Procrastination: Bane or boon? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 21, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:42 PM, October 24, 2016

Procrastination: Bane or boon?

When I was assigned this article I planned to break it down into sizeable bits and work through it at a steady pace. But that didn't quite happen. I ended up putting it off until the last moment and missed my deadline. University seems to have turned me into a seasoned procrastinator. But that's the case for most of us these days.

Even after the guilt, sufferings, and self-loathing we go through every time, we end up procrastinating nonetheless. The process can be understood by thinking of two processes of the brain, instant gratification and rational decision making. As the name suggests, rational decision making helps us make smart choices as it forces us to look at the bigger picture. If our thought process were to be dominated by this part alone, we would follow deadlines, even do unpleasant tasks if it was in our best interest. But instant gratification comes along and distracts us toward immediate fun and recreation.

But can procrastination be good? Some studies have shown that procrastinating moderately can actually generate more creative ideas. Employees were asked to fill up surveys asking if they procrastinated in their jobs, and their supervisors were asked to rate them based on levels of creativity. The results showed that employees who procrastinated mildly were deemed more creative by their supervisors than chronic procrastinators and employees who jumped right into the task. Another study grouped employees into two groups and asked them to generate ideas. One group was asked to start right away and the other was made to put it off for a while. Surprisingly the latter group was the one with more creative ideas.

Procrastination gives you time to consider disparate ideas and to think in nonlinear ways. The famous screenwriter Aaron Sorkin puts it as “you call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” By delaying, you can leave yourself open to a wide range of ideas. But there are certain pitfalls as well.

Procrastination is still bad. It's vice to productivity but virtue to creativity. Also such an approach could work for tasks that have deadlines as panic may act as a mechanism to compel you to start working before it's too late. However panic does not work for tasks which have no deadlines so you may end up never doing the job. It's also about finding that sweet spot. In the end the study doesn't imply you should start procrastinating, especially if things already work out for you the way they are.  

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