The Benefits of Procrastination

By Diana Wexler

I am a procrastinator. And despite negative connotations associated with procrastination, I am a great advocate of the practice. Forget the type A personalities, the typical go-getters of the world and throw away the mantra of “don’t leave everything for the last minute.” Because inactivity is not just relaxing; it is also productive and effective under the right guidance.

Just as location is everything to a real estate agent, timing is everything to creative work. Many a great writer and journalist will tell you that an idea will come with due time, and not to force it or try to manipulate it. In the words of Lou Marinoff, a philosopher and president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, “Sometimes we fulfill our responsibility not by acting but by doing nothing.” So to all you teachers who reprimand students for not paying attention- it turns out daydreaming is actually beneficial, especially in terms of stress management.

It is this trend of putting off tasks, or waiting for inspiration to strike, that actually causes less stress. That last day before a deadline tends to give procrastination a bad rap, but the days before it are bliss. Tice and Baurmeister, PhDs of social psychology, were in on this secret. Their studies looked at college-aged students in 1997 and showed advantages to procrastination. At the beginning of a term, procrastinators were subject to lower stress levels, which increased throughout the study and as deadlines drew nearer. However, those who did not procrastinate felt levels of stress and obtained health problems throughout the entire term. This poses the question: If everyone is bound to feel the same high levels of stress before a due date or deadline, why not spend the time before that carefree?

Seems to me like some people are working harder, not smarter. And speaking of smarter, a study done by Ferrari in 1991 showed that “intelligence does not correlate with procrastination.” So for all the procrastinators out there, breathe a collective sigh of relief, because you are just as smart as those constant workers out there; only you have found the balance between working hard and playing hard.

Procrastination is the tool that provides balance between work and leisure. It allows time for fun and spontaneity, happiness, and relationships. Sometimes the most rewarding experiences come from unscheduled events. I have a good friend who never waits on an assignment, always does the work she is supposed to do, and sticks to a schedule like it is life support. And I do not envy her one bit. During our brief conversations I tell her about my weekends, and random people I’ve met and befriended. And she tells me about her increasing workload and how her boyfriend and she broke up because she didn’t really have enough time to see him. It is during those moments that I appreciate my ability to relax and de-stress, and I realize the importance of a little bit of spontaneity. If I followed an exact schedule I might receive a better American History grade, but, like my friend, I would also have to put relationships, friends, and my sanity on the backburner to get everything done in a timely fashion. In the long run work will always take second priority over my happiness.

This is not to say that procrastination is for everyone. It does take a certain mindset, and often relaxing is more taxing than work. But try to wait on one project, enjoy yourself, and see if the world comes to an end. As cartoon character Dagwood Bumstead so eloquently said about the beauty of laziness: “You can’t teach people to be lazy- either they have it or they don’t.”

Though I will admit, my only qualm with procrastination is that you don’t always have the time to complete a well written, all encompassing, enthralling conclu

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