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Procrastination or productive delays?

They’re always putting it off till the last minute but are procrastinators more productive and creative? While some psychologists argue about the merits of ‘active procrastination’ - the decision to intentionally put off less important tasks in order to focus on more important ones, how many proponents of procrastination do it as prioritising things in life? Gulf News readers debate.

Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News
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Confession

Some of my best ideas are for work I am not doing

I happen to be a procrastinator and in fact find that I perform a lot better when I am under pressure. I do think some of your best ideas come when you are under some kind of pressure, whether it is time or anything else. However, when you have to do something ‘right now’, you might not produce the most creative work but the pressure could yield the answers that are needed. As they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, if you have the motivation you do the work. Sometimes, that motivation is a shortage of time.

I also hate it when I have a faraway deadline. Some of the better work that I do is either on projects that I have absolutely nothing to do with, so it is a friend’s project and they are simply picking my brains for ideas, or something that I have to literally deliver tomorrow. That is also quite a common theme in the agency setting, which is the work environment I am in. Yes, it would be great if you met all the deadlines but a lot of people are better when they are challenged by the last minute.

Alternatively, you can also get original ideas when you are out for a walk or taking a shower. There is a truth to that as well, because you are away from the problem, which gives your brain space to make the connections that you wouldn’t have made if you were so focused on the problem. I guess it all depends on the kind of creative concept you are working on, because they can all be very different.

RDS_180504 SPEAK YOUR MIND Phillip ApazaAs for what is the best balance to be productive at work — I guess you should have a team of people who work differently. If you have the right types of team members, with some who are more deadline-oriented and others who are procrastinators and deliver great work on a tight deadline, that would be ideal. But not every company has that mix. The other alternative is to weave your tasks in such a way that they offer you a combination of both work styles — always have some tasks that have lenient deadlines with others that need to be done on tighter deadlines.

From Mr Philip Apaza

Senior creative producer living in Dubai

 

College

Students procrastinate for various reasons

As a college student, procrastination is a habit I witness first hand, both in terms of experiencing it within myself and in peers around me. Why students procrastinate is a matter of complexity, especially when considering that in my major, international relations, the bulk of assignments involve extensive writing. Despite the demanding nature of the research, annotation and the actual writing process, other factors are in play with regards to procrastination.

I feel that the majority of procrastinators are those who have not yet adjusted to the relatively “hands off” academic environment of university, and they are instead relying on peers or their instructors to remind them of deadlines and submissions. In other words, they lack adequate organisational skills, time management and end up prioritising their work poorly as well. Another common trait is anxiety. While our university offers workshops to help students overcome anxiety when taking exams or throughout the exam week, a deep-rooted fear of failure freezes any of their attempts at getting university work done. Or in general, contingent with the idea of poor time management, the sudden avalanche of assignments overwhelms them and they tend to revert to procrastination as a result.

RDS_180504 SPEAK YOUR MIND Amna AbudyakFinally, as from my own experience with procrastination, I find that I put off assignments that I consider difficult, uninteresting or involving a particularly unlikeable course. While some may excel under pressure brought on by procrastination, it is not the case for me. However, because procrastination is such a pervasive method of achieving school work, I believe that it should receive more recognition in the academic realm not just as a problem, but as a legitimate method of studying or otherwise because some students might benefit and flourish from it. Despite me not being one of those students who thrive under pressure, I still find that procrastination could possibly be beneficial to unlocking much needed creativity, in some.

From Ms Amna Abudyak

International relations student based in Sharjah

 

Devotion

It could differ, based on an individual’s perspective

There is way too much to do in life. I see life as an amazing pool of opportunities. Just the thought of postponing for tomorrow the enjoyment experiencing those things could bring me today won’t allow me to sleep in peace. Without a doubt, you will find very creative, intelligent and capable people among those who procrastinate, but if their constant belief would have been, “there is always time for tomorrow”, how would we ever have known how talented they were?

It’s hard for me to imagine a procrastinating Picasso, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela or Madame Curie. I can only imagine the hours, days, nights or whole lives sacrificed for what they were devoted to. Perhaps, there is a very fine, invisible line between diverting your thoughts on an idle stage of creativity or simply falling into a pattern of procrastination. We all know the difference very well, at a personal level. Saying what could trigger an individual’s creativity, inspiration or simple willingness to do something is very personal.

Some people are okay with working against aggressive deadlines until stress triggers a sickness. Then, overnight, they become the creative type of people that have slowed down and won’t trade health for deadlines: Would they then be considered procrastinators?

How do people living in a war zone live with procrastination, versus many of us living in war-free zones? There are nationalities famous for being extraordinarily laidback, living and prioritising their routine on a complete different angle. Other nationalities simply walk around on a ‘matchstick head syndrome’, waiting to be sparked and be productive. Procrastination could therefore differ based on an individual’s perspective.

When we procrastinate often, there could be a much deeper reason – perhaps lack of confidence, feeling threatened or a lack of interest.

RDS_180504 SPEAK YOUR MIND Montserrat Martin

I personally find it extremely challenging to delegate because I admire the world and life and there are endless things to be done. So, a postponed day feels like a really wasted one.

From Ms Montserrat Martin

Founder of a pre-loved books organisation in Dubai

 

Intention

Healthy, intentional procrastination can be a sign of wisdom

First of all we should distinguish between procrastination and laziness, because the difference is whether you have a strategy or not.

Sometimes, procrastination is about prioritising and asking yourself: “Is it the right time to go for this target? Or would it be better if I stepped back, relaxed and came back to the project?”

When we have a goal, it is not always good to go for it without pausing. Taking a break could actually allow us to be stronger in the direction we want to go in.

There is difference between active and passive laziness. For example, the book of ancient Chinese widson ‘I Ching’ is in a way a big promoter of procrastination. It deals with how one should behave in the world, according to their goals and objectives — what is the right moment to advance, the right moment to stay still, the right moment to go back and the right direction to take?

Today, we are living in a ‘globalised society’ that in a way doesn’t like too much procrastination because it is based on on consuming, which in itself is based on impulse. For example, you go to a mall and see a product. The manufacturer wants you to buy it immediately. If we fall ill, there is a pill that makes you feel well instantly.

There is no culture of waiting or analysing the ‘why’ or ‘how’. If there is something unpleasant, we have been educated, for economical reasons, to never wait and go for the immediate, short-term satisfaction. Healthy procrastination goes a little bit in the opposity direction. It means deliberately choosing long-term satisfaction.

However, I would not club it together with indecision. Indecision is the inability to make up your mind, whereas active procrastination is very intentional. Indecision could lead to procrastination, but the two are not the same.

RDS_180504 SPEAK YOUR MIND Dr Andrea TosattoThe reason why procrastination can help us deliver better is because these are related to tasks that we would otherwise not enjoy doing. So, if there is no external pressure, we would not do it. However, if not doing it means that I won’t get my salary, then I am obliged to do it. When the fear of the consequence becomes so high that the comfort of not doing what you don’t like to do is no longer worth it, you will act.

From Dr Andrea Tosatto

Clinical psychologist based in Dubai

 

— Compiled by Falah Gulzar, Trainee Social Media Journalist and Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

 

Have Your Say: Do you think ‘active procrastination’ is necessary to live a productive life? Is indecision a form of procrastination? And is there any relation between creativity and procrastination? Share your views and participate in future debates by writing to us at readers@gulfnews.com

 

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