Could Procrastination Actually Be Beneficial? Some Experts Say Yes.
Instead of berating yourself for wasting away your time, focus your energy on these three key benefits
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I’ll be honest: When I’m facing a difficult work task that requires real focus and deep concentration, you’ll find me scrolling through Instagram, reading a random article, checking my emails, and making a(nother) cup of coffee. By the time I’ve completed these time-sucking rituals, there’s no time left to do my actual work. A panicked feeling ensues, and yet, the whole cycle repeats over again. Welcome to procrastination.
Typically, procrastination is viewed negatively. It’s understandable: research shows procrastination can be associated with mental health problems, physical pain, and reduced movement. Sure, all of us do it sometimes, but an extreme version of this delay can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, and overwhelm—and hold us back from reaching our goals.
But could procrastination actually have a silver lining? In a world focused on productivity and getting things done, could it offer space for rest or inspiration? Some experts say yes.
The Benefits of Procrastination
1. It grants you the space to take inventory of your life.
Procrastination can give us opportunities to be curious and learn, says life and business coach Lindsey Eynon. “When you notice you are putting something off, it could be a sign you don’t prioritize it,” she explains. Procrastinating over the same things can indicate you don’t value them, giving you an opportunity to explore why that is—and if you really want or need to do them. “It could be life-changing,” says Lindsey.
All that said, procrastination is still coated in shame and guilt. It’s important not to see the act as an individual failing, but rather as a natural part of life, says Catri Barrett, an anti-procrastination coach.
Removing our own judgement around procrastination—that inner voice saying ‘you’re lazy’ or ‘you haven’t done enough’—means you can see more patterns and uncover hidden truths.
2. It makes you work more efficiently.
If you’ve met a deadline, you’re likely familiar with managing to get your work done just in time. However, despite the stress it may cause, putting tasks off until the last minute might actually make your work better. “Urgency can lead to you getting into a state of hyperfocus—or flow—where many people do their best work,” Catri says.
You also may feel a bit more energized in the process. “Procrastination can lead to a last-minute panic to get a job done which can trigger an adrenaline surge,” says Penny Mallory, an author and expert on mental toughness. “This surge can give you an energy boost to complete the task.”
You also may feel a greater sense of satisfaction when you do finally finish the assignment. “Doing something under a sense of pressure can give you a bigger dopamine boost when you do complete it,” Catri explains. And who isn’t searching for a hit of joy during the monotonous workday?
3. It gives you a chance to take a break.
How many times have you had brilliant ideas while in the shower or on vacation? No, you’re not imagining it: There’s a reason those periods of leisure lead to creative breakthroughs.
“Toxic productivity is praised and valued, but all of us have a point where productivity actually becomes unproductive,” Catri says. “Trying to push through and get something done is sometimes the least productive thing you can do. Good ideas rarely happen when you are three hours deep in monotonous work.”
It goes beyond just stepping away from your computer for a short time. Delaying tasks gives your brain a break, which can be valuable for creativity and problem-solving. You’re not slacking off. In fact, you’re probably unconsciously doing the hard part of the work—coming up with ideas and figuring out how to approach it. Mozart famously wrote his opera Don Giovanni the night before its opening night, composing the music in his head.
By allowing space for procrastination, you can use this free time for other activities. For example, you could take your dog for a walk, spend some time gardening, or do some housework. Lindsey says she opts to clean her oven during her mulling-over time. I’ve carried this wisdom into my own life, opting to take a real coffee break instead of berating myself for staring out the window.
How to Reframe Your Thinking Around Procrastination
Scheduling time for procrastination can stop those feelings of shame you associate with it, Catri says. She personally takes a break every two hours. You could try the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then take a pause for five minutes or experiment with blocking periods of free time on your calendar.
“Planned procrastination helps with cognitive function, burnout, creativity, and focus, and gives your brain a chance to wonder and have free time,” she says. “It’s about seeing procrastination as part of the creative process rather than something to be avoided.”
In a productivity-obsessed society, doing nothing might not seem like an option. “There is so much guilt around doing nothing, but doing nothing a lot of the time is exactly what we need,” Catri explains. “Procrastination isn’t a dirty word and letting your mind wander isn’t being lazy.”
These micro-moments of boredom are actually useful. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that participants who were asked to daydream before completing a task used more creative problem-solving, compared to those who didn’t. So, the next time you find your inner critic having a field day at your procrastination, try reframing it as daydreaming. Because, at the core, that’s what it is. We’re not robots, and all of us deserve, and need, a break.
It’s hard to shift away from the productivity-over-everything narrative. But, ultimately, it’s worth it. I see it in my own life. I often have my best ideas while walking my dog or figure out how to structure a piece of work while daydreaming in my garden. Not every moment needs to be spent either doing something productive or feeling terrible about not doing it.
Give yourself the space to think, dream, and plan because that time is valuable. So, go procrastinate away, it’ll work out OK.