Procrastinate Better: 6 Ways to Turn Delay into Advantage

Procrastinate Better: 6 Ways to Turn Delay into Advantage

You’ve often heard that procrastination is a negative thing that can hinder success. But did you know it can also be turned to your advantage? According to research by the National Institutes of Health, procrastination, when combined with elements like the ability to share knowledge and autonomous motivation, can enhance creativity.¹ You can overcome procrastination by turning it into a strength. 

What is Procrastination? 

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing tasks or decisions, despite knowing that there will be consequences for not completing these tasks on time. Whether it’s delaying studying for an exam, completing a work assignment, or even just doing the laundry, procrastination is a common behavior that touches virtually everyone at some point—from academic to professional and personal spheres.  

Rather than following through on planned activities, procrastination pushes us to do less urgent, more pleasurable activities. This, in turn, leads to a cycle of stress and guilt. 

The Psychology Behind Procrastination 

A common misconception about procrastination is about how it’s simply a matter of poor time management and laziness. However, it’s a coping mechanism for anxiety, fear of failure, or a quest for perfection.2 Some people procrastinate because they seek the thrill of last-minute pressures, while others may lack the motivation or see the task as too challenging. 

Procrastination is further compounded by cognitive reasons, such as overestimating future productivity or valuing immediate pleasure over long-term rewards, otherwise known as temporal discounting. These emotional and cognitive factors create a cycle of avoidance that reinforces procrastination as a habitual response to stress or challenge. 

On a neurological level, procrastination involves a battle between the brain’s limbic system, which seeks immediate rewards, and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and self-control.3 During procrastination, the prefrontal cortex’s weaker control over the limbic system leads to prioritizing short-term relief over long-term goals. 

Getting the Most Out of Procrastination: 6 Ways to Turn Delay into Advantage 

Procrastination doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially when used strategically. Intentionally delaying tasks allows for more creative thinking and problem-solving, which in turn can enhance overall creativity and productivity.  

Here are six ways procrastination can be used to your advantage: 

1. Use Procrastination as an Opportunity to Prioritize 

Most times, the tasks we delay are those we find least appealing or most challenging. Taking your time to understand your reluctance to tackle a particular task opens an opportunity to reassess your task list. This reassessment may reveal that some tasks are not as urgent or necessary as previously thought, allowing us to focus on what truly matters. 

2. Consider Task Switching 

Instead of viewing procrastination as doing nothing, consider it an opportunity to switch tasks. When you hit a creative block or find yourself unable to progress on a particular task, moving to a different task can keep you productive. This keeps the brain engaged and can lead to unexpected connections between disparate tasks, enhancing creativity and efficiency. 

3. Leverage Procrastination for Problem-Solving 

Sometimes, stepping away from a problem is the best way to solve it. The incubation period that procrastination offers allows the subconscious mind to work on solutions without the pressure of immediate resolution. When we return to the problem after a delay, we often find that the answer or a new approach becomes surprisingly clear. 

4. Practice Mindfulness and Reflection 

Procrastination can offer a valuable opportunity for mindfulness and reflection. By taking a moment to pause and reflect on why we’re delaying a task, we can gain insights into our working style, and motivations, and even uncover underlying anxieties or fears that may be hindering our progress. This self-awareness can be incredibly beneficial in addressing the root causes of procrastination. 

5. Improve Decision-Making Through Delay 

Delaying decisions, especially those that are complex or have long-term implications, can lead to better outcomes. Procrastination provides the time necessary to consider all aspects of a decision, seek additional information, and consult with others. This deliberate approach can enhance decision-making quality and lead to more satisfactory results. 

6. Optimize Energy and Creativity Cycles 

Understanding and aligning tasks with your natural energy and creativity cycles can transform procrastination into an asset. If you find yourself procrastinating on a task, it may be because you’re trying to tackle it at the wrong time of day. Schedule tasks that require high concentration or creativity during your peak performance times and use off-peak times for less demanding tasks. 

Overcoming Procrastination 

While procrastination can be beneficial, not all tasks benefit from delay. You might have urgent tasks or even personal resolutions that require prompt action. If you find yourself procrastinating often, here are seven practical strategies on how to stop putting things off: 

1. Break Down Tasks into Smaller Manageable Tasks 

Large tasks contribute to procrastination because they often seem too complex to achieve. Instead of postponing, consider breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts. This enables you to make progress in increments, making the overall project less intimidating. Each small task accomplished acts as a step towards completing the bigger picture. This approach can help you maintain focus and reduce the anxiety associated with tackling big projects. 

2. Use Time Management Techniques 

Time management methods such as the Pomodoro and Time Blocking techniques can be very helpful. The Pomodoro method involves breaking work into short intervals—about 25 minutes of work followed by short breaks. Time Blocking on the other hand involves allocating specific blocks of time to different tasks or activities, helping you structure your day more efficiently. These techniques aid in managing time better by creating a balanced routine that includes breaks to reduce burnout. 

3. Find Your Motivation 

Identifying what motivates you can significantly reduce procrastination. Motivation can come from personal interests, the satisfaction of completing tasks, rewards, or recognizing the negative consequences of not completing tasks. Setting up a reward system for completing tasks or milestones can provide an incentive and boost motivation. Additionally, visualizing the benefits of completing a task can also serve as a powerful motivator to get started and persevere. 

4. Address Underlying Issues 

Procrastination may be a symptom of deeper issues such as fear of failure, anxiety, or perfectionism. Addressing these underlying causes is crucial for long-term improvement. Practicing mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques can help in managing emotions related to procrastination. Seeking support from mentors, peers, or professionals can also provide the guidance and encouragement needed to overcome these barriers. 

5. Use Precommitment Techniques 

Committing in advance to tasks or deadlines can help reduce procrastination. For instance, publicly announcing goals or setting up rewards for task completion can increase accountability and motivation. 

6. Leverage Environmental Modifications 

Altering the work environment to reduce distractions and increase cues for working can significantly affect procrastination behaviors. This can include organizing the workspace, using website blockers, or creating a routine that signals it’s time to work. 

7. Take Advantage of Digital Tools and Resources 

Today, various digital tools and applications can help you avoid procrastination. Task management platforms can assist in organizing tasks and projects, making them appear more manageable. Time management applications encourage focused work sessions by discouraging phone use, and others track your computer usage to identify potential time-wasting activities. 

DISCOVER MEANINGFUL OPPORTUNITIES WITH GALT FOUNDATION 

In the spirit of transforming setbacks into strengths, Galt Foundation is dedicated to championing the talents of individuals with disabilities. We provide meaningful employment connections across various sectors, including accounting, healthcare, administration, and general labor. Our mission is to showcase how unique abilities can illuminate every workplace and make a tangible difference. 

If you’re in search of a role where your abilities are not just recognized but celebrated, we are here to facilitate that journey. Feel free to contact us today to start a conversation about how we can help you find a fulfilling job. 

References 

1 Adeel, Ahmad, et al. “When Procrastination Pays Off: Role of Knowledge Sharing Ability, Autonomous Motivation, and Task Involvement for Employee Creativity.” National Institutes of Health (.gov), National Center for Biotechnology Information, 11 Sep. 2023, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10520733/

2 Lieberman, Charlotte. “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)” New York Times, 25 March 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html

3 “The Neuroscience Behind Procrastination.” Race to Cure, 19 Jun. 2021, www.racetoacure.org/post/the-neuroscience-behind-procrastination

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Let’s start a conversation! Are you a person with disabilities searching for a job or an organization with temporary or long-term employment needs? We look forward to helping you realize your potential.