The gift of procrastination

In our circles, it is not uncommon to hear a colleague say something along the lines of, “No, I didn’t do it yet… I have been procrastinating!” I always understood procrastination as bad. It is something that we should feel guilty about. A barrier to our professionalism and important contributions to society. It’s that thing that we do when we don’t want to do what we should be doing.

For me, procrastination happens when I have a task that I want to accomplish, but fear I might fail to do well in. I procrastinate to cope with this fear. My main way is listening to music. Or googling random questions that I wonder about. And what I have found is that I get creative with questions in a way that I normally never experience. Perhaps procrastination is not the same for everyone, as we all handle stress differently. Maybe you procrastinate for other reasons. But for me, procrastination is linked to my fear of letting myself down on how I do my job. And it leads me to explore things not related to work that are actually quite cool.

I decided to google the term “procrastination,” and found that lots of psychology and success websites pop up and portray the concept as a horrible nuisance linked to your lack of motivation. I have to say that I completely disagree. I feel that procrastination should be seen as a gift of random creativity. And while that creativity comes from delaying other tasks that are maybe viewed as more important, it is creative and progress nonetheless. Perhaps it is not “useful” or contributing to our general work, but it can be meaningful. Important people in history stepped outside their daily tasks and allowed procrastination to lead them to unique ideas that would otherwise never have been thought of.

I recently went to a talk by Jorge Cham, the creator of PhD Comics, who introduced the idea that procrastination is often misunderstood as laziness and should actually be seen as a positive experience. In fact, his comics are a product of his procrastination.

The moments of procrastination should be embraced rather than felt guilty over. It is part of the graduate experience and, ultimately, a part of life. So, the next time you are procrastinating, pause for a minute and think about how you see things differently. Appreciate those moments rather than feel guilty over them. Because no matter how big or small it seems, you are also making something meaningful out of them.

Cover photo by DariuszSankowski // Pixabay

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