Having spent much of our lives in the education system, procrastination is certainly something that we often fall back to when that looming fifty percent assignment or exam is beckoning. People often say that procrastination is a sign of laziness. Is it really though?
Having many times during the last semester suffered from the “couldn’t-be-bothered blues”, both with my own writing for fear of it not being good enough (as many writers, such as Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl, admitted they have struggled with) and academically with university studies, I began to ask myself why we actually procrastinate, aside from the most obvious assumption that it’s a passive-aggressive way to tell our assessments to bugger off.
Yet, even the most brilliant minds, at some point, surely would have suffered from the same problems that we do. Did Albert Einstein never take a day off during his whole life? I mean, they are complete geniuses and were totally devout to their work, that’s unquestionable, but it would be silly to assume that even the smartest, strongest and most successful men and women have at some point or another suffered from not wanting to do work.
As much of an oxymoron as it is, there is actually such a thing as “good, active” procrastination, and it is recognised by many scientists, including the Department of Organisational Psychology at Columbia University in New York, as actually yielding better academic and creative results. If you engage in “active” procrastination, it leads to increased productivity with work, rapidly decreased levels of stress (by up to 77%), better time management skills, improvement of health, and also enables enhanced creativity and better results. With “active” procrastination, you yourself create work that matters to you, and allows your mind to relax with its output. See? It is good for you!
That being said, when advocating procrastination as good for you, I must stress that procrastination has to be “active”. Like going for a walk, chilling with friends and having a beer, going to the gym, reading a book, writing… something that exercises your mind. Our brains needs exercise too, so it is good to keep it sharp. “Procrastinating properly” is actually really important.
Last semester, I myself didn’t procrastinate very well, often resorting to that most addictive of websites: Facebook and Youtube. It is easy to get stuck in a rut. So therefore having a plan to “procrastinate properly” is a brilliant idea; as managing times when you are not working is probably more vital than managing times when you actually are working.
So, what to do? Well, really it’s up to you personally, as we all have different interests and abilities. It can range from gaming with friends to going to the gym, but whatever it is, it has to be “active”, in that it allows your mind to exercise and relax, and enable you to work better when the time comes. Additionally, it must also not take over your time, otherwise you’ll never get anything done.
And when the time does come to finally finish that assignment or piece of work, I always refer to this quote by Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, Stardust and Coraline, to get me through and finish it off, and to keep the creative juices flowing:
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.”
So procrastinate responsibly! As for me, I’m actually procrastinating from doing a Grapeshot Magazine article writing this blog entry right now… and then there’s the two creative writing stories… And doing my tax return…. And PACE application forms to fill in…. and preparing for semester two….Oops!