We hear it all the time--procrastination is a terrible habit. It interferes with productivity and kills momentum, and if you want to accomplish anything ever you better never ever procrastinate. As with so many things, the truth is more complicated. There are times when procrastination doesn't hurt--and there are times it can even be helpful.
Here are seven examples of the up side to procrastination.
1. It calms the impulse to act in haste.
Taking swift steps isn't always the smartest move. Sometimes it really is best to take a time out and gain the perspective that only distance can give. Even a short delay can lead to a big payoff in clarity. Once a little time has passed, you might look at the issue and see a different solution or even discover that the best path forward is to do nothing. Procrastination gives you an opportunity to evaluate and think things through.
2. It can channel your intuitive wisdom.
Procrastination may simply be the wavelength your mind and intuition use to communicate to you that you shouldn't be doing something--or at least that you should give it more time. In a world where quick, decisive thinking is most often rewarded, it can be counterintuitive to slow down and do nothing. But sometimes your unconscious mind knows best.
3. It helps you resist peer pressure.
It can be hard to go against the grain of opinion. If everyone around you is sure that the move you're about to make is a good one, you may lack the self-confidence to go against a universally shared opinion. (Don't worry if that's the case--it takes a LOT of self-confidence.) Procrastination may be the best way to clear your own path--it's a passive response, which generally isn't the best solution, but sometimes it's exactly what you need to do.
4. It helps you manage pointless deadlines.
These days many things are paced more quickly than they need to be. Everything needs to be turned around today, if not yesterday. Procrastination lets you set your own pace. Then when a real deadline arrives, you're ready to make your decision. Procrastination can keep you from wasting your time doing unnecessary things too quickly.
5. Percolation fosters creativity.
If you have a big important task ahead of you, it's natural to procrastinate because it's so daunting. What you may not realize is that even when you're not actively working on that task, your mind is subconsciously collecting ideas and processing things. When you actually sit down to get to it, you have a lot more ideas in your head on how to go about it. It's like cooking on the back burner.
6. Time brings clarity.
Sometimes you procrastinate on a decision because you're genuinely unsure or conflicted about the right choice. And at least part of the time, procrastination rewards itself by providing new information that makes the decision easier.
7. You can set priorities.
Especially if you're a naturally productive person, the desire to procrastinate on a task can mean that the task isn't important or valuable to you. After procrastinating on a task for some time, you might look at it and decide it doesn't even deserve a spot on your to-do list. Often the things you're most inclined to procrastinate on are the ones that weren't really worth doing to begin with.
Of course, procrastination can be damaging. Some decisions legitimately have to be made quickly, and opportunities can be lost without timely action. And it's definitely not something you want to make a constant habit of. But if your gut response to a single action or decision is to wait, you may be able to use procrastination to your benefit.