Shame, Horror, Anger.

Carol’s face mirrored these three strong emotions in a few seconds.

She felt ashamed that she had procrastinated (shame).

She was horrified that she had procrastinated (horror).

She was disgusted with herself for having procrastinated (anger).

Carol, a client of mine, and I were talking about something that Carol had been postponing.

Carol felt bad because, hey we all know, procrastination is bad.

When you procrastinate, you 

– Feel tired

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”

William James

– Make Things Harder

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”

Olin Miller

– Strive For Perfection

“A primary reason people don’t do new things is because they want to do them perfectly – first time. It’s completely irrational, impractical, not workable – and yet, it’s how most people run their lives. It’s called The Perfection Syndrome.”

John-Roger and Peter McWlliams

But is procrastination always bad?

Nope.

Research shows that in certain circumstances procrastination is a virtue. It increases creativity.

Johae Shin, professor at the University of Wisconsin, has researched procrastination. Her research shows that procrastination stimulates divergent thinking. And before you jump for joy, wait a sec. Shin’s research also shows that to get max results you need to procrastinate in a certain way.

The four simple steps:

Step 1. Learn about the task or project.

Step 2. Put it aside. Yes, procrastinate!

Step 3. Do something totally different like eating a bar of chocolate (not recommended by the way), getting a lunch, or going to that conference.

Step 4. Get back to task or project.

Love it.

The most important step besides step 4 – yes, you need to get back to it – is step 1. Skipping the first step and procrastinating immediately won’t give any increase in creativity.

And of course, don’t procrastinate until the last minute. Rushing kills divergent thinking.

So, sometimes procrastination is good. It depends on WHAT you have been procrastinating and WHY.

Let’s look at the Good, Bad, And Ugly of procrastinating by focusing on the WHAT you’ve been procrastinating. Here are three situations:

– Crucial conversation: Ugly

– Having lunch: Bad

– New Year’s office speech: Good.

But beyond looking at the WHAT, another component needs to be added: the WHY, namely, why you are postponing the task.

WHATWHYGOOD, BAD, UGLY
1. Crucial ConversationEmployee’s mother died the day before.GOOD
Your own fears.UGLY
2. Postponing lunch with 2 hoursA crisis hit the office.GOOD
Everything is more important than your lunch.UGLY
3. New Year’s office speechYou procrastinate to increase divergent thinking.GOOD
You are scared to death.UGLY

In Carol’s case she recognized that an old fear had popped up its head. After some coaching she addressed the issue. A huge relief was the result.

Only you decide The Good, Bad, and Ugly of procrastination. Don’t forget that procrastination can be good. Use it to your advantage.