Are these kinds of people procrastinators or great improvisers? And does it matter when you get something done, as long as you ultimately complete the task?
It seems like procrastinating has a negative connotation, signaling a certain kind of weakness. However, I suggest we can potentially reframe our impulse to put off for tomorrow what we don’t want to do today as productive.
But first, let’s sort through when procrastinating is actually counterproductive:
You’re afraid of doing it wrong
You didn’t want to ask for help, and now you’re stuck
You have absolutely nothing to say
What you’re supposed to do is boring. Frisbee on the quad is awesome.
I can’t help you with the boring. Some classes are required. Deal with it. If I, a double major in History and Russian Language and Literature could get through Conceptual Physics, you can too.
If you struggle with counterproductive procrastination, learn how to practice Mindful Writing, setting boundaries, and check out Productivity Owl. This app places an omniscient Productivity Owl on top of every webpage you visit, ensuring you don’t spend a disproportionate amount of time looking up zebra dietary habits, new memes to post on Facebook, or playing Candy Crush. In fact, you can block time-wasting sites altogether for a certain period. And this Owl is tough, requiring you to schedule your breaks with him in advance with the “Freetime Scheduler.”
Another excellent tool for those with paper-writing deadlines and a weakness for kittens: Written? Kitten! After writing a specified amount of words, you are rewarded with a new picture of a kitten being adorable.
Try this experiment: the next time you find yourself procrastinating on an important task, find the easiest thing on your list that can be completed in a few minutes, do it, and see if you feel more capable of handling the important task or less. Some people call this productive procrastination. I call it productivity. After all, any action you decide to do is procrastination of everything else that, by default, you’ve decided not to do. - Andrew Kibbe
I am a huge advocate of not forcing yourself to work at times you know you aren’t going to produce your best work. For me, that means anytime late at night. For others, that means any time they don’t feel the pressure of a deadline.
Moreover, if you are truly self-aware and self-disciplined, you know what you need to do and how long it will take. Let’s say you have a two-page paper due every week. You know it takes you four hours to read the book, 30 minutes to look over your notes, and 90 minutes to write the paper. Ok. Go for it.
As for presentations, maybe you want to abandon a planned speech, instead adopting a more conversational tone. Perhaps you want to see what others are doing before you speak. Or maybe you just know your audience well enough to feel comfortable improvising.
However, putting work off for the right reasons requires self-awareness, which is why I recommend incoming college freshmen experiment with planned work and various homework schedules in order to tap into when and how they are most productive.
The real problem isn’t procrastination – it’s self-discipline. Whether a week in advance or two hours prior, if you’re completing your assignments and receiving high marks, good. You’re fine. If, however, waiting until the last minute isn’t working for you, look into developing better study skills and making better use of your time.