I just finished reading a blog from LifeHacks on the eight ways procrastination can ruin your life. Among the dire consequences of procrastination listed were that you could ruin your career, blow your opportunities, and, of course, waste precious time.
I (not so politely) disagree.
You can score a lot of creative wins and avoid many stupid mistakes with proactive and intentional procrastination. In fact, I recommend making it part of your daily to-do list if you want to see an amazing increase in happiness, success, and productivity.
Procrastination gets a bad rap.
For most, it is considered a character flaw, a moral failing, or an indication that you’re not a “leader” or “influencer” or some other title we give ourselves to make us feel good (or superior) for a while.
Now, just laying around on the couch all day, eating Kettle Chips and watching The Price is Right and then the next movie on TCM as the day fades from light to dark (been there) is not what I’m talking about. Too many days of that may very well ruin your life, or at least seriously affect your ascent up the corporate ladder.
Sometimes you just need to check out of the whole work/life balancing act by binge watching Game of Thrones. There are times when this type of mindless activity provides the restoration you need. I get it.
But intentional proactive procrastination is very different.
It is a conscious choice to put things off for a time in order to make a better decision, or wait for the Universe to speak a little clearer or louder. It is the perfect exercise for A-types who don’t feel right unless they have made at least 10 major decisions during their 5 a.m. spin class.
Here are five priceless benefits of Intentional Procrastination.
1. You Will Make Better Decisions (and Avoid Many Stupid Mistakes)
Some decisions, like what to order at Starbucks or what shirt to wear to work, are not life changing. But some are…like getting married, getting a divorce, or having a baby. Or taking that job in Alaska or Taipei – or NOT taking that job in Alaska or Taipei.
A little healthy procrastination – putting off the decision until your heart and gut feelings are aligned with the rational reasons for (or against) it – is a good thing.
Making life-altering decisions can have permanent consequences. Sure, there are do-overs for some, but most involve lawyers, therapists, or police officers, and could be life-course or career breakers.
2. Take the Agony Out of Knocking Off Your To-Do List
When I was a new supervisor at the Marriott Corporation, my manager gave me a personal lesson on using my brand new Day-Timer time management system. The Day-Timer method assigns codes to prioritize items on the Daily To-Do List.
- “A” items were on fire and would incinerate the rest of the items if they weren’t handled immediately.
- “B” items were important; but if left to smolder awhile, wouldn’t blow things up.
- “C” items were OK and important, but could wait.
Now some of those lowly “C’s” were the fun things – new challenges, personal passions, and shiny objects that distracted from the more important “A’s” on the list.
Here is where intentional procrastination comes in.
Putting off an “A” or “B” item to do a lowly creative or fun “C” can help recharge your batteries and ignite your creative spirit. That lowly “C” can add the fun of discovery, or force you to fire off a couple of dormant brain cells. This intentional procrastination can leave you better equipped to tackle those “A” items, and get them off the list.
3. Tap into the Power of Meantime
Meantime is that great stretch of free zone where you don’t make any decision at all.
It is a time to open your mind, heart, and brain to new data, and tune in to opportunities as they present themselves. Taking a calculated break from decision making opens space for new possibilities.
Was an expensive vacation cancelled because of weather or work demands? Do you have a deadline to re-book or cancel altogether? Use the meantime to re-evaluate your finances. Think about the timing. Is the trip worth the investment? Will your family really enjoy it, or are you the only one who wants to trek through the Amazon or go ice fishing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in February?
Sometimes a situation arises to give you a meantime—a time to regroup and rethink.
4. Avoid the Dark Night of the Bad Decision Zone
You’ve met the man (woman) of your dreams, and after six margaritas with bourbon chasers, you and your instant spouse are headed for Vegas and a wedding chapel.
Or maybe you had another run-in with your annoying, controlling, jerk of a boss and you’re going to march into his or her office, say all the things you’ve been holding back, and quit your job.
You’ve been saving up to fix your twelve-year-old clunker; but your loser friend just bought a new BMW. Now the cute salesperson at the Mercedes dealer is giving you a great deal and a free toaster if you buy Right Now!
Ah, the Dark Valley of Bad Decisions – this is where intentional procrastination is a life-saver.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have the will or intestinal fortitude to stop. Or we have surrendered our brain power to another part of our anatomy, making rational decisions nearly impossible.
Lust, greed, jealousy – any of the seven deadly sins – can lure us into that dark place where toxic snap decisions sing out in sweet seductive melodies. If you find yourself on that slippery path, give your “hormones, feelings, relationship troubles, fight with your boss, four glasses of wine, six margaritas, and way too much pizza the night before” time to work its way through your system.
Hide your phone. This is a “no text-tweet-post-signature-on-the-dotted-line” zone.
Here procrastination isn’t an option; it is mandatory. Give yourself another sunrise, at least.
5. Stop Wasting Time, Money, and Energy On Do-Overs
As a management consultant, I’ve spent a lot of time helping clients avoid lost opportunity costs and re-work. They call me because some process or procedure is breaking down, causing delays, employee turnover, low morale, and lots of time and money lost on unhappy customers and lost business.
Something that seems like an obvious or quick fix can cause more trouble down the line.
A little procrastination before implementing a change in business or life can avoid costly do-overs. Taking a second look, getting more feedback, talking to customers, and testing a new process are some intentional procrastination points that, in the end, save time and money…and could save a business.
“Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.” (Unknown)
What seems like the perfect solution today may look very different in the light of tomorrow’s information or feedback. “Ignorant zeal is worthless—haste makes waste.” (Proverbs 19:2)
Take time to count the cost before pouring the concrete, tearing down the building, or getting that new tattoo.
We can all look back on things we regret doing.
Your last divorce (maybe).
Buying that neon-green (purple, fuchsia, orange) car.
Painting all the natural wood trim in your historic home neon green (not me, but a house I was considering buying).
Taking your present boring job because you were desperate, or someone was nagging you to get off you’re a** and get a J-O-B.
You can’t go back, but intentional procrastination can put on the brakes when pressed to make a similar quick decision in the future. An extra hour, (day, week?) might have given your research or networking or God or the Universe time to bring up something better.
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