Positive procrastination: It’s a thing.

by Karen on January 27, 2014

Karen leaning her head back with her eyes closed in front of the computer

Day dreaming? Napping? All part of being productive. ©Jim Gooding 2013

It was one of those rare, wonderful days when both of our grown children were home, and I had absolutely nothing to do. Yet I was fretting about the next day’s blog post. It would be a busy day, I told them, and I had no idea what to write about.

“Why do I always wait until the last minute?” I wondered aloud during lunch.

“I just can’t think of anything to write,” I said. Maybe more than once. Maybe in a less than cheerful tone-of-voice.

“Got any ideas?” I finally asked them.

“Yeah, you could write it today and not have to worry about it tomorrow,” quipped Elizabeth.

Well, now, that might be a bit drastic.

Truth is, she knows me too well. She’s heard this routine before. And she remembers the cautionary tales I’ve told through the years.

“Don’t be like me,” I’ve said too many times to count. All those all-nighters I pulled in college? How I wish I could go back and take those classes again – really learn the material instead of just cramming for the exam.

I recall the time my typewriter ribbon ran out at 4 a.m. when I was about three-quarters of the way through a paper due at 8 a.m. (For those of you who don’t remember typewriter ribbons, imagine your computer freezing up four hours before a paper is due – your work is still there, you can see it, but you have no way to finish it)

I also remember being stuck overnight in a New York airport with a newspaper column deadline mere hours away. I fussed and I fretted. This wasn’t just a grade, after all; it was a hole on the editorial page that I had been entrusted to fill. I scribbled out my column longhand and then prayed I wouldn’t have to dictate it to my editor on an airport payphone. I envisioned his frustration, since I had, after all, had a week to write the column before I went to New York.

So you can imagine my delight when I read recently that procrastination can be productive. In a January 15 New York Times column titled “This Was Supposed to Be My Column for New Year’s Day,” John Tierney wrote about the concept of positive procrastination. And he cited the research to back it up.

Among those Tierney interviewed was Piers Steel, a psychologist at the University of Calgary and author of The Procrastination Equation. Tierney included a link to Steel’s online survey at Procrastinus.com.  Now I certainly want to help facilitate research, and it would be selfish to put my own deadline ahead of, you know, science. So, of course I clicked on the link.

Let’s see. Comprehensive survey…blah blah blah…tens of thousands of subjects…yeah yeah yeah…diagnosis of your procrastination profile…OK OK OK…total survey time should be approximately 50 minutes

Wait, what?

I think I’ll help out science tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Anyway, back to Elizabeth’s original suggestion. Should I write that post a day ahead (when I’m completely, entirely responsibility-free) or wait until deadline day (when my calendar is so full I can barely breathe)?

I think you already know the answer to that question.


Ginny Martin Fleming January 28, 2014 at 1:23 am

Nice, Karen! Just what I needed – I feel better already!

Karen January 28, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Thanks, Ginny! Glad to know I have company.

Jerry January 28, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I saw this quote when encouraging Woody not to procrastinate and found it too funny not to share with him…”Why wait til tomorrow when you can wait til the day after tomorrow.” lol

Karen February 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

I love it! That could be my motto, Jerry.

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