People Who Procrastinate Aren't Lazy: They're More Successful Than You

by Dan Scotti

Procrastination has existed since the beginning of time. There will always be a deadline and, as humans, it’s in our nature to test the limits of these deadlines – by delaying for as long as possible.

Organization is a good thing. If you start something ahead of time, and finish before, you're one of the lucky few. But research indicates that up to 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators. That means they work better under the gun to accomplish a task – but hey, all's well that ends well, right?

In the eyes of procrastinators everywhere, delaying a task isn’t necessarily the archrival of productivity – it’s simply a different path. Whereas it may benefit some to start a project well in advance, others simply work better with their backs against the wall.

Ultimately, it’s as much of a matter of preference as the time you choose to eat dinner. So why does procrastination get such a bad rap?

The basis of procrastination is postponing action, as defined by the Columbia School of General Studies, which is where a great deal of this negative connotation arrives from. People often mistake all action for progress. This isn’t always the case.

Certain times, postponing one particular action for another is simply a matter of priority. Author, and University of San Diego professor, Frank Partnoy distinguishes between two different types of procrastination in an interview with Smithsonian.

For Partnoy, delaying one action for another that you consider more valuable, is an example of active procrastination. This type of procrastination is considered “good procrastination” when compared to the “bad,” or passive procrastination.

Not writing your research paper to sit on your couch and play Nintendo 64 would be an example of more passive procrastination.

The “art of procrastination,” as described by author John Perry, coincides with structuring your procrastination. According to Perry, procrastinators’ greatest quality lies within their ability to achieve tasks while not sticking to any rigid schedule.

Perry noted how after periods of procrastination, tasks that you once thought were important tend to “disappear if given a chance.” This is, in many ways, our own instinctive ability to deem what is, or isn’t, truly important.

Additionally, Perry makes the claim that we procrastinators are surely in good company. “From Socrates to Thomas Jefferson, from Jane Austen to Mark Twain, from Solon to Nancy Pelosi, most great women and men have been procrastinators.”

In addition to the examples provided by Perry; Da Vinci, The Dalai Lama, and Margaret Atwood were also all known procrastinators.

It’s clear that, judging by its advocates, procrastination cannot be opportunity’s assassin. In fact, Leo Benedictus of The Guardian highlights some of the benefits that come along with postponing certain tasks.

According to Benedictus, the quality of a given assignment can be improved by not acting as immediately as possible. Procrastination encourages or, at the very least, requires that a person uses all of his available, given, time to complete a task – to “assess things.”

Sometimes, by starting something, and putting it off until a later date – and repeating that process a few times – you’ll start to see new things each time you revisit it.

This will only help you to develop your thoughts more cohesively. Focusing on one thing for too long will distort your own perception. By starting and stopping, you constantly refresh your mind’s scope.

Amy Finnerty of Oprah even suggested that procrastination might be a good thing, entirely. Finnerty notes how her husband, a journalist–and chronic procrastinator–uses the pressure of a looming deadline as metaphorical fuel for his work.

Although many trivial acts occupy the majority of time leading up to a task’s deadline, once Finnerty’s husband senses the urgency of a deadline, it provides him the “boost” necessary to finish a task, and moreover, to do it well.

Procrastination isn’t for everyone though, and like John Perry alluded to, there is an art to doing it right. If you are a known procrastinator, and your success despite this isn’t as well-defined as, say, Amy Finnerty’s husband – perhaps you need to reevaluate your creative process, or restructure your procrastination.

At the end of the day, there is no “right time” to finish something before its deadline – as long as it’s finished before the deadline.

If, given your experience, you work best by working incrementally months before the deadline, so be it. If you’ve noticed that your best work materializes in the waning hours before the deadline, perhaps that’s just the way you work.

That’s my point. There’s no right or wrong way to budget your own time. This is why it’s called “your own time,” and not anybody else’s. While societal norms encourage less of a “mad-dash” approach to completing tasks – it’s simply due to the fact that this approach allows less room for error. Not that it’s superior.

Know yourself, trust yourself, and recognize what approach you feel the most comfortable following. A stitch in time might save nine, but waiting around a bit may save 10. You never know unless you wait and see.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It