There's a really interesting story in the new Adam Grant booked called Originals. I won't give anything away, especially since Grant uses a compelling writing style that makes you wonder who he is talking about at first, but the story is basically about procrastination and why it isn't such a bad thing. In my experience, there's a lot of guilt related to not getting something done on time. We get pressure from the boss or it's just drilled into us from birth to finish up our homework and study for a test on time in school. I also feel procrastination is a sign of a character flaw (e.g., waiting until the last minute) and poor time management.
That said, as Grant explains, procrastination is a tool you can use. It forces you to go into overdrive and work harder and smarter when you need to finish a task. It also has another wonderful perk, which is something I discovered recently.
I'm an avid disc golfer. It's free, gets me in shape, and offers some of the same challenges as real golf. (A friend of mine used to call traditional golf the "fake" one, but that's another topic.) Yesterday, I made a beautiful shot that arched over a field, descended softly over a tree line...and then landed in a gully. After trudging through some mud, I spotted the disc stuck in an embankment down a ravine, too far to reach without having to slide down the gulch and get totally soaked.
Dang. I was wearing normal walking shoes and a new pair of jeans. It was getting late, but I felt some urgency because I knew this park was fairly popular and that the disc might not be there in the morning. The sun was about to set and it was getting cold. My thought process went like this: I need to get the disc now, I need to finish this task. I can't go home without having this issue resolved. I don't want to procrastinate because I will feel like I didn't accomplish my goal for today.
I stood by that ditch for a few minutes. I took a step and slid down a few feet. Not good. This task was just not that feasible, and it didn't make any sense to complete it. I was too tired to really work out how to get down into the ditch. I was hungry and little annoyed at myself. Because I've always been told to "do it now" and to finish what I've started, I felt a pang of guilt. Then it hit me that this was a task that didn't need to be completed right now. I realized that no one else was crazy enough to play disc golf this late in the day, and I didn't see anyone around.
So, just this morning, I went back to the same gully. I was more determined. (I also brought along a pair of duck-hunting boots and I was wearing some old jeans.) My disc was still there. I looked down at the ditch and the task seemed much easier. I slid down, grabbed my disc, and climbed back up. What had changed? The ditch was still there, and the mud was just as slick. I was not as tired or hungry. The task and the situation had changed, but my perspective was totally different.
Has this ever happened to you? Something seems incredibly difficult, but you shift your focus and wait a while. It suddenly seems much more achievable. There's something really useful about waiting. The conditions might change, but more importantly you change. You have fresh eyes on the situation.
If you are facing a tough challenge today, my advice is to set aside that resolve and determination. Let the problem sit idle for a while. When you come back to it later today or tomorrow--or next week--you might have a new perspective. Let procrastination work in your favor. Once you get over the guilt, you might be surprised how much you can accomplish.