercise by reading a book, perhaps you want to dedicate more of your time to read books? Or perhaps that timeslot really needs exercise.

Cramming things in the last minute makes you much more efficient.
The night before a deadline creates a vast amount of pressure to complete a task. If you leave it to the last minute, you get to experience the adrenaline rush to finish the job as quickly as possible. This can also apply to the strategy of planning blocks of time to complete tasks in. Now that I’ve got 10 minutes left to finish this article, my focus is incredibly high.

I hope you realise that procrastination isn’t the end of the world. There are more types of procrastination I could have explored, and more strategies to combat it. However, the main point of this article was to highlight that leaving a task until later can be a great strategy, and how the stress of a deadline can be really beneficial. If you’re currently revising for exams like me, consider setting deadlines for yourself as a means of motivation. Though don’t procrastinate too much. 🙂