There’s a not-so-old saying that a deadline must be looming since all floors are vacuumed, and the bathrooms have never looked cleaner! We’ve all been there: putting off a chore, whether it’s finishing that project for work, fixing the garage door, or filing our taxes. Leaving something to the last minute, only to rush to get it finished, is familiar to us all. Even when we decide that the sensible thing to do is to bite the bullet and get on with it, this is the precise moment when it is also essential to make more coffee, reorganize the cutlery, or pick up the phone. And that puts us behind the eight ball.
But take heart! Procrastinating might also be an advantageous human trait essential in helping us better deal with our busy, modern, multi-tasking life.
When we procrastinate, we subconsciously put in place a filter that slows us down and helps to stop us from reacting too fast. If we think we have to respond instantly, take action right away, or resolve a problem immediately, we might overreact, fail to consider all our options, or make a mistake. Procrastination provides the time to consider the right move; while we’re color-coordinating our underwear or counting our books, we weigh our options and focus better on all angles. This active procrastination helps create the time and space in our brains to make better decisions, whatever the task ahead.
The whole thing is a little Catch 22, of course. If we think too much and use the procrastination superpower too much, we might render it ineffective. It’s no good having the tidiest house in town if our work doesn’t actually get done as a result. But if we subconsciously let the magic happen—let it pull us from the tricky task at hand to do something apparently menial or pointless—it gives us the headspace to do a better job when we are ready. If we use this superpower judiciously, we are going to benefit every time. Now, time to alphabetize what’s in the fridge….