Can procrastination ever be a good thing?

Now time management isn’t my greatest strength but two years to write a post, really? No this is about something else. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to – it’s been on my to-do-list for, well, months.

Recently I’ve noticed that a lot of people around me seem to be talking about procrastination.  Surely they’re not referring to me!

The Merriam-Webster definition of procrastination is “to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy.”

Whoa – this is harsh.  I’m not lazy and of course I want to do it, it makes sense.  I’ve been thinking about it for ages but I’ve had a hectic couple of years.  Anyway I work better under stress and when I feel motivated!  Sound familiar?  Well I don’t know about you, but I can only fool myself for so long.

“Procrastination is often a behavioural way of protecting yourself from experiencing an unpleasant emotional state – anxiety, frustration and/or rebellion.” (Neenan and Dryden, 2002)

Now this is interesting, I can relate to all of these things. They go on to say that the one thing all people who procrastinate have in common is a clear cut emotional problem, one they might not be aware of.  Therefore they need to face the avoided situation and identify the beliefs and thoughts maintaining the procrastination.

So if I cut through all those excuses I’ve been making I can start to challenge the old thinking that holds me back, understand my behaviours better and start to take action, even if it might be a bit daunting. This means putting my fears into words and facing them.  At least then I’ll give myself the chance to move forward towards my goals and to becoming the person I want to be. For goodness sake I should be able to do this – I’m a coach!

Is procrastination a good thing then?  I believe that we learn our behaviours for very good reasons at the time when we learn them; for whatever reason, they are ones that worked best for us in the situation we found ourselves in. But in life our circumstances invariably change (mine certainly have) and we outgrow the behaviours.  When we are unable to identify the real problem or are terrified to try out new ways of doing things we become stuck. So if procrastination becomes a vehicle for greater self awareness then that can only be a good thing.  And you know, self awareness doesn’t mean we have to do things differently but it does give us a choice.

So no more excuses for me, I’m planning a trip out of my comfort zone and into ‘stretch’.  And this is what I’m doing now, writing this.  As far as I tell I’m not in the ‘panic zone’ yet. Although the jury is out on what will happen when I hit the ‘publish’ button!