The art of procrastination: 7 surprising benefits to putting things off

Sometimes we like to push ourselves to just get done as quickly as we can.

And yet there’s times when putting things off a bit—so long as they’re not cutting into our deadlines—might actually help.

That’s why here in this article I will tell you about the 7 surprising benefits to putting things off.

1) You will be less burned out

Rushing through things as quickly as possible—perhaps to impress our bosses, perhaps to simply prove that we can—is a surefire way to push ourselves into burnout.

And you don’t want that to happen, trust me.

Not only will you work much slower once you get burnt out, burnouts will also make it hard for you to enjoy life. In fact, a burnout might even put you into depression!

That’s why it’s a good idea to pace yourself. Instead of trying to finish things as fast as you can, step back and unwind whenever you feel that you’re getting tired or are losing focus.

Pay close attention to your schedule and your deadlines, of course. But then take a step back and take it easy once you know that you aren’t causing delays or breaking deadlines.

You’re not a machine, and so you must include yourself and your well-being in the equation when it comes to productivity. Otherwise, you might stop working altogether.

2) It can help you spot problems

Working on things at a break-neck pace means that, unfortunately, you aren’t usually afforded the opportunity to really process whatever it is you’re doing.

And this can and will lead to you making mistakes and… well, if you’re hell-bent on rushing, you’ll fail to spot and correct them even if you do go back and try to find them.

Perhaps you were writing a report, for example, and had accidentally forgotten to remove an interrupted thought 3 pages back.

If you were to blindly rush through your report, you can easily fail to notice and correct that mistake, even if it would have been as simple as deleting one paragraph.

But when you take your time, you’re not only letting your mental energy recover, you’re also giving yourself the opportunity to step back and review your work with a clear mind and fresh eyes.

3) It can create space for better ideas

Of course, pacing yourself does more than just let you fix mistakes. It can actually help you figure out new, better ideas that you wouldn’t have figured out otherwise.

After all, you can plan things ahead all you want in your head, but there’s nothing quite like actually carrying your ideas out and seeing them half-formed before you.

And sometimes, the best ideas come when you’ve allowed yourself to actually start doing something and take a step back to evaluate your work.

You are probably already familiar with this—you might have had a “eureka” moment after you’ve passed your work, for example.

Those moments when you go “Wait, I could have done it another way!” or “Wait, how could I have missed this?” and regret that you didn’t realize it earlier.

Well, putting things off, so long as you’re being reasonable about it, will allow you to get these thoughts before you actually declare your work done.

This is quite simple to understand, really. Ideas brewed in three days are definitely much better than those made in three hours.

4) You won’t be swamped with work

So we like to think that if we’re extra efficient with work and get our work done before everyone else, we can relax and win our bosses’ good graces.

But on the contrary, being extraordinarily productive is only likely to lead to you being assigned even more work with very little acknowledgement or compensation for the trouble.

And if you think that’s unfair, that’s because it is, and that’s just how things are. We live in a world where, whenever possible, people would make you do as much work as possible for as little pay.

What can I say? Capitalism sucks, and there have been studies proving that it’s detrimental to our mental health and, despite common belief, easy upwards mobility—that is, going up the social ladder through hard work—is a myth.

Does that mean that you should just stop working because it’s all meaningless? No—we all need our jobs to stay alive.

But care for your mental and physical health.

Do your best but don’t burn yourself out trying to work exceptionally hard and fast in the hopes that it will get you noticed and promoted.

5) You give yourself the opportunity to dig deeper

Procrastination means you have the time to sit back and relax.

Being able to sit back and relax means more than just you being able to think things through—it also means you can go and dig deeper and learn more about what you’re doing.

Now some people might say you aren’t exactly procrastinating or putting things off if you’re doing what basically amounts to researching. After all, aren’t you still doing your job then?

And one could argue that they’re not exactly wrong, except that sometimes you can end up doing research without meaning to.

Perhaps you were just reading about something tangentially related to what you were doing when you read something that connects the dots for you.

At the same time, simply having an approach to work that isn’t “rush through it!” and thus pacing yourself properly does count as procrastination for some people anyways.

6) You can avoid rushing through decisions

Haste makes waste. I’m sure we know this.

If you absolutely feel like you must rush through things—like making a presentation, studying painting, or drafting a novel—then you’ll end up making decisions that simply don’t have much thought behind them.

As much as people would rather that we hurry up and rush through things as fast as we can, it’s simply better for all of us if we all get the opportunity to breathe first.

So go rest, take a step back, and breathe. Take the time to really think things through before you commit to a decision.

But more than just “wasting”, rushing into a decision can be dangerous for you. You’ll make decisions that you normally wouldn’t do when not rushed.

This is why a lot of people, especially those who are trying to sell you something like useless supplements, will try to rush you precisely so that you’ll make bad decisions without realizing they’re bad decisions until it’s way too late.

By putting things off, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of absolutely horrible decisions. So don’t decide fast. Take your time to assess something. It’s your right.

7) It can keep you motivated

And I don’t just mean that you’ll be less burned out, though that does play a role. I’ve already covered that, after all.

What I mean is that if you do things like taking short breaks to watch a funny video here and there, or put your work on pause to stand up and talk to your colleagues, you can keep yourself from getting so bored you’ll lose all motivation whatsoever.

We all need to feel like life is worth living to actually keep moving forward, after all. And if we do nothing but work, work, and do even more work at the expense of our personal comfort or enjoyment, we will start getting listless and unmotivated.

And that’s not something you want.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you put all your energy into rushing ahead, then you’ll just exhaust yourself and fall behind in the end.

Final thoughts

Procrastination isn’t exactly a bad thing, so long as it’s done in moderation and doesn’t lead to delays or broken schedules.

There are even some of us who simply can’t work at all until they get that last-minute fright and feel like they must rush through their work all at once.

But of course, that’s not exactly the best thing either.

What we need is balance and moderation—to not be so focused on getting things done that we exhaust ourselves, and yet not procrastinating so much we never get anything done.

It’s a tough balance to achieve, but it’s something we all should strive for.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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